RAPS is short for Richmond Animal Protection Society, a registered charity and operator of a sanctuary which houses and cares for more than 400 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.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Feline Weightwatchers

Cats, like humans, come in all shapes and sizes. We have our share of little cats (like Marilee, Shady, Emily…) all of whom are far from being kittens; they’re just small slim cats.  But we also have our share of the plus-size cats, and just like humans, we need to consider whether the plus-sizing is a health issue, or just the way the cat is.
Capilano & Chinook - MW
When we had Pen 5 closed, it was more noticeable how many of those cats were large-size varieties. Chinook, Adam, May, Capilano – none of them were shrimps. With some concern for their size, their food was changed to a higher-protein variety, but they liked it so much, they just ate more of it and seemed to gain more weight!  We soon reverted to the ordinary variety...  Now that Pen 5 is open, some of them are getting around a bit more, and with the constant stream of feline visitors, the concentration of large cats in there is no longer so obvious.

Sid - BC
Being overweight, in cats as in humans, can lay them open to a variety of health concerns. Both Sid and Marmalade are plus-size and are also diabetic; med-staff monitor them carefully to make sure their insulin levels are under control.
Carla & Cookie - BC
As with humans, there are two important parts to weight-control: diet and exercise. At the Sanctuary, there is always dry food out for the sake of the shyer cats who don't want to eat at mealtimes, or who don't like the wet food. So the only way to control intake is to cage the cat – and that obviously then cuts out the possibility of exercise. Newcomers Cookie and Carla are decidedly tubby – Carla can be a bit crabby with cats and sometimes with humans, but she likes to play, and volunteers are encouraged to get her moving as much as possible.
Deety - MW
Any visitor to the double-wide trailer knows Deety; this boy likes to stay on his shelf in the laundry-room, but it was noticed that his size increased and his ease of movement decreased. Med-staff Catherine would take him down to the back gate and encourage him to walk back; Deety now not only comes down by himself, but occasionally comes out and visits in the back courtyard (especially when he feels that the dinner service is a little late)
Eiffel - BC
Another newcomer is Eiffel – this 26-lb boy is not just tubby, he’s a LARGE cat (and a very sweet one); currently caged while he’s in the settle-in phase, he should be out in the general population soon.
Autumn & Lorelei - MW
Sometimes with the long-haired cats it’s hard to tell whether it’s fluff or pounds. Looking at Lorelei and Autumn in the front courtyard, you could be excused for thinking we have too many tubby tabbies; a little petting quickly establishes that a lot of Autumn is fluff and Lorelei is solid!
Buster: preparing for the Westminster Cat Show - ML
When volunteer Maureen blogged about her beloved Buster recently, she also wrote about Buster’s size issues.
Buster was contacted by his vet’s office with a proposal to join their “Biggest Loser” contest.  We of course accepted as he is weighing in at 10.85kg (24lbs) and he is not getting any younger.  I have had Buster on a grain-free diet for a year now but to no avail.  We have found this food makes him hungrier and of course I succumb to his demands when he is hungry!  Knowing that Buster was an unwilling participant and disliked trips to the vet he participated by Skype. I brought him in  to have all of his tests done (which of course he had to be sedated for) get his nails clipped and a nice little haircut for the summer. After the full stats were analyzed Buster’s goal was to lose 13lbs over a 37 week period. 

"I am lovin' my new haircut..." - ML
We started Buster on his new food – which contains more fibre to allow him to feel fuller longer and he seems to be okay with the transition. We do of course reach his quota by 2:00pm though…baby steps, baby steps...

A phone-call recently from the vets told us that Buster was their “Biggest Loser” for the July/August period, having lost an astonishing 12% of his body-fat (1.3kg/2.9lbs) and I went down to collect his prize.

