RAPS is short for Regional Animal Protection Society, a registered charity and operator of a sanctuary which houses and cares for nearly 500 homeless or abandoned cats in Richmond, BC, Canada. The Neko Files is a celebration of the sanctuary and all those who live and work there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Taylor & Company

Another blog from Sanctuary volunteer Pauline Chin
Taylor & Luke - VL
Spring 2019 brought in 3 young feral cats – Luke, Taylor, and Gomez (introduced here).  They were all estimated to be about a year old.  With his loving personality, the master biscuit maker Gomez was quickly whisked away for adoption.
Gomez - PC
While Gomez and Taylor were clearly kittens, Luke appeared filled out in a full-sized body.  If I had to guess, he was either a singleton wanting company, or a brother from a prior litter.  Luke is the most feral of the bunch; he chooses to live on the back deck and has befriended other ferals.  He’s curious enough to peek at us, but not socialize.
Luke - MW
Little black Taylor divides his time between the deck and being in the trailer.  The reason?  Toys!  Although he keeps a gap around people, his kitten spirit sparkles when he sees new toys.  While caged, he played with balls when no one was looking.  Within a month, he became open about it and didn’t care if we were standing nearby.
Taylor - PC
After he was released from the cage, he took a fancy to a certain toy wand.  The irresistible sound of tassels lures Taylor over within seconds.  The same sound also brings out shy, grey Bubbles.  What’s beautiful is this pair will play with the wand at the same time.  There’s no competition or hissing.  Bubbles sits behind Taylor and patiently waits for the toy to fly over to him.  Taylor will watch if Bubbles has it in his grasp.
Now it's your turn...   PC
Taylor loves to reach up and grab at the wand.  He can jump, but will more likely lean on his hind legs and stretch his lanky body.  It’s amusing to see him upright, with his teeth and tongue out.  I wonder if he’s aware of his funny facial expressions?  He also enjoys the ring toy.  He’ll charge into it and push it around the floor.  Taylor is a catnip fan and revels in carrying off the little pillows.
Bubbles reaches for a toy - KN
Bubbles plays more gently than other cats.  He’ll sit upright and either grab a toy, try to catch between his paws, or pin it to the floor.  He doesn’t make a deadly swat or lunge.  Occasionally, he’ll pounce (more like hop) onto the toy.  The thing that spooks Bubbles away is people talking loudly.  He’ll vanish to the deck and return once the noises are gone.  The pom pom tassels are just that enticing to him.
Taylor has discovered the back gardens - KN
After 3 months, Taylor’s kitten wonderment has waned.  Although he doesn’t pursue the toys as heartily, he still wants to see the sights and sounds.  Sometimes he uses the litterbox as a cover to watch the action.  New toys pique his interest.  He’s one of those “I’ll play, but don’t touch me” cats.  Out on the deck, he’s more suited to quiet attention.
Bubbles says, "All mine!" - PC
Unlike Taylor, Bubbles still adores the wand.  These days, it’s more likely to find Dazzle and Delilah hovering nearby for a chance at this magical toy.  Perhaps it’s the only toy of its kind here?  It’s always a plus to see Bubbles outside the deck.  He’s a cat who needs more self-confidence and the chance to explore the grounds.
Taylor with new buddy Bodhi (L) and Luke (R) - VL
When Taylor wants downtime, he’ll go find Luke or Bodhi and share cuddles.  For being labeled “all-feral”, he’s made incredible progress in his first few months and has settled in now.  Most cats are content to receive their favourite foods, while others want physical affection.  For Taylor, nothing makes him happier than being surrounded by toys.  With all the volunteers around, he and all the resident cats are guaranteed a lifetime supply!

