Friday, May 20, 2011

Graybelle's Cat Sanctuary

[Note made while transferring this post to Blogspot, six months later: This post explains how the Weebly site became "Graybelle's Cat Sanctuary."]

"Priscilla's Cat Sanctuary" is the name my e-friends would be likely to search for, but when I Google it, I'm not finding this site at all. Google doesn't separate terms that some people think are synonymous. (There's supposed to be an "Advanced Search" function that excludes irrelevant terms, but when I tried it, it included the irrelevant terms.) Every Humane Genocide Society shelter in America has already given every popular human name to some animal, so searching for "Priscilla King Cat Sanctuary" generates thousands of links to shelters that have, or used to have, homeless animals called "Priscilla" and/or "King"...and no link to this site.

Credit for founding the Cat Sanctuary actually goes to Black Magic, the cat who convinced me that I needed to live with cats (plural!). You guessed it..."Magic" is one of the most common pet names in the world.


Let's try something a little less common. A former Queen of the Cat Sanctuary who did not have a popular human-type name was called Graybelle. Graybelle was an odd-looking, oversized Manx/Persian crossbreed. From a distance she looked a great deal like the gray bobcats at the Bays Mountain wildlife exhibit. Actually Graybelle was a friendly domestic cat who knew her name, recognized a surprising number of words, hated to have her coat combed but started calling me and pointing to a coated-tipped hairbrush when I tried using one, and chose a domestic long-haired cat as a mate.

Graybelle's most memorable quality was her loyalty to a human friend of mine who didn't want to take her home. (We found her as a feral kitten, five or six months old, living at a house we were helping someone remodel and sell.) She didn't get close to me until I'd been properly introduced by him. She probably wouldn't have settled down behind a chair in my house if he hadn't lured her into his car, driven to my house, and directed me to carry her inside. After spending a day hiding inside, she accepted that my home (the Cat Sanctuary) was where her human wanted her to be...but I always had the feeling that Graybelle thought of me as "the small emergency backup human." She acted so much friendlier toward him, and toward me after he'd been around.

The pet/owner relationship is often supposed to mimic the infant/parent relationship. Never has this analogy fitted a cat's attitude toward me so poorly as it fitted Graybelle's. She was never mischievous, unfriendly, or mean. She didn't completely trust me, but she certainly wasn't afraid of me. If anything she might have seen herself as the protective parent and me as the ignorant infant. She was a kind, patient, gentle cat...which was fortunate, considering that, although she weighed only about ten pounds, she looked like an animal that would have weighed twenty-five pounds, and would probably have reached that weight during her second year.

She was, nevertheless, a Listening Cat, and talking to her could be quite an experience. Once I asked her where she'd been, and she meowed, quirked her stub of a tail in the "follow me" signal, and led me to a sort of deep pit or shallow cave in the woods behind the Cat Sanctuary.

When she came to the Cat Sanctuary, Graybelle was a mere kitten, and the mother of Bounce and Pounce, Liza, was a good-sized mature female cat, or "queen." For the first month or so I was surprised and amused to notice that Graybelle only looked bigger, that Liza's legs were much longer. There were even a few weeks when Liza seemed to be dominant. Graybelle quietly kept growing...and after they'd been here for two months she really was the bigger cat, and definitely the dominant one.

Magic was Queen of the Cat Sanctuary first, and Minnie was Queen longest...but Graybelle was no less the Queen while she lived here, and had the most distinctive name.