I have written before about Black Cat Syndrome, and how it doesn’t play out at the Sanctuary.
Sure, there are a lot of black cats, but they all have personality, and it only takes a little individual attention to establish how that personality fits into the community. And I think many of those black cats have at least one human who knows that cat really well, and to whom the cat responds.
Tyson has been with us for the last couple of years. Rumor has it that he was an illegal immigrant – caught in a truck that had arrived from the USA. He was brought in to the City Shelter, and his fear-aggression led them to send him over to the Sanctuary as a likely feral. With us he continued aggressive for a while, until he realized that nobody was out to harm him. Since then he has relaxed into be a big lovable cuddle-boy, who gets along with practically everyone.
Mostly he hangs around the Tea-Room area – which means that there are a few other black cats with whom he can be confused. I have to confess that I don’t always ID him correctly in photos, but when I see him move, or with other cats, he’s easy to distinguish. Cole is taller (Cole is taller than all the other black cats!). Jay-Z is tubbier (ditto) and has green eyes. Ninja is closest in body type, but a quick ear-sniff tells us that Ninja is the one getting medical care for his ear. Steele has longer fur, and won’t allow himself to be touched. Celia is smaller and swatty.
Tyson’s a sort of in-between boy. He loves attention, allowing himself to be picked up and cuddled; he will happily follow around with whoever is cleaning the back pens. Unlike Ninja, who likes to sneak through gates, Tyson is happy to go off and do his own thing, and then return when the human is free to pay attention again. He likes to play – a ball or a wand toy will keep him occupied for a while, and in the recent snowfall, he enjoyed chasing after snowballs, and destroying them by grabbing and kicking. He is one of the few cats who seems to enjoy being held on his back, and it’s often the best way to clip his nails.
Tyson illustrates the clear difference between a stray and a feral. A stray usually knows that humans are a source of food and comfort; a feral only knows that they are to be feared. A stray may exhibit feral fear/aggression, but will often revert, like Tyson or like our big boy Dell in Pen 3, to the behaviour of a domestic cat; a feral may tame down to the point of being petted, but is rarely relaxed and comfortable with many people. Ferals Hillie and Merran have learned that humans are a Good Thing – but they remain wary with the people that they don’t really know. For Tyson, everyone is a friend; life is a party for him, and with us, he’s truly landed on his feet.