Cat Sanctuary

Bandana Boys & Belles

One of the most frequent questions from weekend visitors is about the adoption of Sanctuary cats.

My usual response is that we have four sorts of cats – 

  • we have a lot of ferals who don’t want anything to do with people
  • we have a number of semi-ferals who came in as ferals, and who have tamed up quite considerably
  • we have owner-surrenders – usually “the poopers, the pee-ers and the biters” – cats with bad bathroom habits, or aggressions problems – or the older cats whose owners may have gone into care, or passed away
  • we have the cats with health issues: feline leukemia, feline AIDS, plus all the standard cat-problems like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and other conditions – all of which require vet-care.

Cute Hunter has just come to us from the Adoption Centre (KN)

So, the official line is that the Sanctuary is the home for non-adoptable cats – and if you want to adopt, you need to go to the Adoption Centre.

But it’s not as easy as that.

Adopting a seemingly tame semi-feral cat may work well – or it may terrify the cat to be taken away from its home and known community. More than once we have had to go and rescue a cat who hides in an inaccessible corner.  That situation is eased when the cat in question first bonds with the adopting human – which is why some of our adoptions are to volunteers who have first got to know the cat in question. Sometimes it’s a visitor who comes every week, and it’s obvious to staff that the cat has come to trust the person.

Sweet Raymond is FIV+ (in the Val Jones pen)and polydactyl – look at those toe-beans! (BC)

Cats surrendered for bad bathroom habits sometimes show no sign of it at all with us, and we have to come to the conclusion that something in the original home was stressing them. Given a home without those stresses, it is possible the cat may adjust well.  The same is true for cats labelled as aggressive – a very calm cat-savvy adopter who doesn’t push the cat for handling or cuddling may end up being a place where that cat will cuddle very happily.  We also have a number of cat-aggressive cats who might do well as the only cat in someone’s home, where there is no feline competition.

Older cats often find it hard to find new homes – when younger cats are available for adoptions (and kittens are SO cute!) cats of 14-years plus are often passed over. Of course, end-of-life is closer – but older cats have so much love to give, and they more than deserve to be pampered and spoiled in their golden years!

Then, some cats do not do well in the Adoption Centre environment. Cages are smaller, and cage reactivity/aggression can be a real factor. We have several cats in the Sanctuary who have come to us from the Adoption Centre because we can give them some much-needed space either to use up their energy in exploring, running around, and sometimes making friends, or to hide away – it all depends on the cat and their personality.

Mango was initially aggressive with humans and cats,but now he feels safe, he has become relaxed and affectionate (KN)

Of course, nobody wants to take on a cat when you may end up paying vet-bills. Many of us, however, loving our own long-term cats, have learned to do things at home like giving fluids for kidney disease, or administering insulin to diabetics. And with the AIDS cats, they may carry the virus with only minimal effect on their bodies – even leukemia cats can live good and happy lives when their medical needs are understood. The big issue with both these viruses is not passing them to other cats, and that can mean, for instance, having a leukemia-cats-only household.

That’s where the bandanas come into play.  Visitors for this last month of the summer (September 25 is the last day we’re open to the public) are seeing a few of our cats wandering around wearing dashing bandanas. The bandanas are a signal that the cat in question is potentially adoptable.

The yellow/orange patterned ones are for outgoing friendly cats that would likely do great in a home but may have some conditions to their adoption. For example, they may need to be adopted in a pair as they are bonded to another cat. Or maybe they have FIV (feline aids).

Gizmo is FIV+, but a friendly, affectionate boy (KN)

The red patterned bandanas are for the adoptable cats that have a spicy side where their cattitude likes to shine through in the form of teeth and claws. From time to time they get over stimulated or their boundaries are crossed and they scratch, bite or both to express their emotions. So potential adopters need to be understanding of this behaviour and be willing to respect the cat’s boundaries.

If there is interest, the Sanctuary Manager can be contacted for more information –


Blog by Brigid Coult, with thanks to Shena Novotny
Photos by Brigid Coult & Karen Nicholson

Featured image: Little John is one of our biggest cats, and affectionate when you read his signals correctly!