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin, Vicki Lowe, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright

Note: as we go to press, poor Taylor is in a cage in Newcomers, having had some pretty radical dental surgery. He'll be out and about by the end of the month, and glad to have access to toys and playmates again.   BC

Thursday, September 12, 2019


“Sisters, sisters, never were there such devoted sisters...”
In fact, we have no DNA evidence Topaz and Onyx are related by blood at all – they came in at separate times, and the vet estimated them at different ages.  But they came from the same place, they look remarkably similar and they tend to be found together.  Mostly, in the Sanctuary, we tend to think of them as Topaz-and-Onyx, and back when Claire introduced them on the Neko Blog, they were already an established pair.
They are part of the little-black-cat population in the back courtyard, joining Celia, Sara Lou and a few others in the “who is that cat?” reaction from volunteers. They are less easily confused with their black Sanctuary “brothers” Ninja, Tyson, Jay-Z, all of whom are larger and glossier; these two old ladies show their age with less energy and rougher fur. They’re among the semi-ferals; they prefer not to have a lot of human attention, but they’re ready to accept the odd treat, and they love chicken handouts.
Topaz (KN)
We think that they are among the oldest cats in the Sanctuary; the vet's original guesstimate at her age would put Topaz at 19+; they are among what we call the Donni-cats, coming to us from a hoarding situation. There are very few of those cats left – bob-tailed Huey and pretty Princess still live in the Double-Wide.  Every day Topaz receives a dose of medication for a hyperthyroid condition; luckily she is more ready than her sister to enjoy human contact, which makes the medicating job easier.
Onyx (KN)
Onyx, who is listed as being a couple of years younger (though it was an estimate, and she may be the same age as Topaz), is much less interested in human touch and will shy back from contact. When you see them together, it's easier to distinguish them; separately, it’s possible to confuse the two.
When it gets colder, Topaz and Onyx will probably move back to the warmth of the laundry room; for some years their favoured turf was on top of the hot-water tank in the small storage room. That’s off-limits to cats now, but there are plenty of beds there where the old ladies can be cosy.
But for now, they’re loving the waning summer, finding places to lie together, and enjoying the sun and each other’s company.

Blog by Brigid Coult
("Sisters" from "White Christmas")

Photos by Brigid Coult and Karen Nicholson

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Another blog from volunteer Pauline Chin
Tootsie, the tuxedo girl, arrived early this summer. She was surrendered due to inappropriate urination issues and it was discovered that she had a wound on her hindquarters that refused to heal.  Less than a month into her stay, staff were noticing her cage door was open frequently. It turns out, she’s another escape artist!
We’ve had cats chew their way out of a cage, squeeze through a gap, force a loose door open, and make a dash for an open door. Tootsie is the first one sneaky enough to unlock her door.  For a couple of weeks, her lock was duct taped over.  It seemed to prevent her from unlatching it…
It wasn’t long before she was finally free to roam.  She is a sweetheart with a loud purr.  Once you pet her, her purr motor can be heard across the room.
She is entirely accepting of attention, but she doesn’t beg for it, either.  As for feline company… she welcomes other kitties in her space, but she stays on her toes when passing by other cats.  Most surrendered cats are either agitated or depressed on arrival because they can’t be with their human family anymore.  In addition, their surroundings are brand new and filled with so many different smells, living creatures, and noises.  It’s understandable if they just want to hide behind a curtain for a month or two.  Unlike those cats, Tootsie seemed friendly from the start.
Watch out, world - here comes Tootsie! - KN
Tootsie goes for strolls outside regularly and is curious enough to investigate the planters.  Perhaps rousing her curiosity is the way to her heart?  When it’s naptime, she returns to her cage.  What a great way to enjoy the summer!
Independent, intelligent, inquisitive, and lovable is how I would describe her.  She has the classy tuxedo look, too!  With those qualities, I would not be surprised if she was adopted out within a year from now.  Come get to know her, if you haven’t already.  She’s happy to be kept entertained.

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin & Karen Nicholson

Thursday, August 29, 2019

What Does the Face Say?

