By Marianne Moore
We’re exceptionally proud of the many successes RAPS has had with cats who were considered unadoptable because of their nasty temperaments.
These successes may be due to the comfortable, non-threatening environment at the Cat Sanctuary. But it also can be credited to a unique advantage that we have over other cat shelters: We have Kitty Comforters!
While all staff and volunteers at the Cat Sanctuary are devoted to looking after the many physical needs of the cats, few have the time during their shifts to address their emotional needs. Kitty Comforters – KCs – are volunteers whose responsibilities are to comfort the new, depressed, afraid or ill cats and to attempt to turn the feral or aggressive ones from “swatties” into “sweeties.”
Through the determined and gentle attention of the KCs, many cats thought to be feral on arrival reveal themselves to be simply afraid and angry because of the unwelcome change in their lives. They exhibit defensive behaviours, often to the point of attacking what they consider a threat, particularly if they have previously had nasty encounters with people.
Watson, Chimo and Pumpkin are just three recent examples of “gentling” by the KCs. Each cat arrived as a nasty, hissing, lunging terror. Certain aspects of their behaviour suggested that they weren’t really feral, so the KCs patiently went to work on them and all three are now well-behaved boys. Watson has even been adopted!
Cats who’ve had to be separated from their owners often arrive depressed and frightened. KCs are able to let them know that they’re still cherished and will always be safe with us. The cute, super-friendly and confident (i.e. “pushy”) cats at the Sanctuary receive plenty of attention and treats from Sunday visitors. But the less-than-perfect and timid ones often sit on the sidelines, missing out on the love.
KCs make sure that they get attention too, even if they’re too shy to be part of the general swarming of treat-bearing visitors. It’s heart-warming to see how the self-confidence of these shy ones grows over time with such one-on-one attention! Cats who must spend time in cages during medical treatments receive regular visits from KCs to ease them through what can be a stressful and tedious time. For example, Chrissy, who repeatedly has to be caged and is on a restricted diet for chronic diarrhea, receives regular visits and brushing from KCs. Cats who are nearing the end of their days are especially precious and, although it can be heart-breaking, KCs make a point of spending gentle time with them.
Most KCs spend at least a few hours once a week with the cats who need them most, but a few of these wonderful people just can’t stay away and are at the Sanctuary several days a week. Katharine arrives many afternoons to give extra attention to the most needy cats and to have more cuddle time with Teagan, her favourite black and white “cow cat.” Anne often does the same and, whenever they can, her two daughters come along – all three of them are gifted “cat whisperers.” In addition to their scheduled KC shifts, Arleen, Chris and Vicky are there nearly every Sunday to act as tour guides for the many visitors and, of course, to spend time with their many favourite felines. Lee and Mary are often there on Sundays, too – Lee to work on special “project” cats and Mary to brush them all! Every KC plays an important role in making the sanctuary such a special place! The cats thank you, dear KCs!