In the summer of 2016 thirteen cats were trapped at a farm not far from the Richmond Nature Park. Many of them displayed signs of likely inbreeding – abnormalities in tails (both “rumpy” and “stumpy” manxes) and in facial structure – and possibly also in internal physiology. Two of them were young females – they may have been sisters or mother and daughter: we don’t know. As with the majority of young females cats that come to RAPS, both were pregnant, and were handed into the tender care of one of our dedicated foster-moms, Kati. Kati already has a houseful of animals, but doesn’t hesitate to take on the round-the-clock work of tending young kittens, dropper-feeding runts and orphans, and shedding blood drawn by protective moms.
The two were named as part of the “C” litter with which they came. Carly, named for Carly Simon, is a light-coloured tabby with orange shades in her fur (generally known as a torbie) and Shelter Manager Julie reports that she put up a horrible fight during intake, scaling the walls, biting, and attacking. With Kati, once she’d settled, she proved to be friendly, if shy – until she had her litter of kittens in mid-August, at which point she became very defensive of her little family of five. They were the “F” litter, and named Farley, Finlay, Freyja, Fini and Finnegan. The latter was the runt of the litter, and in spite of extra care from Kati, he didn’t survive – always a heartbreaking experience for a foster-mum.
Celine (named for Celine Dion) had her kittens at the end of August, and the surviving ones became the “I” litter – given musical names to match their mom: Ives (Burl), Idol (Billy), Isaac (Hayes) and Issa (Isabel Bigley). Though Celine had not been as friendly as Carly, she had allowed Kati to offer treats and petting until the babies arrived when she too became a hyper-protective mama.
By mid-October the kittens were sufficiently old and socialized to be moved to the RAPS Shelter. Julie tells me that Carly’s Freyja turned out to have a heart defect, and didn’t make it, but her brothers were all adopted out. Celine’s kittens have proven to be a sickly litter, catching every bug that goes around the shelter. Julie says “We all feel terrible for them because they have struggled for their entire lives with upper respiratory infections, eye problems, bacterial outbreaks and diarrhea. Poor Isaac has had the worst go of it – he has a huge hernia and he is now suffering from a severe eye issue.” Ives and Idol are up for adoption and Issa has been approved to go home with a cousin from another litter.
The two moms, who were not so tame, came to us at the Sanctuary. For some time they were caged side-by-side in the Connor building; they permitted some attention from the Kitty Comforters, and when their cages were opened, they opted to stay in the area they knew – the cold weather was an added incentive to stay safely in the warmth of the room.
Carly is now more confident and ready to interact with staff and volunteers. Her stumpy little tail, rather like Chimo’s, makes her easily identifiable, and she seems to enjoy hanging around with Hope and Shady in the open cages; a favourite place is on the steps in the centre. A lot of her aggression is probably about being trapped in a small space, and it’s an issue the med staff will need to bear in mind when she has to make vet visits.
Julie says, “At the Shelter, surprisingly enough, the staff formed a stronger bond to Celine because she was calmer than Carly and would respond to baby-talk by purring. She spent a lot of time in the office with me and she reached the point where she would welcome petting.” At the Sanctuary, Celine is more wary; she has joined the cats who prefer the top of the cages, and prefers to stay just out of reach. A challenge for the Kitty Comforters!
Given a little time to relax and realise that the humans who are around bring good things and petting, we hope that she too will join the more sociable crowd who welcome visitors