A visit to the Back Courtyard at the Sanctuary quickly shows that there is a strong floofy orange cat presence, most of them being part of the Kamloops group that came to us last year, and which operates out of Pen 6. But in the front courtyard, orange cats are fewer and easily identified – sweet battered-looking Little Orange, with his one eye and his crinkled ear, collared Sam, handsome short-haired Mango, siblings Titan and shy short-tailed Dixie, and the newest inhabitant, little long-haired Marmalade. We’ve had several Marmalades in the past at the Sanctuary – it’s not an uncommon name for an orange cat. But this little girl is special – she’s a tripod!
She came to us from Alberta early this year in what was probably a somewhat dramatic appearance. We are told that she showed up at a property where there were a number of cats that had been TNR’d and the owner spotted her dragging herself toward the house. Thank goodness for cat people! the sweet lady drove her to the Calgary vet right away. Marmalade had been shot resulting in a severe fracture with no chance of repair – the damaged leg was missing about 2” of femur from the wound. She had the leg amputated but had developed a bad infection and needed quite a lot of medicating. There was an initial concern that she might be FeLV/FIV+ but all the tests proved negative.
Her caretakers told us that because she was so ill initially, they were able to medicate her and work with her; however, as she recovered, she was more than willing to tell them where to go and how to get there in best feral fashion! They said that “She gets along well with other cats, likes her food, and isn’t horrible with people as long as you stay about 4 feet away and don’t try to touch her.”
So what do you do with a feral three-legged cat in cold Alberta weather? Marmalade had had the “TN” bit of the usual feral Trap-Neuter-Release operation, being spayed at the same time as her amputation, but the “R” releasing her back to the colony? not a great idea… And there are no sanctuaries for feral cats in Alberta – but rescues talk to rescues, and we’ve accepted Alberta cats before. The Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) got moving, and Marmalade came to us in late February, had the usual cage-time to assimilate the smells and sense of our place, and was then released into the Front Courtyard, where she disappeared into what we call The Old Rabbit Area (ORA) with the other ferals.
The ORA is perfect for scared cats – a covered courtyard surrounded by shelves and cat-trees, all of which are fully draped and could probably hide 30 or more cats. We try to stay out of it, except for morning clean-up and putting plates out in the evening. It’s a no-go area for visitors – a place the cats can feel safe when there are strangers around. It’s not just the ferals who use it; even the social cats go and find somewhere to take time-out when they need it.
As Marmalade began to feel safer, we saw her emerge more often – initially awkward in her movement, as she got used to running on three legs, she’s now moving much more easily. The Kitty Comforters have been watching for her, and Lisa Brill-Friesen has been cat-whispering with some success. We often see Marmalade out in the courtyard, where she watches with interest for human activity, especially if food is involved. Producing favourite snacks has the effect of creating a feline shadow who follows you around hopefully. We’ve not yet seen signs of friendship with other cats, but she’s not afraid to move among them, and the four-foot distancing from humans is gradually reducing.
Blog by Brigid Coult