Cat Sanctuary


Fergus, one of the FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) positive cats at the sanctuary, is a big guy. When Rita was brought in, Ann, one of the shelter staff, offered an apt description delivered with her usual quick wit:
“Hey, you want to see the cat that ate Fergus?”

Of course I did.

I learned Rita had been owned by an elderly lady of the type who tends to show love through generous offerings of food. My grandmother did the same thing with her last cat, Muffin, who by late middle age had grown so fat that if by bad luck she should capsize, she could scarcely right herself unassisted. Gentle suggestions that this unfortunate condition may be more a function of shrimp and cream than age appeared to be given little credence.

I found this apparent stubbornness hard to understand, particularly since my grandmother loves cats and was genuinely concerned about her poor Muffy. Vets find it hard to understand too, despite of perhaps because of coming across more than a few similar cases. Back in February, even featured a list of the top 10 excuses pet owners make for their obese furry charges.

Where did all this leave Rita? With an enormous girth for a start… The staff at the sanctuary have got her doing some slow but sure reducing. There are even signs on her cage advising of her restricted diet.

I’m reminded of the chapter in Winnie the Pooh where Pooh Bear eats so much honey during a visit to Rabbit’s hole that he becomes solidly stuck in the front door when he tries to leave. It’s only after a little waiting and a lot of tugging from Christopher Robin and the animals from the wood that Pooh finally pops free.

Rita in the Rabbit Hole, after E. H. Shepard Drawing by Claire

I omitted the other animals appearing in the original drawing because Rita doesn’t like animals. Apparently, after spending her whole life with her devoted human and no other cats, she has no idea she is one.



Although generally friendly with people, her cage has to be lined with blankets so that she may be spared the offensive sight of a rabble of nasty felines and we may be spared the sound of her subsequent hissing and spitting at them.

As for the reducing, although her stamina for any stoutness exercise is still on par with Pooh Bear (likely to top out at almostone rep), I don’t think it’s just my imagination that she’s just a tiny bit less round and a tiny bit more mobile when she grants me an audience in her cage.

She still falls over from time to time, but it’s good to see her pick herself up.

Updated February 7, 2011: Sad to say, we lost Rita last weekend. What was thought to be another inner ear infection like the one she had a little while back turned out to be more serious, possibly even a brain tumor. RAPS staff made sure she didn’t have to suffer any more.

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