Cats who come into the DoubleWide are generally released there after their cage-stay is over. Some of the more feral ones are quick to make a getaway into the back pens, but there are always some who get as far as the back deck and think “this isn’t too bad!” The back deck is full of good hiding-places. In the area overlooking the Tea-Room there’s a big comfy mattress for those who like to snuggle, and when the temperature drops, the heat lamp will go on and offer a magnetic attraction. In the rest of the room, there are draped shelves and stuffed armchairs that can be slept on or under; for the cats who want to be out of reach, there are always the runways up close to the ceiling. And there’s a cat-door in the corner for those who like the outside option.
In the spring of 2021 we took in a group of cats who had come from a rescue in Salmon Arm. Many communities in our province are doing good work, trying to control a feral cat problem. Some of them work with fosters to tame scared kittens; some have barn-cat programs; some simply TNR (trap-neuter-release) and maintain the feral colonies. Sometimes none of those options will work, or an existing colony is under threat from urban development and an already stretched-to-the-bone rescue will turn to us for help, knowing that we can allow ferals to be ferals, and we won’t euthanize them if they can’t be tamed.
Having been TNR’d and released to colonies in 2019, this group of scared, hissing cats was gathered up, arrived with us, had their cage-stay, and were released. The little black ones vanished into the back courtyard; Arwen, Keno and Orson can be found hiding around the back of Waldi’s Hut on the south side, or in the shrubbery at the east end. They are very wary of humans, and being little black cats, manage to stay mainly out of sight. Two of the clowder, however, decided that the DoubleWide Deck offered better things. They discovered the cat door, but they also discovered more comfort, warmth and food indoors, and their outside visits rarely last long.
Fargo is the more courageous of the two – minimally… The DW cage in which they spent time remained open to them, and occasionally one would see a grey streak darting from it to the deck or back. Gradually he became brave enough to stop and look, and as long as you stood still and didn’t make any moves, just talked quietly, he was ready to make visual contact.
He joined the group that gathers around when chicken tidbits are offered, and is ready to advance and ask for more, though not yet comfortable with coming too close. In the warmest weather, he joined the other deck cats in finding somewhere outside to relax where it was cooler.
Della is much more wary. She stands out among the other little tabbies in the area because of her dark colouring – a contrast to the lighter shades of Ursula and Dior. She is not a chicken addict like Fargo, but is comfortable enough with him to share a plate at dinner time, even with a scary human watching. When I went to visit with them earlier this week, I climbed up to sit on the edge of the platform and was immediately surrounded by the bolder cats – Denzel and Hamlet, Bodhi and Luke – all wanting attention and food. Fargo couldn’t decide whether to join the crowd or to jump down to floor level, and finally made the leap, joining the equally chicken-addicted Sooke.
Della held her ground and refused to get drawn into competition, but watched, letting me know that I should keep my distance for now. The med staff tell me that she was used to being fed by humans as a colony cat, but has not so far allowed touch.
The change in their behaviour in the last six months or so is notable. They are around cats who are not afraid of us, and they’re picking up the hints. They’re not ready for physical contact yet, but it will probably come – and with the winter months ahead, they will probably be joining the other former ferals in accepting our presence more calmly.