Boots came to us last year from Vancouver Island – he was feral-trapped by CATS (Cat Advocates Teaching and Saving in Comox). Their work initially focused on finding lost and dumped cats, and either reuniting them with their owners, or finding them new homes. But in the course of this, they also come across many ferals.
For many small rescues doing big work, ferals are a problem that needs a solution. Organizations like CATS do not have large facilities, and much of their work is done through fosterage. Fostering is good for kittens who have a chance to re-pattern their responses to humans in the first few months of their lives, but for many older cats, changing their ways is not easily done. CATS has a barn-cat program, encouraging local farmers to take on neutered, healthy cats – but the feral life, even within a barn-cat lifestyle, is a risky one. CATS approached us about the possibility of taking Boots on.
We think he’s about seven years old; he began his life with us in the Connor building of the Front Courtyard. There we saw a hint that he might not be fully feral – though not ready for contact, he liked to be talked to. When released, however, he reverted to all the usual feral patterns – finding hiding places, emerging only early morning, and in the evening, responding with hissing and a strong smack when approached too closely. He was never an aggressive boy; his reactions were always defensive. He tolerated other cats, though he was basically a loner.
Though Boots sometimes hangs out with the other ferals in the Old Rabbit Area, increasingly he is basing himself at the Connor – not often inside, but on the porch in one of the shelf beds or in the cat-tree box. If you get a chance to meet him, go slow and patient – he may initially huddle and hiss, but if he’s in the right mood, he will sniff your hand and investigate further contact, and sometimes allow (and enjoy) full-body strokes. Offering him treats is appreciated, but it makes the other cats gather round jealously, and he then gets anxious about their proximity.
We are always excited when a cat like this decides to put fear aside and approach us – whether a true feral, or a cat that has been a stray for a long time. The Kitty Comforters do much of the work in this area, but all of us, staff and volunteers alike, have a part to play in helping cats like Boots feel relaxed and at home in the Sanctuary.
Blog by Brigid CoultPhotos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult & Karen Nicholson