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, January 20, 2017


Ringo came in to us about two years ago; two feral cats were reported not far from the hospital, and med staff Leslie went on the hunt. She managed to trap two unneutered males, one rather older than the other. Both showed the characteristic big head and chubby cheeks of an older tomcat; both were taken to the vet for their surgery and a checkup, and then they were popped in adjacent cages in the double-wide. The older boy, Guinness, relaxed quickly; he allowed the Kitty Comforters to sit with him, and pet him.  He turned out to be diabetic, and his willingness to be handled was a blessing for the med staff who had to medicate him daily. Ringo, in the next door cage, was the opposite; he cowered in the corner, always chose to hide behind the drape, and resisted any attempt to allow contact. Given appearance and relative age, he might well have been the son of the older cat.
Guinness - CP
Sadly, Guinness’s diabetes was too far advanced by the time he came to us, and he passed. Ringo was released, and quickly discovered the back deck area of the double-wide, where he joined the other ferals. For more than a year, all we would see of him was a hunched shape high up on the northwest corner; we knew that he could come down to eat and use the litter-box, but as soon as a human appeared in the doorway, he would scuttle up the ramp, or climb the cat-tree to reach the safety of his corner. Volunteers cleaning the area were careful to make sure that he had a bedding pad there, and water and dry food not far away.
This has been the typical scared-Ringo face for the last year - BC
Recent cold weather has made the double-wide deck not the most comfortable place to be. The south end holds a mattress and a heat-lamp, and there’s usually a cuddle-puddle there, but Ringo appeared to be enough of a loner that he didn’t want to share with other cats. In the last month or so, he’s been braving the cat-door to come into the warmth of the double-wide, especially when there are few humans around. Med-staff Catherine and Phaedra are both feral cat-magnets, and early mornings are a good time for him to feel safe risking contact, but he’s now started appearing in the evening as well.
Phaedra moved very carefully to get this shot.
Last Saturday I fed in the double-wide and then took some quiet time on the couch to cuddle cats. I had put a plate of food on the deck, and had seen Ringo there at floor level; I talked to him as I put it down, but was careful not to make eye-contact. From the couch in the main room, I was in a direct eye-line with the cat-door, and watched Ringo venture into the room. Initially he stayed near the door, popping back into safety whenever med-staff Mollie went past; then he ventured further out.
Ringo ventures out - BC
Dazzle took a swat at him, as did CB Lincoln, but he did no more than jump out of the way.  Salty came to take a nibble at a plate of food; Ringo edged a little closer and sniffed at Salty, but didn’t follow when Salty went and found a shelf on which to rest.
Hedging his bets - BC
I moved into the open cage at the corner, and watched for him to appear again; he seemed to be calm and interested in the sound of my voice; I was permitted to lean round the corner and get a couple of shots, but not to get any closer.  However, this is big progress from a cat who always hid; now that the weather is warming up again, it will be interesting to see if he is still willing to venture through the door, or whether he will allow the Kitty Comforters to sit with him out on the deck and further the taming process.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman & Chris Peters

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Silent Singers - Carly & Celine

