The passing of a year and the beginning of another are always marked by retrospection – we assess our lives, we remember things past and think about how we hope they will be different.
In company with almost everyone else, 2020 has been a difficult year at the Cat Sanctuary. We closed down to visitors in the spring, and the fear of Covid-contagion has meant the loss of some of our volunteers, and more work for those who remained, and for the staff. Closure to visitors has meant a loss of income from donations, but cats don’t stop needing us, and we don’t want to turn any away that truly need sanctuary.
We take in unadoptable Richmond cats, but we’ve also been taking in cats from Haida Gwaii, from Kamloops, the Okanagan and many other places. It’s good to welcome them, but the other side of the coin is that we have places for them because we have lost good friends over the course of the year.
Many of our cats have lived here for years, they have grown old in our care, and though we keep them going as long as we can, there always comes the inevitable day when those little bodies are just too fragile, and we have to let them go peacefully.
Others do the stoic-cat thing of not showing discomfort until the point at which their condition is too far advanced, and nothing can be done.
Many volunteers have acquired the habit of checking at the beginning of a shift to see who we might have lost – it’s so hard to find that the cat you’ve spent half an hour looking for had passed several days ago.
And we live in a toxic world – though we try to feed good quality food to our cats, the scientific world still doesn’t know what causes tumours to develop and shorten a life prematurely.
We’ve lost nearly seventy cats over the course of 2020 – some of them enormous personalities, others very reserved and touch-me-not. Our wonderful med-staff know every cat, and go with each one on their last journeys; when Covid concerns have not allowed hospital entry, the loving staff at the RAPS Hospital are with them at the end.
For many of these cats, the RAPS Sanctuary has become home; they are cats who, in another jurisdiction, would probably have been put down as unhandleable and therefore unadoptable. With us they have been allowed to settle at their own pace, or to remain their usual cranky selves without penalty.
I don’t think there’s a staff member or volunteer here who hasn’t had a cat whose passing hasn’t tugged on the heart. But much as we mourn them, somehow there’s always space in the heart for another cat who needs our love.