It’s more than 10 years ago that the Merritt cats came to us from a cat population explosion to which many BC rescues responded. We took in about a dozen cats initially, but the stresses of a feral existence can carry into later life, and all those years later, we now have only three of them left: Desmond, Michonne and Garth. When the reduced group was moved to Pen 3, for a while we had two clear colonies: the Merritt cats and the little tabbies. In the last year, the group became much more fluid, and there was more social interchange.
Garth is a laid-back gentle giant. Like all the Merritt cats, he’s wary of humans, and too quick an approach results in a rapid retreat to the hiding places. But he’s happy to lounge around in the back section and let himself be admired – and when the right human approaches in the right way, he will allow limited contact and the consuming of treats.
For a long time the anonymous little tabbies (I could never sort out who was who) were the other part of the population, presided over by our beloved Dell. Then we added Annie and Nikki Sixx Toes, ferals from Semiahmoo, with Nikki, like Dell, being diabetic. Sadly, that didn’t work out – Nikki was feral enough that medicating him in the pen was almost impossible. Annie and Nikki were split up, and Nikki was brought into the SingleWide, where he is flourishing and no longer feral. Annie took a while to decide whether she was in the tabby party or the Merritt one, but decided that the latter was more interesting, and can often be found hanging out with her new buddies.
Enter Sierra. Sierra came to us last year from CATS rescue on Vancouver Island – she arrived with Hickory and Mitzi – though not from the same situation. The other two adapted fairly quickly – Hickory is the tamer of the two – and based themselves on the DoubleWide deck with the other semiferals. Sierra, however, was NOT going to be friends with anyone. She spent her time huddled in a corner of her cage, all her body language conveying that she didn’t want to be touched, or even acknowledged, despite all the Kitty Comforters could do to coax her.
Sometimes you just get cats like that. There are places where they would say “she’s not able to be tamed or adopted; put her down”. At RAPS we have the space to be able to say “she needs to be a feral and take her own time”. Sierra was put into Pen 3 and allowed to make her own decisions. For a long time she huddled in a bed in the cabin, or found herself a cosy straw bed in one of the kennels. Very occasionally she would sniff at an extended fingertip before pulling away.
But in the last few months she seems to have attached herself to Garth – perhaps recognizing a bigger version of herself, and a source of comfort. Initially she hovered on the edge of the group, but increasingly she can be found with him, and since he will accept a little petting from feral-charmer Lisa, she is also accepting it, especially when she’s cuddled next to him.
We’re letting her take tiny steps, trying not to force her to anything before she’s ready.
Recently we’ve transferred the Pen 3 cats into Pen 4 – the latter is a larger space, and we needed to make room for another group of young cats that shouldn’t be kept caged, but who need to be limited in range until we find who might be tamable. The original Pen 3 cats seem to be settling down, and Sierra and Garth are finding new places in which they can hide or hang out together. Many cats need the comfort of a familiar space, and if we ever opened the feral pens, these ones would likely never come out. And so what? – the RAPS Cat Sanctuary is their home, as long as they need it.