In the summer of 2016 thirteen cats were trapped at a farm not far from the Richmond Nature Park. Many of them displayed signs of likely inbreeding – abnormalities in tails (both “rumpy” and “stumpy” manxes) and in facial structure – and possibly also in internal physiology. Two of them were young females – they may have been sisters or mother and daughter: we don’t know.  As with the majority of young females cats that come to RAPS, both were pregnant, and were handed into the tender care of one of our dedicated foster-moms, Kati.  Kati already has a houseful of animals, but doesn’t hesitate to take on the round-the-clock work of tending young kittens, dropper-feeding runts and orphans, and shedding blood drawn by protective moms.
A very pregnant Carly Simon - JD
The two were named as part of the “C” litter with which they came. Carly, named for Carly Simon, is a light-coloured tabby with orange shades in her fur (generally known as a torbie) and Shelter Manager Julie reports that she put up a horrible fight during intake, scaling the walls, biting, and attacking.  With Kati, once she’d settled, she proved to be friendly, if shy – until she had her litter of kittens in mid-August, at which point she became very defensive of her little family of five. They were the “F” litter, and named Farley, Finlay, Freyja, Fini and Finnegan. The latter was the runt of the litter, and in spite of extra care from Kati, he didn’t survive – always a heartbreaking experience for a foster-mum.
Carly's kittens - JD
Celine (named for Celine Dion) had her kittens at the end of August, and the surviving ones became the “I” litter – given musical names to match their mom: Ives (Burl), Idol (Billy), Isaac (Hayes) and Issa (Isabel Bigley). Though Celine had not been as friendly as Carly, she had allowed Kati to offer treats and petting until the babies arrived when she too became a hyper-protective mama.
Celine & kittens - JD
By mid-October the kittens were sufficiently old and socialised to be moved to the RAPS Shelter. Julie tells me that Carly’s Freyja turned out to have a heart defect, and didn’t make it, but her brothers were all adopted out.  Celine’s kittens have proven to be a sickly litter, catching every bug that goes around the shelter.  Julie says “We all feel terrible for them because they have struggled for their entire lives with upper respiratory infections, eye problems, bacterial outbreaks anddiarrhea.  Poor Isaac has had the worst go of it - he has a huge hernia and he is now suffering from a severe eye issue.”  Ives and Idol are up for adoption and Issa has been approved to go home with a cousin from another litter.
Ives (L) has just had a neuter and is a little wary;
Issa (R) is waiting for her new human to claim her
These two little stubby-tailed kittens originate from the same farm:
these girls are KitKat and Kaos
The two moms, who were not so tame, came to us at the Sanctuary.  For some time they were caged side-by-side in the Connor building; they permitted some attention from the Kitty Comforters, and when their cages were opened, they opted to stay in the area they knew – the cold weather was an added incentive to stay safely in the warmth of the room.
Carly - out and about - MW
Carly is now more confident and ready to interact with staff and volunteers. Her stumpy little tail, rather like Chimo’s, makes her easily identifiable, and she seems to enjoy hanging around with Hope and Shady in the open cages; a favourite place is on the steps in the centre. A lot of her aggression is probably about being trapped in a small space, and it’s an issue the med staff will need to bear in mind when she has to make vet visits.
Curious Carly
Julie says, “At the Shelter, surprisingly enough, the staff formed a stronger bond to Celine because she was calmer than Carly and would respond to baby-talk by purring.  She spent a lot of time in the office with me and she reached the point where she would welcome petting."  At the Sanctuary, Celine is more wary; she has joined the cats who prefer the top of the cages, and prefers to stay just out of reach. A challenge for the Kitty Comforters!
Celine up top - MW

Celine has something of her namesake's reserved demeanour
Given a little time to relax and realise that the humans who are around bring good things and petting, we hope that she too will join the more sociable crowd who welcome visitors

Blog by Brigid Coult, with thanks to Kati Degraaf and Julie Desgroseillers
Photos by Brigid Coult, Kati Degraaf & Michele Wright

Saturday, January 7, 2017

An evening in the Single-Wide

When Richmond Homeless Cats first established the Sanctuary in 1999, the first structure there was a single-wide trailer. First located near the road, it was subsequently moved to its current position on the east side of what would become the main courtyard.
Irene and her fanclub outside the Single-Wide - BC

Before renovations - DW
Trailers like this are not really expected to have a long life – especially when exposed not just to standard problems like damp and ants, but also to cat-pee and busily digging claws. This past summer the single-wide trailer was closed for renovations.  That in itself was a major operation, made possible only by the deck on the east side; all of the furniture was relocated, a barrier was built across the main room, and finally the cats were ejected into the south side and the deck.
Building the barrier - DW
Ask any of the staff or single-wide volunteers about the renovations and eyes will roll. The loss of a washer-dryer and sink was a pretty significant difficulty, given the amount of laundry we get through. Handy-man Doug could be found working at all hours – the boiler was replaced, the wiring re-done, the piping moved, new cabinets and sink installed, new windows, repaired walls and ceiling, and finally the washing machine and dryer replaced and finally the divider was removed.
The new look of the Single-wide - BC

Quickly the cats moved back in, taking over the space with great delight. The crowded back deck suddenly became vacant (especially when we were hit with a cold snap) and furry bodies claimed any warm spot they could find.  The following video comes from long-time RAPS supporter Ed Ng, who sponsors several of these cats.