(the next update will be Buster showing off his new Speedo)

Blog by Brigid Coult & Maureen Lahaise
Photos by Brigid Coult, Maureen Lahaise, & Michele Wright

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Smoochie and Bear

Bear & Smoochie - DW
When new cats come in at the City Shelter – either as surrenders or as trapped cats – one of the first things that happens is a quick trip to the vet for a checkup.  Blood testing comes first, a spay/neuter if necessary, and then a decision about where the cat will go.  For a cat that has spent any time in the wild, one of the dangers is always that they may have contracted feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and if that is the case, we are just thankful they have come to us at RAPS. FeLV is transmitted in saliva, and is dangerous to the immune systems of other cats; our own FeLV cats live in an area separated from the general population, both so that we can ensure that nothing in their saliva can contaminate anything the other cats touch, and also so that we can keep their area as safe as can be from anything that might affect their fragile immune systems.
Smoochie - DW
Many other shelters and sanctuaries are unable to create this dedicated area, and it is a sad fact that a cat infected with FeLV is more likely to be euthanized because it’s considered unadoptable. Of course, is is possible to have a FeLV cat at home, but only knowing that it should never go out, never be in touch with an uninfected cat, and knowing that its life-span is likely to be much shorter than usual. Faced with that, most people shy away from the commitment.

RAPS is dedicated to a no-kill philosophy, and leukemia cats coming to us mostly live in what we call the “Old Aids” area, now extended to the Val Jones corner.  For some time there has also been a Leukemia room tucked away at the back of the Single-Wide, but with the death of our lovely Harry, the population there was reduced to two cats, and the decision was made to transfer them over to the Val Jones area, where we have also lost Jerry, Foxy and GusGus in the last six months.
Smoochie hiding - DW
Smoochie was trapped and brought to us some four years ago; the family that found him would have kept him, but for the FeLV diagnosis. His tidy black-and-white and little Charlie Chaplin 'tache disguises a very shy boy; he was pretty scared when he arrived; it’s taken a long time to get to the point where he will comfortably accept petting, and I suspect it was Harry that taught him that humans could be trusted to give good cuddles!  He’s still shy, but now he looks for his favourite people, knowing that he’s safe with them.
Bear - MW
Bear was one of two cats surrendered together at the City Shelter; it turned out that he tested positive but his housemate was negative, and the two were split up, with Bear coming to us at the Sanctuary. “Shy” is not a word to describe Bear; he is pretty vocal, not really cuddly, but ready to throw his weight around when needed.
Smoochie - MW
Moving the two of them to the Val Jones corner was much as expected; Smoochie found corners to hide in and had to be coaxed out; Bear swaggered around with lots of confidence. Their pen-mates are Mocha, Suga, Henrik and blind Chip, and all seem to have settled well with the newcomers.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Debbie Wolanski and Michele Wright

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Tale of Several Tails

The Sanctuary plays home to more than 400 cats of a variety of types – and has been home to probably a thousand more in the course of our 16 years in Richmond. They come in all sizes and shapes, purebreed and moggies – if you want to find a cat of any description, it’s probably passed through our gates at some time. The purebreeds – cats like our Persians and Bengals – are usually here because of their bathroom habits, but those are habits that keep a number of cats from being adopted, unfortunately.

A variety of cats come with a variety of tails – everything from the long and elegant tail of Bengal Lucky, usually carried low, or the similarly slim tail of tabby Hannah, usually erect...
Lucky - MW

