One of the most heartbreaking things at the Sanctuary is when we welcome a new cat in because their owner has died, or gone into care, or just abandoned them.
For a cat who has had the experience of “their” human, to find themselves in a shelter full of other smells and noises and no familiar comforting human presence has to be difficult indeed. And many cats will react badly at the City Shelter, and end up coming to the Sanctuary where we can give them more space and time to adjust. This is particularly true for the older cats. And since we are now in kitten season, potential adopters tend to look first at the younger felines.
Sometimes cats will reconcile themselves more quickly when they come in as a pair. Shaggy and his late buddy Spicer, Wink and his late buddy PomPom, Rufus and Fluff, and our newcomers, Frank and Jim all had a friend to snuggle with when they got scared, and a little mutual grooming goes a long way to ease the kitty blues. But for a cat who has been The Cat in its home, and who only knows its human, it’s a very hard adjustment to make.
Krissy came to us in 2015 when she lost her owner, and for most of her first year with us she remained in her cage, hiding behind a drape. All the coaxing and patience of staff and Kitty Comforters was no consolation for being without Her Person. It’s really only in this last year that Krissy has not only started being more active around the courtyard, but also approaching people and looking for attention. And even so, she’s not bonded with anyone, so we wouldn’t consider adopting her out and putting her through another traumatic transition.
Debo came to us with his brother Santos when their owner went into care, and the two had an “I love you / I hate you” relationship with each other, insisting on adjacent seating in the Single-Wide. We lost Santos about a year ago, but Debo has actually adjusted pretty well. He is king of the main room now, having adopted both his own chair and that of Santos. Humans are welcome to sit in either chair – whereupon Debo will usually move over into the lap provided – but other cats are not appreciated.
Smokey also lost her owner. She had probably had little contact with anyone other than that one person, and the transition has been very hard on her (and on us!). Smokey is in the Moore House, though she’s not really an old cat – however, she is a very cranky cat, and the decision to place her there was made because the Moore House is so much quieter. In her first cage, a corner one, she retreated to a dark corner except to launch attacks on unwary volunteers coming to clean and feed her. She’s now been moved to a cage that’s more open; she has a place to hide, but she’s more aware of movement around her. Her cage is open – but she really prefers it closed. And her swearing leaves us in no doubt of her disapproval of humans in general – though the Saturday evening volunteer reports something of a truce.
Our latest senior orphan is ZeeZee, whose owner had to surrender him when caring for him became impossible from a wheelchair. ZeeZee needed as much care as his owner: medical issues and dental care are a fact of life for this lovely boy, who was immediately willing to interact with people. But there was a sadness to him – even when his cage was opened, he often returned to hide away in his cat-tree. He has now begun to acclimatize, he is now out and exploring the Hill House and the courtyard, and making friends with staff and volunteers – though he certainly doesn’t want to make nice with the other cats around just yet.
We can’t replace the people they’ve lost, but we can love them as much as they will allow, and hope that they will finally come to trust us.