Back in April I blogged about a cat who had come to us early in the year, having lived his life as an outdoors feral.
Ruff had gone to ground in his cage in the Double-Wide, and though accepting visitors, and gentle petting, was making it quite clear to us that now he was safe, he was going to stay in that safe corner!
The Kitty Comforters continued their efforts, sometimes doing no more than sitting and talking to him, sometimes grooming him gently or offering a little play, sometimes getting in belly-rubs when he felt particularly comfortable.
And then we started to find him in the corridor between the cages – not looking particularly anxious, not looking for a way out, just curious about what was going on. He might poke his nose around a bit, but often he would just sit in the crossroads and look around, mostly ignoring other cats, but enjoying attention and admiration from volunteers. When he’d had enough, he would take himself back to his cage and back onto his shelf.
Gradually, the visits became longer and longer, and the cage he returned to became the opposite one, also open, but a bit lighter. Occasionally he would venture onto the Double-Wide deck, which homes many of the semi-ferals; his “buddy” Hamlet, with whom he arrived, was not pleased to see him, and threw something of a hissy-fit. The explorations in the rest of the area continued; he was not intrusive with other cats – he just wanted to know where things were.
And then calmly he made his way out of the main door and into the back courtyard; not very far the first few times, but as nothing fearful happened, and all his humans cheered him on, he moved further and further. Now he is mainly based just outside the Newcomers area, and has found a comfy shelf to sleep on. Better yet, there is a heat lamp on the Newcomers deck, and as long as he gets there before Blue, he can doze in blissful warmth.
Using Newcomers as his base, he’s exploring further afield – making his way to the east end of the back pens, and climbing some of the small shrubs there. His original human “mom” has visited him and is so excited to see how he has settled, becoming the placid, quietly confident cat he never felt safe in becoming before.
His interactions with other cats are on his own terms; he tunes out the more aggressive cats like Jasper, Gizmo and Chester, and just gets on with doing what cats do – investigating, snoozing, occasionally playing. With the chilly fall, all his “floof” is serving him well, and he pokes around at the far end of the courtyard, exploring a little tree-climbing – not from any need to escape, but because he likes to do it (and to have someone admiring him!)
Ruff is a fulfilment of the dream many of us have at the Sanctuary – to encounter a feral, scared cat, and be part of helping it grow into a relaxed and comfortable feline that knows it’s in a place of safety, and that every human here is a potential friend. And Ruff knows who he has to thank for his place of safety – his original caretaker, who knew that we were that sanctuary for him, and his best friend Karen, cat-whisperer extraordinary, who convinced him that here he would know nothing but love.