Hannah - PH
to the magnificent bushy fluff of Puffin or Owl

Puffin - MW
We have our share of tail-less felines, usually known as Manx cats. These vary from the totally tail-less cats like Sweet-Pea, Kilmer and Emery, (known as “rumpies”) to the cats who actually have a tail, but one which is shorter than normal, and has the last few vertebrae fused together. With the latter it’s not always possible to tell without an X-ray whether the tail deformity is genetic or the result of an accident.  Depending on the length of the tail, these are known as a “rumpy riser” (Huey), a “stumpy” (Blue, in pen 6) or a “stubby” (Abby)
Abby - MW
Sweet-Pea is at the end of the Manx spectrum, suffering as she does from what is known as extreme Manx syndrome, in which the shortness of the spine creates a form of spina bifida, making it impossible for the cat to control its bladder and bowels. Those of us who love our little trilling calico mop up after her, and cuddle her in a thick towel from time to time; she gets a daily bath, as does Kilmer, who has a similar problem – though not quite to her degree.
Sweet-Pea - PH
Sometimes we know that the shortness of the tail is not genetic. Little Marilee was one of a family of cats who were trapped, neutered and released back to the farm where they lived. Unfortunately, Marilee managed to get her tail trapped in a bit of farm machinery. The tail had to be amputated, and it was decided that the Sanctuary was the safest place for Marilee. The picture of a wary Marilee from her early days with us is in contrast to the relaxed girl she is starting to become.
Marilee - PH
Do you recognize any of these tails?

One thing you can usually be sure of – a raised tail signals a happy cat – and what can be happier than meal-time!

Dinner-time! - TS

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Tim Stocker & Michele Wright

Friday, September 23, 2016

Beetle and Cricket

As our name implies, Richmond Animal Protection Society is focused on the needs of the animals in our own municipality, and grew out of the need to get control over the feral cat population that existed here some twenty years ago. Currently, we’re feeling good about the feral situation; many of the cats that are trapped here are escaped or dumped pets rather than “career ferals” and our expert trappers are quick to act when a stray cat is reported.  Occasionally, we will cooperate with other shelters in giving homes to cats that cannot be homed elsewhere – the FeLV cats come particularly to mind, because not every shelter can deal with the level of care needed for leukemia cats.  But occasionally cats arrive on our doorstep by different routes.
Baby Beetle
Baby Cricket
In the late summer of last year, one of our staff took a holiday in the Interior, and just before returning, was landed with two young feral kittens. Once a rescuer, always a rescuer – Beetle and Cricket got packed into the car with the rest of the bags, and brought to the Sanctuary.  Normally kittens go to a foster home where they can be handled and habituated to human touch. But these two were about three months old – just feral enough for the fear of humans to be well implanted, and unlikely to tame enough to be ready for adoption.  They took up residence in the wing of the Moore House (usually known as GeriCatrics) that gives it the alternate name of The Kitten Trailer.
For a while they have resisted human contact. But steady work by the Kitty Comforters and the cat-whisperers on staff have produced a more relaxed attitude, in tabby Cricket at least.  Beetle is still somewhat spooked by any movement, and his wariness is reinforced by another black kitten, Frisky, who looks almost identical, but is even warier.
As with Pebble and Sandy, these guys are approaching the stage when they will be released into the general population – and the question will be whether it will be a general release or whether they will join the older pair in one of the feral pens at the back.  Pebble and Sandy resisted all attempts to make contact, but in the last six months or so, volunteers have been reporting regular friendly contact with Pebble, who comes forward to investigate the human intruder, and is willing to accept petting and head-rubs.
A teenage Cricket with distinct cattitude - BC
Beetle is still wary - BC
So visits by staff and volunteers to these youngsters are encouraged, in the hope that we can overcome the fear instinct and get them to accept regular handling.  We’re careful about washing before visiting, so as not to transfer germs from other areas, and currently, we’re saying no Sunday visitors, for their protection. Both are easily coaxed with Temptations, though Beetle at least prefers not to have the hand giving them out too close.  But at some stage they will have to face the bigger Sanctuary world, and we hope they can do it more easily, knowing that humans are their friends.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Gizmo is a sweet orange boy who has recently come into our care – with an interesting back-story. We understand that he had a home, as a young cat – one where he was much loved. Many cats come to us unmarked: no tattoo, no microchip, no way of identifying them – their former owners obviously just don’t think it is important enough. Gizmo was clearly marked – so when he disappeared, his owners must have hoped that someone would find him and bring him home.
No luck... we imagine they did all the usual things of putting up notices and informing the local shelter, but no Gizmo. After a while they probably gave up hope, and assumed that a car or a coyote had got him.  They mourned him, and got on with living.
Fast-forward 16 years.  An orange cat was found, and his markings clearly identified him – his owners were called with the good news: “We have your cat!”  “We don’t have a cat!” was the response. They were totally taken-aback to find that the cat they had lost so long ago was safe and sound. Obviously, someone had been caring for him, because he was in good condition. They were delighted to see him, and happy to have him back home.  But things weren’t the same. In the interim, they had acquired a dog, and cat and dog took an immediate dislike to each other – so much so that it was obvious they couldn’t live together.
We haven’t been able to identify Gizmo’s interim home – he was never formally registered with a vet, or he would have been returned to his first family sooner.  Presumably the interim family, too, is mourning his loss – though not enough that they came and looked for him at the RAPS City Shelter.So Gizmo is now with us, in the Moore House.
He was caged for some time, as our new cats always are, and now he’s allowed to be out and about, he’s still often found in his cage, which he feels is his safe place.  Like many of our Moore House cats, his advanced age (we think he’s about 18) means that he’s unlikely to be adopted at the 5 Road shelter (too many kittens!), but he might do well as an only cat in a quiet home, with a human who loves sweet ginger boys!

