Cat Sanctuary

Adopted – adoptable…

For many years, visitors to the Cat Sanctuary have had the cats introduced as “unadoptable” – and for many of them, that’s just what they are:  scared ferals, cats with bad habits like aggression or litter-box avoidance, and cats with a variety of medical problems. When I first came to volunteer, we did minimal adoptions – perhaps ten in a year – and most of those went to volunteers who had bonded with the cats in question.

Both Twinks (formerly Peony) and Scooter (formerly Larkin) came from the Sanctuary (BJ)

But we’ve always had a number of what I would call stage-two ferals – cats who had come in wild and unsociable, and who had gradually eased into loving relationship with staff and volunteers. A great deal of the wariness about adopting out these semi-ferals came out of experiences where cats (Esme & Jenny, for instance) were adopted out, and then totally freaked out in their new homes, cramming themselves into inaccessible corners, and reverting to their former feral behaviour. In those situations, staff from RAPS went out to re-rescue the fearful cats, who were returned to the Sanctuary, to remain there for the rest of their lives.

The formerly feral Horatio became Louise’s lap-cat (MW)

Looking back, it is easy to see that a number of steps were missed – there was not enough time given for the cats in question to bond with the adopter, there was no education about the adoption process, and there was no remedial action other than retrieving the cats. The mindset was on rescue and not on other possibilities. Thanks to the work that has been done by cat behaviorists in the last decade, and experts like Jackson Galaxy and Pam Johnson-Bennett, we know much more about the processes that will work, from both ends of the adoption process.

75% of feral kittens don’t survive to 6 months; these babies will live, thanks to Lisa & Ken (LBW)

The Adoption Centre deals primarily with the outcome of our rescue work; any time the team brings in a colony, there are practically always pregnant moms and kittens. We are lucky to have several wonderful fosterers who will watch over births, help new moms, and teach kittens that humans are to be trusted. When the kittens are old enough for adoption, they are brought to the Adoption Centre, where they can be visited; their adoption fees cover the cost of all their vaccinations and spay/neutering, for which their families bring them back to the RAPS Animal Hospital.

Ernie, missing his Bert (KN)

But though kittens are the biggest draw for visitors, they’re not the only inhabitants. We also take in surrendered cats, coming to us for a variety of reasons – usually humans who are no longer able to care for them. A senior pair, called Bert and Ernie, came in to us recently – very loveable and very unhappy about the change in their situation. They were checked over – there were some concerns about Ernie’s health – and caged together, with a request to the Kitty Comforters that they should be visited. Sadly, it was Bert whose health suddenly failed, and poor Ernie was left alone. Thankfully, someone stepped up, and Ernie has happily gone to a foster home where he will be well-loved for the rest of his life.

Benjamin & Olivia – gone to their new home (BC)

While saying goodbye to Ernie, I heard that Benjamin and Olivia had also been adopted, which is wonderful news after all they’ve been through. The next cat in the Adoption Centre that we’ll all be rooting for is Greyson, discovered to have an infected eye probably caused in a fight; Greyson’s now one-eyed, but once recovered, will be someone’s beloved feline – he’s very chatty and friendly.

Greyson (ML)

Busy as the Adoption Centre is, some of the adoptable Sanctuary cats remain in the Sanctuary itself.  We are still hoping for homes for Whiskers and his brother Jinx, though the presence of other cats is starting to lead to some “stress pee-ing”. But weekend visitors from the end of March will also encounter a variety of cats wearing “adoption bandanas”. These are not cats that we want anyone to point at, and say “I want that one!”, but they are cats that we hope visitors will sit down with, and get to know – preferably with repeated visits to give the cat a chance to bond with the human.  Sometimes we can ID the perfect cat for you – I still smile to think about how Strike “claimed” his new person last year, and how happy Elvis is with his family.

We miss our handsome Strike – but we know he’s happy in his new home (KN)

Some of the potentially adoptable cats are still new to us, and finding their way – Truffle, Malibu and their crowd; some are part of the FIV cat community, and are not seen by all the visitors, but just love attention – Biggie, Simon, Billy Ray…  Even a couple of the FIV cats are adoptable by someone who can give them the special care they need.

Biggie loves nothing better than a good cuddle (BH)

What they all have in common is that any potential adoption needs a great deal of patience and time; most of them will not go home with you and settle in as if nothing has happened. The 3-3-3 rule is a really good one to bear in mind:

  • In the first three days: mostly in a quiet small space, with litterbox, bed and toys; let them approach you
  • In the first three weeks: allowing exploration at the cat’s pace, establishing a routine, finding a vet
  • By three months: comfortable with their space and their people, starting training

Some cats will adjust faster, but the failures usually happen when they are expected to do so more quickly, as with sweet Holly last year – her family returned her without giving her time to acclimate to a new environment – they wanted the relationship to be “right now”, and she was still scared.

Holly’s happier back with her cat-family (KN)

The volunteers remain in prime position to bond with adoptable cats. I’ve not had a chance to blog about sweet Mortimer (mostly because he’s a black cat, and they’re notoriously difficult to get good photographs of!), but he came to us recently as a pretty reactive and sassy tom-cat, has had his neuter, and blossomed into a lap-cat (and an under-the-feet cat); he’s being adopted by a volunteer who fell in love with him while working in the DoubleWide.

Chubby-cheeks Mortimer (BC)

So if you’re coming to visit the Sanctuary from Easter weekend onwards and are thinking about adopting, think also about the personality that would attract you – do you want shy and gentle? active and inquisitive? a lap-sitter or a little aloof? a loner or cat-sociable? And then take your time to allow the cat to learn that you can be trusted to give them all they need to feel loved for the rest of their life.


Blog by Brigid Coult
Featured image: “Smithy is the quintessential non-adoptable cat!” by Karen Nicholson
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult, Brielle Hutchison, Bev Johnston, Mandy Lichtmann, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright