Cat Sanctuary


Those of us who work in the Old Aids building housing the cats with feline leukemia know that its inhabitants are fairly evenly divided between those who love humans – especially when bearing food – and those who are very wary. Merlin, Bubba, Zanda and Yoda are all determined cuddlers and get their fair share of visitors, but there has always been a set of cats that want nothing to do with two-legged visitors.

The outer area of Old Aids boasts runways 8 feet off the ground, and at least one cat-basket with a heat-lamp where the most determined outside-dwellers could stay cosy even in the cold, and glare at the invading humans below.

Jackson, Todd & Ooly

The elegant slender tabby with the pointy face on the right is Ooly. She came to us with shy black Todd who was probably her brother, trapped on Annacis Island about ten years ago. Both began their stay with us in the double-wide and the back courtyard, but were transferred to Old Aids when the leukemia virus showed up in them. Both were feral – Todd eventually allowed limited contact, but for most of the time Ooly’s been with us she’s opted for hissing and spitting when we get too close, preferring to spend most of her time out of reach above our heads.

And then she started venturing through the cat door and into the security of the main room. Initially she’d make a dash from the entry to the cat-tree, and head for the upper-level security of the cage-tops.  Any approach to her was met with evasive action, but at least she was seeing that humans weren’t too bad.  Phaedra tells me that Ooly does snuggle with quite a few of other cats in there – her best bud seems to be currently black & white Bibsy with Happy running a close second, and newcomer Chateaux getting in on the action.

When I do morning cleaning there, the cats know that I usually have something tasty in my pockets once I’m finished, and I can sit down and have a little fuss-and-feed time. Little bits of chicken are met with excitement by Kojak and the shyer Happy – but in the last few months, Ooly has been coming down to hover on the edge of the action. She does the same with Phaedra, who has found that she prefers not to share a plate with other cats.

For me, at first, it was just a wary sneak around – but the chicken that came her way was much appreciated, and she proved ready to hold her own with the more food-aggressive cats. More recently she’s actually accepted food from the hand, mingling more comfortably with the other cats, and allowing herself to be touched occasionally, when safely surrounded by feline company.

We’ve a ways to go with her; her body language still says that she’s uncertain, and I doubt she’ll ever allow herself to be snuggled like Bubba. But it’s not so long ago that Kojak was similarly wary, so there’s hope.

Blog & photos by Brigid Coult