Update: poor Gizmo has to come off the "possibly adoptable" list - he has been diagnosed with megacolon, and will need constant medical monitoring

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 10, 2016


When visitors are taken round on Sunday afternoons, they are usually introduced to the DoubleWide trailer as “operation central”. This is where much of the laundry is done, this is where many of the cats that need medical care are caged, this is where the medics have their own cage, where they can keep all the tasty food needed to coax cranky cats into taking their meds safely away from healthy (and hungry) feline appetites. It’s a busy place. Many of the DW cats wander in and out at will; several have learned to open the door from both directions, and don’t have to wait for a helpful human. There’s usually a cuddle-puddle on the couch, and an active population on the cage-tops.

DW cuddle-puddle - BC
But a move on through the building to the back deck sees us in a very different space. The deck is a quiet haven for the shyer cats.  This is where Brighton and Hillie hang out, gradually getting used to human attention. Ringo spends all his daytime hours as high in the corner as he can get, safely out of reach. In the colder weather the heat lamps are on, and there’s a happy crowd of toasty cats on the mattress. At food time, some of them venture down, though others hang back until the waiter service is safely back in the main building.
Dazzle's suspicious glare - BC
Dazzle was, until recently, one of the latter. She would hover hopefully till dinner was delivered, but not get closer until the volunteer had left the deck – or she would hide under the shelf and glare. But in the last month or two, she’s not only been out more, she’s also been venturing into the main building, obviously flirting with the thought of attention from humans, tail quivering madly, but staying just out of reach.
Just a little closer...   BC
I contacted Kati, who had cared for Dazzle when she first came into RAPS care as a pregnant momma. Kati is one of our wonderful foster-parents, who will see new moms through birthing and early kitten-care. Sometimes an orphan can be added to a litter; sometimes, Kati is tied to the kitten room by the need for frequent bottle-feeds; sometimes in spite of everything she can do, the little one is too weak to survive. Kittens do much better in home-care where they will be handled and socialised, and then transferred to the Shelter for adoption.
Always more relaxed when high on a shelf - BC
Handling and socializing, of course, is a little difficult when you are dealing with an angry adult cat – and that was Dazzle.  Kati tells me that she picked up three kittens – two back and one orange – from the Shelter in May a year ago; they were only 3 weeks old. Dazzle was brought in a couple of days later, and they were never quite sure whether she was the mom. Initially she cared for the kittens, but then she turned on them and Kati had to remove them to safety. Kati shed much blood in the process of handling Dazzle until it was decided that she needed to be spayed and brought to the Sanctuary, where she continued her feud against humans, shedding more volunteer blood, given any opportunity.
You have something for me?  - MW
So it’s most satisfactory to see this new step in the relationship with this feisty little tortie. A hand held out to her will sometimes elicit a decided smack – but now it’s usually a smack without claws. Last week she came over to me and rubbed against my ankles repeatedly; I was able to reach down and give her a full-bodied stroke a couple of times before she backed off and hissed at me. Other volunteers are reporting that she’s accepting head-rubs when the mood suits her, and this week I watched as she accepted full-body, two-handed stroking from Claire.
Dazzle -  MW
There is much excitement when former ferals turn the corner and show that our patience and love is paying off. Dazzle obviously has her share of “tortietude”, and this won’t be a quick process, but it’s wonderful that she feels safe enough to relax her former wariness around us.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Pictures by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How's home life, Buster?