The cold snap just mentioned produced a number of vacancies in volunteer slots, as people found it impossible to get to their shifts. Recently I covered someone else’s feeding shift in the single-wide. I’m rarely in there unless I’m subbing for someone, and what I find frustrating then is that there’s nobody I can ask about identifying individuals in a roomful of cats!
Feeding time - MW
It was nice to work in the single-wide again, with counter-space and storage all well-organised, Counter-space, of course, is rapidly taken over by the cats, hoping for advance tasting.  I usually get the first four plates of food down to the floor quickly, and get them distracted, while I dish out the other platefuls for the cage-tops, the deck, and the porch and Newcomers area. Once the cans are washed out for recycling, it’s time to be changing water-bowls and checking dry food.

A post-dinner nap, now...    BC
This is time I enjoy – feeling less rushed, and able to interact with cats, and make some new acquaintances, which I will blog about in future weeks. We have three youngsters who have tested positive for FeLV, and they’re making their home in the office at the back; all three are still very nervous and the kitty comforters are working on getting them more relaxed with people. Three of the cats who had a temporary home in that room when they were relocated from the Shelter are now with us permanently in the main room and are still acclimatizing; Spooky in particular does NOT like other cats, and wants to get back into the Leukemia Room! Big Debo has just been moved in from the Moore House, and needed a little extra fussing. Chrissy has had chronic diarrhea, which we finally have under control, but it will probably mean that she will need to live caged or separate in order that we can monitor her diet.
Meet Debo - DW
With everything checked and tidy, I went to see who was out on the deck. Though it was cold, there were a couple of cuddle-puddles up on the shelf, and the three cow-cats – Mya, Teagan and Kirsty – were all out and about.
Kirstie, Mya & Teagan - PH
Teagan is very snuggly – she immediately demanded a lap and my attention. Kirsty was already settled on the couch by us and didn’t want to move, but was ready to accept petting. Mya was not certain – she hovered anxiously and then finally came up onto the back of the couch. Part of her nervousness was because big Bossanova was also hovering and wanting to come in on the cuddle. He has made such progress – from the angry feral who first came to us, to the shy boy who wouldn’t come down off the shelf, to this cat who wants attention, to the extent of coming up on a lap. He’s also going through into the main room at last – something most of the cow-cats aren’t quite willing to do just yet.
Bossanova - BC
The evening ended with treats – I usually bring a baggie of chicken bits, and there is much competition over who gets what. Then lights out, and time for cats to sleep...

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Friday, December 30, 2016


Eli is the second of the cats surrendered recently for “aggression” reasons.  Like Jobie, he was originally acquired by his owners as a purebred Ragdoll, but there appear to have been some tensions at home, because he was brought in to us – the ostensible reason was an allergy of a family member, but there were reports of occasional reactiveness. Being a very handsome boy, it was not long before he was adopted out again, and his new family obviously gave it a good try for more than a year, but Eli was not happy, and acted out with bathroom habits and some growling/swatting – and finally was returned to RAPS.
We’ve all heard the stories of so-called “shelters” where a cat would not be allowed to return, or where, having been returned, would have been put down as a non-adoptable cat. RAPS rejoices in the ability to accept any cat, no matter what the behaviour problem, and to give it a home at the Sanctuary as long as it lives. For years volunteers tiptoed around the late Buster-Baby, whose aggression problems verged on the psychotic, and who had to be locked up while visitors were around; in his aging years, Baby mellowed somewhat, and was more accepting of attention.
So the arrival of Eli was not a concern, and though a warning was posted on his cage door, it wasn’t long before the Kitty Comforters were reporting happy encounters with this beautiful boy. Eventually the cage door was opened, and with the inevitable feline visitors taking over his bed, Eli set out to explore the territory.
Waiting at the med-cage door - BC
It wasn’t long before he discovered that the med cage was the source of many tasty treats. Cats who need meds in their food are sometimes picky – the tuna that was yesterday’s favourite is not interesting today – and a cat who is on the ball can sometimes get some left-overs! Eli has joined the club of door-watchers, hoping that an unwary human may leave the door ajar.
He’s not very cat-social yet, though he tolerates most of them as long as they’re not where he wants to be – he doesn’t display the aggression we see between Gizmo and Chester, for instance. He enjoys human attention, especially if a feather toy is offered, and he’s venturing further afield, exploring into the back courtyard and the tea-room – though he and Jobie haven’t come face-to-face yet, since she prefers the safety of her higher cage area.
Ragdolls have the reputation for being sociable with humans; many like to be handled, frequently going limp when picked up. RAPS gets the ones who didn’t get that memo, and we do our best not to force them to change, but to learn that this is a safe place for them, where their defensive swatting is unnecessary, in the end. We hope that for Eli, as for Jobie and many others, we can truly be a safe place, a Sanctuary.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gizmo the Grey

