Most of our behaviourally challenged cats are with us because of “inappropriate urination” – meaning, they pee anywhere except the litter box! Sometimes they do it because they feel under stress in their home, sometimes it‘s a medical problem, mostly it’s just become a bad habit.
A few of them have come to us with aggression issues – usually their people have tried to pick them up when they didn’t want to be picked up, and a bite or two later, they’re surrendered to our care. Many of these cats actually do fairly well with us, because staff and volunteers know that we have to let the cats make the decisions about touching. Beautiful Eli really just needs someone who will not expect him to be a lap-cat until he’s really ready. Jobie, who came to us with a bad reputation, has her favourite people now. Feisty Sophie in the TeaRoom loves to jump on laps and have her head petted – you just need to make sure not to go any further down her body.
Benji came to us last year with warnings about aggression. He is such a handsome boy, and he was obviously unhappy during his cage time – but he was a hard cat to visit because as soon as he felt you were leaving him, he would bite – whether to hold on to you, or in punishment, we don’t know. When he was released we resorted to a past Sanctuary tradition and put a collar on him to indicate his tendency to bite. In Sophie’s case, a collar doesn’t last long and she quickly manages to lose it; Benji, on the other hand, wears his collar with pride.
We’re still working out the parameters of his aggression. He is definitely super-sensitive to touch and a petting session that would have any other cat purring quickly has him indicating “too much!” But at the same time, he’s quick to ask for attention. We don’t know how much human interaction he had before coming to us, and if he’s just never learned to “play nicely”.
The right person and endless patience are working wonders for grey Smokey in the Moore House, and JJ from the DoubleWide; both have found “their people” among the volunteers and JJ has gone to her new home, while Smokey will soon be going. Neither one has changed overnight, but they have both found people who are ready to wait for the cat to make the move. In common with Benji, neither particularly likes other cats.
Much the same can be said for Jasper, who, like Benji, can be a trouble-maker, and need an occasional time-out. But we have seen significant progress with Jasper (mostly thanks to Karen’s patience) and he has learned that humans are more inclined to play with him when he is not aggressive. We hope that Benji will learn too. Wand toys and things at arms-length are key for many cats; fingers are just too tempting. It would be lovely if someone can take Benji on as a project and help him learn that he does not always need to react with his teeth.