Jazz as a music genre developed from the blues and ragtime more than a century ago and now takes many forms – Afro-Cuban, swing, bebop, Latin… and many others. I think that when the average person thinks about jazz, they think of easy, bluesy, swung, smooth sounds – which is not what we got when Jazz arrived in the SingleWide.
She came to us from Kamloops almost a year ago. She’s now nearly 14 and came to her owner as a stray kitten. Like some ferals, she’s never quite reconciled to people – in 13 years she must have bonded with her owner to some extent, but she sure didn’t like anyone else, and when her owner died, the local shelter couldn’t find anyone to take her because of her angry behaviour.
The SingleWide only has five cages – and they tend to be used for newcomers (though obviously also for SW cats who need medical isolation). Jazz was introduced to the cage nearest the courtyard window, and frequently saw people passing on the way to the office. In company with many other newcomers, she had a big No Entry sign on her cage, indicating med-staff attention only, and when that was removed, a warning was added for volunteers. Jazz did not approve of visitors, and litter-box scoopers had to do so with care for smacks from above.
The problem is that she’s so pretty – the instinct is to reach out and pet her – and her instinct is to swat the hand away. Jazz is not a cower-in-the-corner cat; she’s quite prepared to tell an intruder to get-the-heck-out of her cage! The Kitty Comforters spent much time (and probably some blood) in convincing her that people were not so bad, and that good things came from human hands. We’ve learned that she doesn’t like to be picked up, but that she will occasionally initiate affection. Valerie tells me that if you bend down to let her lick your hair, she will allow petting!
Once her cage was opened, she remained on her shelf, ready to defend her space. Other cats were no more welcome than humans. But when her dinner was no longer delivered on its own saucer, she had to brave the threshold to get to the large plate a yard away. Gradually she ventured further and further.
Because there are only five cages, we couldn’t allow her to monopolize one of them. When black Shadow needed medical monitoring, Jazz had to find herself another space to settle and defend if necessary. She now roams the SingleWide pretty comfortably. She has become one of the cats that volunteers need to watch for at the door – she’s sure that there’s something good on the other side and hovers, hopeful for a chance to make a jail-break.
She’s not remotely ready to join the cuddle pile on the chair – with human or without. But she’s comfortable enough to sniff a finger and occasionally allow a brief pet – and she has her human favourites. Monday volunteer Kim calls her Jazzagal (a “Schitt’s Creek” reference to her vocalizing), and Jazz will follow her around asking for attention.
As long as we move slowly, and remember that there’s a scared little kitten inside the old lady, Jazz does just fine at the Sanctuary.