Right now it feels like the Sanctuary is full of little black semi-ferals!
Allen (left), Kenji (right), Dawn (front) - LBF
Black cats, of course, come to us with a handicap – even at the City Shelter, people can pass them over because they don’t take time to get to know the personality behind all the black fur. In some ways, the pandemic has been good for the Shelter adoptables, because the staff there do take time to learn the quirks of each cat, and will make recommendations based on personality. Adopters come for a meet-and-greet with a specific cat rather than a “pick one of these” session – so black cats get equal time.
Kenji on the climbing frame - KN
At the Sanctuary, though, many of our black cats are feral, or semiferal at the least, and getting them habituated to human contact can be hard when a) they would rather hide, and b) so many look alike, at first glance!
Allen is getting braver - KN
Kenji and Allen came to us in April a year ago, trapped near the home of a retired volunteer whose house seems to send out welcome-cat vibes, as we have often brought in cats from that area. In fact, it’s not that far from where we did a major trapping effort last summer, bringing in 50+ cats and kittens from a situation in which someone was feeding ferals without calling to get them spayed and neutered first!
Kenji's worried face - LBF
These two arrived before the crowd, but may well have been part of the same family – they are a bit older than most of the more recent ones, but there is definitely a family resemblance – perhaps Zeus (former Val Jones area, now adopted) was the father. In fact, there were three of them: first named Kingsley, Kuma and Kenji - but Kingsley’s name was changed to Allen, and Kuma proved to be FIV+ and is now one of the very shy boys in New Aids.
Shy Kuma, in New Aids - KN
When Allen and Kenji arrived, they were caged briefly and then released in the front courtyard. They promptly discovered the sheltered courtyard we call The Old Rabbit Area, and the basket-beds high up – and disappeared up there. Occasionally they would emerge for dinner or a little feline socializing, but mostly we saw Allen’s slightly worried face watching from the basket, and Kenji lurking behind the shelf curtains.
Allen watching the wand toy - LBF
A year after their arrival, and both have relaxed a lot. Though they’re not really tame, they are at least willing to visit with humans. Kenji loves to play, and has frequently joined in acrobatics over wand toys; both are venturing away from the “safe zone” and exploring the other side of the courtyard, and the climbing “ship” that so many of the cats love. Allen’s little white chest-blaze is a useful signal to differentiate him from other short-haired blacks like Beetle and Salem.
Melon making friends with Kenji - LBF
Kenji also has a little blaze, but if that's not visible, I find I have to see him with other long-haired blacks before I can be sure who is who. Lancelot, Twining, Benny, (Devil-Child) Dawn and Kenji can easily be mistaken for each other, and behaviour is often a better key to identity than looks. Kenji is a little larger than most of the others, and is becoming more relaxed with his black buddies, though it can still take a while to coax him out of hiding, initially. Kitty-Comforter Lisa has made something of a project of these two boys, and we hope that, with time, they will come to know that they are in a safe place, and need not fear human attention.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen & Karen Nicholson