Bossanova's worried face is less about his place in the Single-Wide
and more about whether anyone brought him chicken!   KN
Cat-lovers quickly get used to reading feline body-language.
When Horatio first came to us, we saw a lot of both
the angry and the fearful cat - PH
Happy tails say "Dinner time!" - TS
Some of it is very obvious – the raised back and puffy tail says “angry”; the erect tail and body rubbing against human ankles says “happy”; the hiss and fangs say “stay back!” - and there are many other subtleties in the way the body reacts. Actual vocalizing is a very small part of cat-communication – many visitors are surprised by how quiet the Sanctuary is.
Creamsicle - MW
But the actual feline face, for the most part, can best be described as “resting bitch-face” - not because that’s a mood that cats are in, but just that their mouths tend to turn downwards. For the majority of cats, life (from their faces) appears to be a serious business
Celine Dion - MW
If it’s not serious, sometimes it’s downright hard!  Look at these sad faces (none of whom are really sad cats)
Cadbury - KN
Leland feels that life is tough - MW
But just occasionally there’s sunshine in the smile.  Sometimes that’s because of the cat’s fur markings – a shading below the chin can have the effect of changing the mouth shape.
Sweet Happy (now passed), in Old Aids,
always looked like she was smiling  -  MW
Spooky's mouth markings also show a smile  -  MW
Sometimes it's just the hint of a smirk - cats, of course, know that they are superior and we're only there to serve them.
Hillie has a secret smile - MW
And some cats just have their moments when they’re obviously blissed out, and not just the body but the face shows it.
Happy Willow, enjoying the sun - JK
Sunday, and Allison's arrived - Little Orange is in heaven - MW
Now that Skittles has discovered laps, life is very good! - MW

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Jennine Kariya,  
Karen Nicholson, Tim Stocker, Michele Wright

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Feline Loverboy

This week's blog from volunteer Pauline Chin.
Tibet looks down from the cage-top - PC
We have seen several cuddle kings over the years. These feline loverboys magnetically draw in many cats that snuggle right up to them.  It was as if they possess magic – a love potion that extends beyond genders and makes other cats feel safe, relaxed, and full of purrs.
Tibet - MW
So what makes them so attractive? Pheromones? A magnetic personality? Their aura?  Mannerisms?  Their plush fur?  No one knows for sure.  If only cats spoke human.…
Mario was a comfort to feral buddy Shrek - CF
For veteran volunteers, Mario was lovely in appearance and personality.  He was the most well-known cuddler of cats.  His presence was enough to entice a crowd of cats to form a snuggle pile on top of him.  Only his fur was visible underneath the fuzzy bodies.
Salty (centre) and the boyz - Ridley (L) and Sid (R)  -  MW
Dusty was one of Salty's many girlfriends - DW
 After Mario travelled to the rainbow bridge, it was Salty’s turn.  Salty spent most of his time on the couch of the double wide and the cuddlers followed suit.  The couch was also the “secret spot” for visitors to have 5-10 cats walk all over them. (We know Salty did most of the work.)  Sadly, Salty went to join Mario and we were left without a feline loverboy for a while. 
Tibet - MW
Unexpectedly, a noisy tabby emerged. After being caged for another treatment of a constantly recurring cold virus, back-pen cat, Tibet, chose to stay in the Double-Wide. In recent months, he has shown the cage-top cats and back deck cats a great deal of physical affection.  Tibet would walk up to almost any cat and give them a good head bonk, body rub, or spend naptime with them.  Shadrack, Spike, Scooter, Lulu, even ferals Benji and Ringo have all received Tibet cuddles.
Judy & Tibet - MW
During life in the back pens, he had a girlfriend named Judy. Tibet moved on from that relationship, but Judy still searches for him. She briefly consoled herself cuddling in the newcomers area with Sprocket – a young, handsome feral that used to spend a lot of time with big boy Tiger in an open cage in the Double-Wide. Tiger has now been adopted, and Sprocket is confident enough to venture out into the backyard.
Pixie's warning stare - MW
In the double wide, Tibet’s new girlfriend was Pixie.  Always out of reach, she was untouchable in the 15-ish years she spent with us. Through Tibet’s love and encouragement, she transformed into a happier cat, who finally welcomed petting in her final months.
On the back deck, Tibet may have had a short romance with LouLou. Whatever it was, it was enough for her to become more confident, outgoing, and interested in people.  Even Spike has changed. He makes it a point to hop down for petting during visiting hours. He even tries sharing a bed with Buddy, although the latter refuses cat cuddles.
Watch for the sneeze from above!  - KN
Visitors initially become aware of Tibet by his snorting sounds/snoring/weird purr.  They’re amused by it and it’s usually the conversation starter. Once spotted, he’s quick to approach (he used to be shy!).  He leans down and offers his head for touching.  Then shakes his head.  Watch out for flying snot!   For years, he was known for his incurable chronic congestion.  One of the current causes for his snortiness is a polyp in his nasal passage, but there's no guarantee that its removal will quiet him down.  Some animals and humans breathe loudly and that’s just how their bodies were built.  Although it sounds like his nose is clogged, he can definitely smell when dinner is being served!
If anything, Tibet’s physical affection for cats has grown leaps and bounds in just months.  He is a charmer and a comforter.  He loves cats and cats adore him – a true loverboy.  We’re incredibly lucky to have Tibet.  We get to enjoy his company and the positive changes he’s made in the cats.

