You would think that in a Sanctuary for unadoptable cats, most of them would be unrelated to each other. Cats, after all, have a reputation for being loners. And while that may be accurate enough for many of our furry friends, we have always had cats in our care who are in fact family, or who have bonded to become family of choice.
Currently there are three colonies that are genetically “family”. Our newest group, introduced last year, are from the Kootenays, and there’s no denying the relationships between them. Having come into our care as a very scared bunch, they are becoming increasingly social, and hurry to the gate for attention when their pen is approached. They’re not “tame” yet, but SweetPea is enjoying petting and even occasional lap-time, and many of the others are sufficiently food-motivated that touch is not far off.
The cats in Pen 6 came to us from Sammy’s Forgotten Felines in Kamloops, back in 2021. As with the Kootenay cats, there is a strong family resemblance among them, and they like to be together, emerging from their pen like a shoal of goldfish. Of them all, only big Persimmon and pretty grey Chamomile are enthusiastic about human attention; by the others we’re accepted as a necessary evil, but one that does at least bring food on occasion.
The biggest influx of cats at one time was the group that came from a hoarding situation in Alberta the same summer, and which has taken over Pen 3. Visually, they are less “family” than the other two groups, and there is definitely a variety of genetics at play, but there are also similarities in appearance.
Cornelius is a social butterfly, and ready to be friends with everyone. He’s closest to his own colony, but he also snuggles with Cadbury, in the adjacent pen, and has an orange-boy-bonding with shy Mercury, who hangs out in the back of pens 1 & 2. Mercury tends to be a loner, so it makes us all happy to see him with Cornelius.
Mercury is also a family cat; he was part of a group of more than 60 cats and kittens trapped not too far away when someone’s feeding of feral cats got out of hand. His remaining family, Atlas, Juno and Nyx, hang out in the same area; they like treats enough to come running when chicken is offered, but they are not so keen on physical contact with humans.
The other group that comes to mind when I think “family” is mostly unrelated to each other. And to be honest, I think about them as The Family because fellow volunteer Daphne calls that back deck area of the Double Wide “the Red Light district” (for the heat lamp), and “The Catsino” with its inhabitants “the Mafia cats”. Tuxedos Hamlet, Luke and Bodhi (with occasional visits from Pancake) tend to be front and centre, with support from consigliere Denzel. But the metaphor loses power when the inscrutable stares give way to purring demands for attention and tidbits.
Many of our cats prefer to live in groups, whether blood-bonded, or just by affection. We love that Sanctuary life can offer them this option, and yet allow those who chose to be loners to live as feels most comfortable for them.
Featured Image: “Zoey & Basil” by Lisa Brill-Friesen