The Cat Sanctuary has recently welcomed several new cats who are finding their places in the various different areas.
As much as possible, when a cat comes to the 5 Road Shelter, we try to find a new home for it. The staff try to match personalities with potential adopters, and mostly it works – but there are always the exceptions. Several of our cats failed adoption for reasons of aggression and were transferred to the Sanctuary because they were no longer considered adoptable.
Gizmo (known as Gizmo the Grey, so as not to confuse him with the recently departed orange Gizmo in the Moore House) was trapped as a feral. The people who trapped him were willing to keep him, but Gizmo was not a happy camper, and was more than ready to attack, given the least provocation. At the Sanctuary he was caged for a while, and took a very dim view of this, swatting at other cats through the mesh of his enclosure. We were not at all certain of whether he might eventually be relocated to the feral pens at the back, and the Kitty Comforters were very wary when visiting him.
As we usually do in this situation, when release time comes, we try to make it a supervised release – the cage is opened at a time when the med staff are around, so that they can observe, and react if necessary. With Gizmo, attack was the best defence – there was a lot of growling and face-off confrontations with other cats, and on more than one occasion he had to be scooped up and returned to his cage. (Med staff Mollie says he still holds a grudge against her!).  But gradually he settled; he chooses not to interact with other cats, but has become quite an explorer in the back courtyard and in the Double-Wide. 

Phaedra caught him climbing the tree during the past week's snow! 
He reminds me of little grey Amber (now gone) – he’s a climber, and shy, though he’s getting better with humans. Just as we found with Watson and Chimo, the initial aggression gave way to a more sociable personality. All three of them had more than a touch of teenage brattishness about them, and all three are maturing into really nice cats (Watson has now been adopted, and Chimo is very much a back yard greeter.)
Gizmo making off with an entire bag of treats from a visitor - ML
It is interesting that our dark grey cats (almost Russian blue) are all stand-offish or aggressive. We all know Leland in the front courtyard, but Petunia, also part of that group, is a real “don’t touch me!” girl, though she is ready to accept treats. In the Newcomers, grey Chester is another for whom attack is the best defence (with other cats, at least), and his room-mate Willi is the nervous sort. And Sylar, in the back courtyard, won’t allow a human near him, though when he was caged for treatment, he was ready to accept petting.
Gizmo is becoming more willing to interact with people, and to accept a caress without returning it with a swat. He may never get to the stage of being ready for adoption – but someone who is feral-savvy and has no other competing cats might be able to give him a home. As with all our semi-ferals, for an adoption to work, there needs to be a strong bond between human and cat, and a knowledge, on the human’s part, of the reading of feline body-language – not to mention a lot of patience!  Gizmo’s not there yet, but he’s learning...

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Moira Langley and Michele Wright

