Cat Sanctuary


Many of the cats in what we call New Aids are FIV+ males – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is most commonly transmitted in blood through bites inflicted by feral males doing battle over access to females. And almost every case, whether the cat is feral or tame, this has happened because the cats in question have never been spayed or neutered.

Some of our guys have come into us as very friendly boys – they may once have had careless owners, but they are used to human contact.  Others are definitely feral, and both staff and volunteers may take years in getting them to the point at which they will relax with us.

Sweet old battered Zimmer, and feisty little Tiberius are two of the cats that are gradually coming around; having spent most of their time hiding away on the cage-tops, both are living at floor-level now. Zimmer loves to be petted and comes for some lap-time;  Tiberius is happiest when chicken bits are on offer – bribery was the way to his heart.

There are probably volunteers who have not yet encountered Francis. For much of his time with us, this handsome boy has stayed out of sight unless he really knew the human intruder. When he first came to us he was one of the escape risk cats, and would climb between the wall of the enclosure where the rabbits once lived, and the netting over the pen, so that one could look up and see this cat-shaped lump pretending that he wasn’t there. All the outside of the pen needed to be reinforced – we don’t like to think of cats escaping with local coyotes on the loose.

Francis has lots of other places to hide. He rarely goes inside the cabin, but there are many kennels and cat-beds from which he can choose, and he can often be found right at the very back, in what we call the Prince of Wales pen, with the other ferals.

Very few of our Sanctuary cats are pure-bred – and those that are, frequently come with behavioural problems. Francis is so beautiful, I was sure there had to be some deliberate breeding there – but I couldn’t find anything that perfectly matched his appearance. He’s more or less a seal-point, with dark face and legs, and blue eyes, his facial markings are tabby, and all his floof indicates some ragdoll – but he doesn’t ever relax enough with us to give us the behavioural indications of a ragdoll. It’s sad to think that a cat that may come from a breeding intended to give us a relaxed happy animal is so anxious and fearful.

Francis has been with us for more than two years now, and we have in fact seen progress; I find that I can sit in the courtyard with the other cats without him hiding, though he still doesn’t much like to be approached.  At least, he knows with us that he’s safe, he has regular food and water, and other timid cat-buddies with whom to snuggle.


Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright
April 2021: We lost our beautiful boy quite suddenly. He had become much more friendly with his human care-givers, and was allowing petting. Sadly, a sudden gall-bladder infection proved inoperable, and we had to free him from pain.
Much loved – even when he didn’t really love us…