Many long-time visitors to the Moore House will remember a large white cat who terrorized intruders on his space.  The story of his adoption by Maureen can be found here, and I asked Maureen to update us on his life as a cat with a home of his own.

Maureen says:
Buster is still a loving, entertaining big ball of white purrrrr.  He is at my side every moment I am home and still happily greets me at the door when I come in.
“My mom says I can sit on the kitchen table anytime I want to!”
We eat and play together but Buster is in full control when it comes time to decide what time we go to sleep at night. The purchase of an automatic feeder has helped me with getting some sleep as Buster never seemed to adjust after the first time change once he arrived in my home from the sanctuary.  His 5:00am feeding soon turned into 4:15am and with mom not being a morning person…well, the feeder works!

“Looks like she needs to use the computer…I’ll just nap a little bit longer”
A few challenges came up in 2015 for Buster - the most difficult being dental issues.   After a trip to the vet, it was discovered Buster had severe gum disease most likely caused by many broken teeth which had never been tended to. His doctor prescribed medicine and home we went with high hopes and an empty wallet.  Instruction was 3 full syringes before each meal  for 3 weeks.  It took two weeks to realize there was more medicine being sprayed all over my kitchen than in Buster’s mouth - Buster wasn’t buying it. Plan “B” came soon, the doctor decided to remove all of Buster’s teeth.  I didn’t want to see him in pain any more. It was a lengthy complicated operation but a huge success. Buster is now toothless and happy! He does of course still have his fangs and incisors to maintain his wild mountain-cat appearance.
Wild mountain-cat experience
Buster’s second challenge was when I decided to go on vacation for 3 weeks. In a perfect cat world Buster would have renewed his passport and come with me but alas, he is a home boy and is only happy surrounded by his smells and his stuff.  My only choice then was to enlist the help of a full time babysitter. Thanks to my nephew Kyle approving to move in with Buster during my absence, everything was going to be okay – so we thought!  I said good-bye to my baby and left him eating some patè and purring. 

When Kyle arrived later that evening with his bags – out of the closet came a beast bearing teeth (all 4 of them) and some sharp claws many cat sanctuary people may remember. Kyle having a black belt in martial arts believed he had a chance.  I never did find out how long it took Buster to corral Kyle towards the door snarling and snapping at him, but he eventually left – backing out of my place holding two of Buster’s scratch pads against his legs for protection. Buster then spent his first night alone in his home.
Ruler of the Ottoman Empire
The next morning at 4:30am Buster Comforter Extraordinaire Christine shows up to help (Kyle’s mom). Buster allowed her to stay because of course, hunger had set in AND he does not like to be alone.  Success after 48hrs though -a friendship with Kyle was forged through trust, Carbonara sauce and Netflix for the following 3 weeks.  Buster even became a pillow lap-cat with Kyle – something he has never done with me.
Otter paws when he thinks nobody is looking
 I, of course, received a very cool reception from Buster once arriving home. He nestled up to Kyle when I tried to get him to come to me, sigh. But after a few days we were back to normal.  Buster seems to have a 48hr adjustment thing going on.  I am not planning any vacations away from home soon!

Blog & pictures by Maureen LaHaise