Most of our back pens are open; when groups of cats come in we may restrict them to a single pen for awhile, but it tends to be a temporary thing so that they can become accustomed to their new lives at the Sanctuary. One pen, though, is always closed. Pen 4 is the biggest one at the back and is the home to some of our most feral and scared cats. While we have a lot of ferals roaming freely, the Pen 4 cats are ones we feel will benefit most from a quiet life with minimal human interruption.
That’s not to say that they have no contact with humans. But when you open the gate and they look at you in horror, or you enter the cabin to a panicked scurry of cats exiting, it’s a pretty clear indication that the intrusion should be kept short! So they get a brief visit from someone doing the morning cleanup, and one in the evening when the boxes are scooped again and dinner is delivered. The med-staff on duty will check on them, and occasionally one of the Kitty Comforters will visit.
Cats like Len and Lloyd will benefit most from those visits. The Kitty Comforters will take whatever time it needs to allow cats to relax and know that they’re safe; they are quiet and patient and they carry food with them! And treats are essential. Many of these cats don’t know how to play, so toys are no good. But food – especially lickables… Mmm…
Len and Lloyd came to us a year ago from a rescue in Kamloops – we have tight ties with Sammy’s Forgotten Felines, thanks to Assistant Manager Valerie – and we have a few others cats from the same place. If you have a feral colony, it needs to be managed carefully – cats regularly checked and TNR’d (trap/neuter/release). If for any reason the cats cannot be monitored (perhaps a land-owner who doesn’t allow access), it may be better not to do the release – but then, of course, you have to find somewhere to keep cats that don’t want anything to do with humans. This is where the Sanctuary comes in – we are a resource for the rescues that cannot home unadoptable ferals.
We thought they were around 5 years old when they arrived, and it was very obvious that these two would not be joining the big cat-party in the courtyard; though we caged them together for comfort, they spent all their time hiding, and resisted socialization. Pen 4 was the place for them, where they could be with other ferals, and have a variety of beds and houses in which to hide out. They share the space with chonky Ranger, who, had come in as a feral flown down to us from Masset. Ranger is a poster-boy for feral socialization, having progressed from suspicious glaring, to allowing pets and accepting treats – so much so that he now has in-out privileges: he will wait at the gate in the morning to be released, explore around for 20-30 minutes, and then wait by the gate to be re-admitted!
Lisa Brill-Friesen has made a serious project of the Pen 4 cats. It began when we moved the Merritt cats (Michonne & Garth, both now passed, and tuxedo Desmond) from Pen 3 – Lisa has infinite patience with these ferals, and for the others that joined them, especially little Sierra, who snuggled with Garth. Regular visits, quiet conversation and bribery have gone a long way, and Sierra now allows herself to be touched by Lisa (though by nobody else). Len and Lloyd are not ready for that yet, but they are interested, and they watch carefully as Sierra is petted and occasionally groomed a bit. They are starting to remain out in the open – though not too close – when we enter the pen. A short stay in a cage for dental care was a temporary setback, but any fine day brings them out to sit in the sunshine and watch what the braver cats are getting up to – and what they might possibly achieve in the future.