Ringo came in to us about two years ago; two feral cats were reported not far from the hospital, and med staff Leslie went on the hunt. She managed to trap two unneutered males, one rather older than the other. Both showed the characteristic big head and chubby cheeks of an older tomcat; both were taken to the vet for their surgery and a checkup, and then they were popped in adjacent cages in the double-wide. The older boy, Guinness, relaxed quickly; he allowed the Kitty Comforters to sit with him, and pet him. He turned out to be diabetic, and his willingness to be handled was a blessing for the med staff who had to medicate him daily. Ringo, in the next door cage, was the opposite; he cowered in the corner, always chose to hide behind the drape, and resisted any attempt to allow contact. Given appearance and relative age, he might well have been the son of the older cat.
Sadly, Guinness’s diabetes was too far advanced by the time he came to us, and he passed. Ringo was released, and quickly discovered the back deck area of the double-wide, where he joined the other ferals. For more than a year, all we would see of him was a hunched shape high up on the northwest corner; we knew that he could come down to eat and use the litter-box, but as soon as a human appeared in the doorway, he would scuttle up the ramp, or climb the cat-tree to reach the safety of his corner. Volunteers cleaning the area were careful to make sure that he had a bedding pad there, and water and dry food not far away.
Recent cold weather has made the double-wide deck not the most comfortable place to be. The south end holds a mattress and a heat-lamp, and there’s usually a cuddle-puddle there, but Ringo appeared to be enough of a loner that he didn’t want to share with other cats. In the last month or so, he’s been braving the cat-door to come into the warmth of the double-wide, especially when there are few humans around. Med-staff Catherine and Phaedra are both feral cat-magnets, and early mornings are a good time for him to feel safe risking contact, but he’s now started appearing in the evening as well.
Last Saturday I fed in the double-wide and then took some quiet time on the couch to cuddle cats. I had put a plate of food on the deck, and had seen Ringo there at floor level; I talked to him as I put it down, but was careful not to make eye-contact. From the couch in the main room, I was in a direct eye-line with the cat-door, and watched Ringo venture into the room. Initially he stayed near the door, popping back into safety whenever med-staff Mollie went past; then he ventured further out.
Dazzle took a swat at him, as did CB Lincoln, but he did no more than jump out of the way. Salty came to take a nibble at a plate of food; Ringo edged a little closer and sniffed at Salty, but didn’t follow when Salty went and found a shelf on which to rest.
I moved into the open cage at the corner, and watched for him to appear again; he seemed to be calm and interested in the sound of my voice; I was permitted to lean round the corner and get a couple of shots, but not to get any closer. However, this is big progress from a cat who always hid; now that the weather is warming up again, it will be interesting to see if he is still willing to venture through the door, or whether he will allow the Kitty Comforters to sit with him out on the deck and further the taming process.