Many people come to visit the Sanctuary with a certain amount of hesitation; they have visions of cats in cages and of feeling that they won’t be able to leave without “rescuing” one or more cats. They are usually blown away by the peace of the place, by the beauty of the surroundings (Club Med for Cats, one visitor called it) and by how well all the cats co-exist. For the most part, the latter is true – cats have the reputation of being loners, and not pack animals like dogs. But that’s mainly a function of their hunting habits; you aren’t going to catch a mouse if you take a bunch of friends with you. Once the mouse is caught (and eaten) cats are quite happy to go back and lounge with their buddies. At the Sanctuary, mouse-catching is (mostly) not an issue. Cats are all spayed and neutered, so have no battles to fight over mates; there is a constant buffet of crunchies, and canned food offered in the evening, and though territorial issues may come in, there are so many cat smells that most cats just give in and let be.
But just like humans, there are introverts and extroverts in the cat world. Any Sunday visitor knows that there will be a welcoming committee at the gate, and a press of cat bodies saying “Stroke me! Feed me!” But look around the front courtyard and you will see a few cats who choose to keep themselves to themselves.
Tigger is often found by himself in a quiet corner, though he will sometimes come out and make himself more visible. He’s a beautiful big orange and white boy, who loves human attention just as long as other cats don’t get too close. Sadly, when that happens, the human is as likely to be a victim as the other cat. He loves to climb on a shoulder and nuzzle into the hair of his human carrier.
Leland is still having a very tough time at the Sanctuary. This handsome grey boy does NOT like feline company, and lets us know it with a constant output of growls and muttering. He even needed to be medicated a bit at the beginning to ease his anxiety. But we don’t want to leave him on medication, and Leland just has to deal with other cats. He has his human favourites, though, and there are many of the staff and volunteers who will make time for him – in the right mood and with the right person, he snuggles like a baby!
If you hear a spat going on around the Hill House, it’s probably caused by one of the smaller cats. Treacle is a feisty little older girl with plenty of “tortie-tude”. A regular supervisor of quality control at mealtimes, she’s one of the few cats that likes to be picked up and cuddled, but other cats get within paws-reach at their own peril.
When we have a truly adoptable cat, we try to make sure it has its chance at the No 5 Road Shelter – the public face of our organization, and the place where all the adoptions occur. For these four, and for cats like them, the No 5 Rd Shelter can’t be an option – there’s nowhere for them to get away from other cats and they would be acutely unhappy. So they stay with us at the Sanctuary, where they can usually find their own sanctuary somewhere. Unfortunately, tension makes them develop some bad habits about where they poop and pee, which means that they’re often not a good adoption risk. We love them anyway – and cleaning up after cats is just one of the joys of volunteering here!