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kitties, It's Cold Outside

The snowfall of last week was reinforced by a blast of arctic cold, and along with the rest of the Lower Mainland, the Sanctuary has been at sub-zero temperatures.  The vast majority of the cats have decided that they really prefer the indoor life-style, and every bed - especially the ones under the heat lamps - has been claimed.
Front courtyard snugglers - Debbie, Petunia (back) Gilbert (front) & Spencer - DW
Fabio & Lucky are somewhere in the pile!
That, of course, makes for some difficulties for the volunteers – cats take exception to being moved off a comfy spot just because some human wants to shake a blanket out, or to change it for a clean cover. And the production of clean bedding is made possible only by careful use of the washer/dryer, because the system is easily overloaded – both by cats and by electrical needs. Having either the washer or the dryer running, of course, is much in demand; the warmth and the vibrations make the appliance top a preferred sleeping space.
One variant of the Dryer Gang: Diablo, Bantam & Simone - MW
Out in the back pens, the cats are also preferring to cuddle together and not venture out. Cleaning pen 1 yesterday, I found twelve of them watching me anxiously; most are semi-feral at best and would normally be backing away, but comfort came first, and they waited patiently while I replaced an ice-filled water-bowl from outside their door with one full of warm water, adding a splash of warm to the inside water-bowl as well.
A wary group of ferals - BC
In pen 5 May and Adam were eager to greet me (though that was in part because of treats in pockets), but Chinook, Willow and Salish also joined in the love-fest, enjoying the chance for some interaction since they’d not had the chance to get out.
From top: Salish, Willow & Adam - waiting hopefully - BC
There are, of course, always the cats who want to do their own thing. Our little grey Gizmo (not to be confused with orange Gizmo in the Moore House) is definitely a cat who walks by himself.  Now that he’s out of a cage, he’s interacting much better with humans, but other cats are still not his favourite thing.
Gizmo the Grey - BC
The cats in the feral pen would prefer not to be inside if they can avoid it; when I go in first thing in the morning to scoop their box and refresh food and water, they hurry out of their house. Cold toes are infinitely preferable to dealing with (horrors!) a human!
Smithy says "Don't look at me!" - MW
The decorations have started going up in the front courtyard; the carolers will be visiting on Monday at lunchtime, and cats are finding their patches of sunshine to make the fur coats compensate for the chill.
Jake's attention is caught by a possible food hand-out - BC
Bobby would prefer that he not actually touch the snow - BC
Some actually seem to enjoy it; semi-feral Autumn must have some Maine Coon in her little body, because her fur has grown in thick and luxuriant (especially her ruff) and I found her today rolling ecstatically in the snow.
Autumn actually loves the cold  - BC
The end is (theoretically) in sight, though;  more snow is forecast on Sunday, followed by warmer temperatures and a return to our usual Wet Coast weather. Pretty as the snow has been, it’ll be good to return to unfrozen water-bowls and functioning sinks again!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sanctuary under Snow

For an area known fondly as the Wet Coast, it’s not often that moisture and arctic cold combine to give Metro-Vancouver a dose of snow – but it looks as if this may be one of those winters. The rest of Canada laughs, of course, but Vancouverites are alternately excited and exasperated by snow days.
We are known as the largest cat sanctuary in the country, but that is made possible by our usually temperate weather – imagine trying to care for cats outdoors in other parts of Canada! But when the snow hits, a whole lot of issues arise.
Volunteers go missing – not willingly, but traffic problems, erratic public transport and nervous drivers inevitably means that those of us who can make it are frequently doing more that one area, or filling in for someone else. Our first snow was last Monday, and when I arrived to sub for someone doing the morning cleaning at the Moore House, it was to an untouched driveway and parking lot – the med-staff that morning had arrived early enough that their tracks were already covered.
The tracks that were obvious, of course, were the little paw-prints on the steps, probably created by cats who sleep on the porch, but prefer not to use the wood-chip litter-box provided, heading across the courtyard to one of the other boxes
Friday saw the next dump of snow, and once again we were short-handed. Handy-man Doug had cleared paths between buildings and already they were becoming covered again.
A few cats braved the cold to see what was going on.

My Friday morning assignment is the back pens. Luckily morning snow was light, but the ceramic heaters in each cabin ensured that the majority of cats decided that this was a day for sleeping in. Even the ferals, who usually make a dash for the cat-door, preferred to remain where they were and hiss at me from the security of a box.
Occasional cats could be seen venturing out, but the majority of those who found their way outside preferred to do so from a position of shelter - or at least, a dry bottom!

and heat lamps, wherever they could be found, were the preferred site for a cuddle-puddle.
By the time of the evening shift, it was clear that we would be short-handed, and I returned to do the evening feeds in the single-wide trailer. Doug was working with the snow shovel to give better access in the back courtyard and the sanctuary under snow and light was quite beautiful
Beauty unappreciated by the cats - they were all tucked away in bed!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Debbie Wolanski