What are the primary words that come up when you think of cats?
My bet is that they would include “cuddly”, “soft”, “purring”, “stroke” and many more like that. They’re certainly in the minds of our Sunday visitors, who are sometimes disappointed to be told that they can’t pet all the cats! Since the return of our weekend visiting hours, we’ve needed to be able to have guests identify some of the cats that are particularly reactive, offering slaps and swats instead of (sometimes as well as) purrs – and most of those cats are now sporting collars as a visual warning.
But sometimes it’s not so much about the petting itself, as about the relationship of pet-ee and petter! JJ stands out with her handsome blue collar, and all the volunteers know that we need to move carefully around her. But when Kasha is anywhere close, JJ is a different and totally cuddly cat; her only frustration is that she wants Kasha to sit and pet her all the time! She has now begun to snuggle with other volunteers if Kasha’s not available, and most of us have learned to let JJ pet the human, and not vice versa!
Cole was an angry, reactive boy when he first came to us; our black panther has changed a lot since then. Mostly he hangs out in the DoubleWide laundry room, but occasionally he is very emotionally needy, and begs for attention. He can often be found at the gate – not to go gate-busting, as he used to, but to welcome whoever comes through, and demand a cuddle. Like a small child, saying “Up! Up!”, he stretches up, wanting to be lifted; he’s one of those cats who likes being held upright, and butts his head under your chin. Sadly, he’s a big boy, and there’s only so much cuddling you can do; he wants to be walked around, and when you sit, he’s off to find someone else to pay attention to him.
Sweet Wylee is not often seen during visiting hours – he hides in the Newcomers area, which is a cats-only zone, and if he is seen, he is often confused with Gizmo. But in the evening, when the med-staff are doing their rounds, he will sometimes emerge; if there’s a tea-break he will check who’s attending, and if it’s Louise, he will leap on her lap, scoot up to her shoulder, and bury his head in her neck, begging for petting. Molly will do, at a pinch; I’ve occasionally been favoured; but Louise is definitely his Perfect Person, and Cuddler #1.
Roe is usually one of the cats who waits at the front courtyard main gate; she likes visitors and the attention and petting she can get while she’s around them. But certain people are her priority. If Justin arrives, she is anxious for all his focus; she is quick to monopolize his lap and to squirm around being cute, and receiving the caresses she wants. If she knows he’s around but not with her, she sulks, waiting for him to come back to her.
Last week I was doing a back-pen shift and got ambushed by Odin outside Pen 1. He was very insistent that I sit with him and give cuddles – something he doesn’t always do. Odin tends to be a loner; he doesn’t hate other cats, but he’s not part of a social crowd. He’s also wary with humans, but Alice has spent a lot of time with him, and his comfort with her has transferred to other people. He suffers, to a certain extent, from black-cat-itis – when people can’t immediately ID a black cat, it’s easy to overlook them altogether. Odin is worth hunting for!
When Justin can’t be found petting Roe in the front courtyard, he can often be found smothered by cats in the Single-Wide. Most of the love-attack cats in the Sanctuary want to be the ONLY cat – and when another cat appears on the scene, they move. The Cuddle Crew in the Single-Wide love being together; piling on to a chair together is bested only by piling on top of a human on their chair. If they’re athletic, they jump up; if they’re not, there are steps, and ways of edging into the pile. If they are late-comers (yes, I mean you, Bossanova!) they approach from above and sneak down over the shoulder. They actually prefer being crowded on the chair to using the couch on the deck – but there they also have to give space to NikkiSixToes, Shaggy and sometimes big black Kiefer.
It’s perhaps unfortunate that the cat called Cuddles is another of the collared ones, who is approachable only when blissed-out on catnip!
Wherever you go in the Sanctuary, there are always ferals who will hold back, reactive cats who will go “purr-purr-purr-SLAP!” and the beloved ones who come to us looking for love.
Featured Image Caption: The warning collar says that new girl Peaches needs to be approached with caution (KN)