It’s been a very hard few weeks at the Sanctuary.
Many of our cats are moving into their middle or senior years, and, as with humans, life expectancy varies. We talk about the senior cats (14 years is the equivalent to 70 or so for a human) and the SuperSeniors (15+). And as with humans, there are some that stay strong and healthy well into old age, and those who are taken by known and unknown factors much earlier.
A lot of our cats are in those early senior years, and despite the work of our wonderful med staff, many manage to hide their symptoms when things begin going wrong with their bodies. Cats are hunters in the wild, but they are also prey of other creatures, and any prey animal knows that it has to hide weakness. It is not unusual for a problem to be noticed, and the cat gone within a week – once they show that something is wrong, it is too late to do anything about it.
We are a no-kill organization – but that just means we won’t use excuses of behaviour and health to justify the unnecessary death of any creature. To my mind, that’s a very different business from what is true euthanasia – the release of a creature from a pain that cannot be endured. However necessary it is, though, it’s hard on staff and volunteers alike, on the hospital techs and the vets, and on those to take a beloved friend on its last journey.
So, though I prefer to write about the lives we cherish at the Sanctuary, this week’s blog is a picture tribute to Puffin, Chateaux, Fable, Janine, Spooky, Ninja, Minnow, Skittles, Zimmer, Darwin and Shadrack, all gone within a few very emotional weeks. The back stories for many of them can be found elsewhere in this blog.
Puffin, in his early days with us, had a reputation for biting – he was very much a do-not-touch-me cat. He mellowed somewhat over the years, and more recently he befriended several of the volunteers, and was an altogether more approachable prospect. We will miss the King of the Front Courtyard.
Chateaux came to us with his brother Shadow – one to the FIV cats in New Aids and one to the FeLV cats in Old Aids. Both boys were very shy. Chateaux was never a people-fan, but he loved his buddy Neptune – as big and black as himself.
Fable came with his brother Vesper – either or both of them stress pee-ers. The two were bonded in their early days; more independent in the last couple of years. Fable adored people and took every opportunity to climb into laps.
Sweet Janine was one of the shyer front courtyard cats, and the brother of friendly Jamie. She had just started to hover around when the humans she knew were working.
Stubby-tailed Spooky had had several bouts with health issues during her time with us – mostly respiratory problems and eye infections. Her recent gastric problems were probably cancer. Most cats seem to have resting bitch face – Spooky’s markings always made her look as if she was smiling.
Ninja had been with us for years – basically a victim of black cat syndrome and never getting adopted. As a younger boy he lived up to his name, sprinting and climbing; he was a gatecrasher, darting in to gated pens when he could sneak past; in the last year he was a permanent resident in the bathroom of the volunteers’ Tea-Room.
Pretty calico Minnow was part of a group of cats that lived together in Pen 2 for a while. Her sister cats chose to stay with the Pen 2 crowd, but Minnow wanted more out of life, and could be found both inside and outside in other areas. Outgoing and confident, she tolerated both cats and humans.
Skittles was my own love, moving from being a spooked feral to a cat that adored lap-time and cuddles. His brother Cadbury is warily accepting of petting; the rest of his clowder don’t want to be touched. Skittles was a gentle giant, interacting easily with humans and cats alike.
Sweet Zimmer showed in face and body the rigors of a life as a feral cat. For much of his early time with us, he was seen only as a worried face looking down from cage-tops; in his last years he made up for it with a warm bed, many human friends, and much love.
Darwin came to us relatively recently with seizure problems, and needed a longer cage-stay to make sure we really had it under control. Visits to him in his cage were at floor-level, and were much appreciated – he loved to be cuddled, given half a chance. Release allowed him to explore and make more friends. In the end, though, it was a mouth cancer rather than a seizure that necessitated his passing.
Shadrack is another big loss for me. I first got to know him as a shy cage-top cat in the Double-Wide, wanting attention (and chicken) but wary of venturing down. Over the course of the eleven years I’ve known him, he’s become a confident explorer, a lap-cat, and remained a determined chickaholic.
But the departures such as the ones we’ve had in the last couple of weeks are hard on everyone. We have to hold faith that we gave a better option for most of these cats, for life would have been harder and shorter in the wild or at a facility that was not no-kill. They have known love and safety with us, and our lives have been richer for time with them.