Dazzle is a tubby little tortie, full of tortietude, but increasingly fond of human attention. When she first came to us, some eight years ago, she needed warning flags – she was a feral who stayed out of reach, and if you were within reach, you probably had scars to show for it. As she has become more accustomed to her surroundings, she has given up on seeing us as the Enemy, and now comes for petting and attention. She’s not a lap-cat and she’d rather have all four feet safely on the floor – but she’s now a Double-Wide favourite.
About a year ago another cat came into our care. This was a much larger black girl, surrendered for aggression. It turned out that this was one of three kittens that had originally been captured in 2015 and handed over to Kati, our foster-Mom extraordinaire. A day or two later, Dazzle arrived from the same site. Initially she cared for the kittens, and then she turned on them and Kati had to remove them and bottle-feed them. We think that this girl, Darcy, is one of Dazzle’s – though whether she repudiated them because she wasn’t their mother, or because she was just stressed from all she’d gone through, we don’t know.
Darcy was adopted, as were her siblings, and lived happily with her owner for seven years. And then suddenly, literally overnight, he said that she turned psychotic – there was no clue as to why, but she became very aggressive, and much more than he could handle. In fact, our staff had to go to his home in order to capture her – she needed a professional capture. With us, she was caged for awhile, as is normal for a new cat. Very soon a warning sign went up on her cage, alerting staff and volunteers that this was not a happy girl, and that she was not shy about letting you know it. I think there was more than one volunteer who quietly did all their shift except Darcy’s cage, asking the med staff to do that one.
We had no idea what had provoked Darcy’s change; nothing showed on all her med tests, and the vets could find nothing wrong. Even when we opened her cage, Darcy huddled in there, growling, daring us to enter her territory. She objected to anyone on her turf – human or feline – and her turf included not only her cage, but the passageway outside it. Life was complicated by having several other black cats around – sweet Denzel occasionally strayed in from the deck, feisty Jade preferred the laundry-room but sometimes explored – it was necessary to watch your feet and ankles at all times.
With weekend visitors around, Darcy has joined the roster of cats wearing collars, denoting a reactive cat – and hoping to warn unsuspecting visitors that not all cats welcome touch. Darcy has mellowed somewhat in recent months. She has discovered the joys of making up to the med-staff, and that she can occasionally getting tasty treats, not always accessible to healthy cats. She also discovered that Louise is a soft touch, and will sometimes let her into the med-cage – generally forbidden turf to cats.
To quote volunteer Daphne: “The sanctuary cats definitely have a more prompt medical system than we do. We have to make an appointment, get referred somewhere, and wait forever to be seen. Darcy feels that making an appointment isn’t necessary and waiting is not her style. Her display of “see me now because I’m dying” behaviour outside the Med Office is seriously Hollywood.”
We still don’t know what was the cause of the psychotic episode that brought her to us. She’s calmed down a lot, and now allows herself to be picked up (though the picking-up is usually to put her down outside the door). She and mama Dazzle don’t seem to recognize or acknowledge each other. Darcy is the cat who walks by herself – though she’s happiest when that walking takes her to Louise.
Featured image: “Darcy the door guard” by Karen Nicholson