This big boy came to us late fall of last year. He was brought in to the City Shelter as a stray, but acted pretty aggressive, and was transferred to our care. It was noted that he had not been neutered, so that was quickly taken care of, and Winston’s tomcat days were done.
During his cage-stay he was visited by the Kitty Comforters, who found that rather than being aggressive with us, he was very shy, but not feral-reactive. Many ferals don’t like contact with humans, and react with aggression. A stray who has known human attention but lived as a feral may shrink from contact, but the reaction tends to be fear rather than aggression; something in them knows that humans can mean good things. Winston hid in his box, but allowed touch, and eventually emerged to permit some petting.
It’s always a hard decision for the med staff to know when to release a cat. We don’t want to keep them caged indefinitely, but there have been many cats who were touchable in a cage, and then hid from contact. One of my sponsor cats, Sylar, is like that – caged, he hisses, but allows contact (and enjoys it, from the bum-in-air reaction) – out of the cage, he doesn’t want to get closer than ten feet or so. So we were concerned about how Winston would react to freedom.
Winston quickly managed to make his way out of the Double-Wide trailer and into the courtyard, mostly basing himself in the Newcomers area. We call it Newcomers because it’s quieter, and offers less chance of dealing with scary humans, so many of the newly-released cats spend some time there. Sadly, Winston is one of those cats who really is a pussycat – he carried a big label around that said “Bully Me!”. And our resident bullies – Jasper, Chester and Gizmo (particularly the latter) did just that. Winston found a few hidey-holes where he could retreat, and occasionally vanished down to the bushes at the back of Pen 2, but he preferred to be in warmth and comfort.
In the late spring, the decision was made to open pen 8, the pen where Smithy, Splotch and their feral buddies lived. A procession of cats visited in and out of the gate; interestingly the ferals relaxed quite noticeably with all this new company, and dared to venture outside, though maintaining their base there. At some stage, Winston discovered this area, and now he can often be found in “his” box, still shy, but approachable and ready to accept petting. I’m never sure whether it’s the name or the voice, but like Skittles and Bossanova, Winston is a cat who will often come when I call, and he’s now starting to put paws on my lap (though not yet ready to sit and relax there).
The corner he has chosen was largely the territory of feral Magpie, who is not entirely happy with human attention, but who obviously enjoys the company of his new buddy enough that he will tolerate us in the vicinity.
If you’re at the Sanctuary, please come and introduce yourself to this gentle boy with the muscular body and broad cheeks of a former tomcat, and the wariness of a cat who has not always had gentle handling from humans. Gradually we’re changing his mind.