Visitors to the Sanctuary are quickly accosted in the front courtyard by a very pretty little grey tabby. Cher came to the City Shelter a few months ago, stuffed in a bag with her friend, and surrendered by someone who said they’d been hanging around his home. Both Cher and Christina were transferred to us when it was obvious that they were not socialized, and they lived in adjacent cages in the Connor building.
For the first while there were warning signs over both cages, and a fair amount of growling and swatting. In Cher’s case, the growling eased off as the curiosity increased, and she spent more and more time at the front of the cage. Christina still prefers the safety of her cage, even though it’s open now; Cher took very little time to venture out and explore the big wide world.
Cher’s mood swings are pretty marked – she’s obviously prone to over-stimulation, and she transitions from cuddle-kitty to killer without much warning. We’re used to warning visitors about Puffin, who also has mood swings – now we need alarm bells for Cher!
Puffin typically sidles up to people and demand petting – he is particularly susceptible to young women! But you have to watch his body language carefully – he’s nice till suddenly he isn’t, and the twitching tail doesn’t give much warning. Similarly with Cher – she will launch herself at a male visitor and demand attention, and then suddenly turn on him.
Part of it may just be her age and upbringing (or lack thereof) – we see similar behaviour from grey Gizmo in the back, who can be a very brattish teenager when he chooses. Part of it may just be that she has never learned how to interact with humans – when Chimo came to us it was because his usual mode of interaction was attack – especially when human hands and feet were within reach. With a lot of patience from the Kitty Comforters, he’s now a pretty mellow fellow.
But I suspect that it’s a bit more than that with Cher; she’s more in the Lumi mode. For a long time we had white Lumi wear a collar as a warning that this cat was cute but would bite. And as with Cher and Puffin, there’s little or no warning. Orange Buster-Baby,who we lost a couple of years ago, used to have to be caged when visitors were around because something in his brain just made him attack for no reason.
Visitors very often forget that cats are carnivores who are hardwired to hunt, and moving fingers are irresistible. It’s up to us to provide cats like Cher and Gizmo with interactive toys to exercise their hunting instincts, and not offer them fingers to practice on. And we hope that as they mature, they do so, not into the Baby/Lumi mode, but into the Chimo one of being lovable and loved.