In the fall of last year, the Sanctuary had a call from another shelter in the Lower Mainland – they had recieved a group of cats as part of a hoarding situation, and were unable to give them space. All six cats were pretty feral, and most shelters have to focus their work on the cats that may stand a chance of finding an adoptive home. Single ferals can sometimes be accommodated, but a small colony like this is a much harder prospect. Ferals, of course, are one of the groups that comprise the Sanctuary inhabitants, and so a deal was worked out – we took on their six cats, and they found room for some potentially adoptable dogs from the 5 Road Shelter.
Pen 6, which had housed cats who had come from the Sunshine Coast, was cleaned out, and its former inhabitants (including Simba, Paw Paw and Faith) found new places they could call home in the back courtyard. The new cats were established in the pen, and promptly excavated a hole underneath the cabin, and disappeared out of sight! Very occasionally they would be spotted, usually in the early evening, but the sight of a human was usually their cue to vanish. Plates of wet food were licked clean – they infinitely prefer wet food to dry – and it was probably food that was the main incentive for the bravest ones to venture out.
Single ferals can sometimes be accommodated, but a small colony like this is a much harder prospect.
It was decided by the med staff to give them candy names, but for quite some time they were just known collectively as “the candy cats”. The staff took advantage of a spell of good weather to get them all out from under the cabin, and to shore up the perimeter with sturdy mesh – much to the cats’ disgust. Four of them retreated into the hut, but the largest and the smallest began to make their presence felt.
The big boy has established himself as the ambassador. For quite a while I called him Mr Big, for the candy bar, but that made people think Sex and the City! He was renamed as Skittles and his smaller companion became Sweetheart. The other four include two agouti or abyssianian tabbies and two classic tabbies, one of whom has a blond ruff like Autumn in the front courtyard.
They have been given the names of Hershey, Butterscotch, Cadbury and Purdy, but they have not really emerged enough to be able to establish their personalities. (They have also recently been joined by a non-candy cat called Wylee, who has been in the office cage waiting for confirmation on a leukemia testing. It’s now proved negative, and since he’s a shy boy, pen 6 was a good place to put him.)
Skittles is very much the dominant cat, and has tons of personality! He comes to the gate, looking for attention from humans and other cats alike. He rubs against the mesh of the adjoining barn-cats pen, and interacts with them in a friendly way; when courtyard cats come to investigate, he’s investigating right back. He is a confirmed chickaholic; he now knows that I usually carry a bag of little chicken bits and he is right there demanding treats when I open the gate. For some time I had to drop the tidbits in front of him or court some annoyed swatting; gradually he has progressed to accepting treats from my fingers, and finally to allowing himself to be touched. Touching through the mesh of the pen is entirely acceptable; direct touch still has to be done with caution, because that swatty paw is ready. But increasingly, it’s an investigative paw rather than a punishing one, and he is more and more confident that he’s in a safe place.
He is almost always accompanied by Sweetheart. We don’t know if they’re littermates or BFFs, but she actually proved herself more ready than him to accept human touch. Kitty-Comforter Mel has spent a good bit of time in the pen with them, and they love to play with wand toys. Sweetheart was quick to respond to Mel and allowed herself to be petted and handled. She has white socks on her feet, and her two tabby toes are distinctive.
We hope that with the return of warm weather, an open cabin may make it harder for the other cats to hide all the time, and they will learn that they’ve landed in a good place. Till then, Sweetheart and Skittles will have most of the attention from volunteers and visitors – both from those passing by, who will be wooed by Skittles on his favourite perch, and from those who venture in for closer acquaintance.