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin, Brigid Coult, Claire Fossey, 
Karen Nicholson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Formerly Feral

Many of the cats at the Sanctuary have come into our care as ferals.
Pen 8: Selena, Hailey & Johnny - KN
Some of them will remain feral in behaviour all their lives.  Many of the cats in Pen 8 are examples of this – as you enter the pen, they take a horror-filled look at the intruder, and make a beeline for the closest cover. It is clear in their eyes that they want nothing to do with humans, and when, in areas like pen 4 that cover may be in a free-standing kennel or in the bushes, they present a significant challenge for the med staff who need to check on them.
Pebble (front) and Sandy (rear) - DW
In this pen, only OJ and Pebble are comfortable being touched (the links take you back to their early days, but a little searching by name will yield updates); both enjoy petting, but you can see the wariness in their body language. Pebble’s sister Sandy is almost identical but sends out a very clear “don’t touch me!” vibe.
Yma prefers to climb out of reach - MW
These cats, together with many though not all) of the ones in Pen 3, and a good number of those from other open pens, were born wild, missed being socialised at the optimal time, and have it well ingrained that humans are The Enemy – we may be a source of tasty food, and of occasional touch, but we are not really to be trusted. We occasionally worry when an old feral suddenly becomes friendly and handleable; it’s often a sign of a kitty dementia, as the cat forgets that it should be scared, and it may be an indicator that it’s coming to the end of its life.
Little Calista only became touchable in her last months - MW
Common cat-handling wisdom has it that a kitten should be socialized by the age of 3-4 months, or it won’t socialize at all. In fact, those of us who have had semi-ferals in our homes know that they can become very handleable to their own people, though they may always be wary of strangers in their space. At the Sanctuary we have tried to keep some of the younger ferals together around the back deck of the Double-Wide, and the Kitty Comforters have worked with them as much as possible.
Bubbles loves to play - BC
Gradually we see behaviours changing:  hissy Luke is now allowing us to touch him; Bubbles is enjoying interactive play;  shy Ruff is coming out of his hiding place; beautiful Scooter, who hovered just out of reach on the cage-tops, smacking at us when we coaxed her closer, is now coming down to an accessible shelf and enjoying being petted.
Scooter original (L) and relaxed & happy (R)
In pen 3 former feral Napoleon has decided that humans are worth cultivating – both regular volunteers and Kitty Comforters have charmed him to the point where he will approach, asking for petting. His buddies at the back of the pen are not ready for much contact yet, but Napoleon is happy with human company.
Napoleon - LB-F
My own former-feral triumph has been with Skittles, formerly of Pen 6. That pen has now been vacated in preparation for another group of ferals coming in, and Skittles and his friends have the run of the back pens. Most of them are now based in Pen 2, where there are other semi-ferals, and lots of places to hide. But Skittles, who was always the bravest and most social of them, has decided that he likes to be around people. Chicken tidbits help – he’s always been a chick-oholic.  But he recently decided that since I was a source of Good Things, he might try something new, and he hauled himself up on my lap.
Loving a lap - DW
This was not just cupboard love – he wanted petting and attention, not just feeding. It’s a little painful on the legs – he’s a big solid boy and doesn’t jump much, so lap-climbing is mountaineering!  But it’s happened often enough now that we can really feel Skittles has earned the former-feral label. And he is now transferring that trust to other people.
Skittles - MW
All these cats may some day become very used to human touch, but they will always remain cats that we will hesitate to adopt out because of their background, and because new experiences will likely cause them to revert to the fear-filled wild creatures that originally came into our care.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult, Karen Nicholson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright