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, September 22, 2017

Moody, but Cute - CHER

Cher - guard-cat at the gate - BC
Visitors to the Sanctuary are quickly accosted in the front courtyard by a very pretty little grey tabby. Cher came to the City Shelter a few months ago, stuffed in a bag with her friend, and surrendered by someone who said they’d been hanging around his home.  Both Cher and Christina were transferred to us when it was obvious that they were not socialized, and they lived in adjacent cages in the Connor building.
Cher loves to play - MD
For the first while there were warning signs over both cages, and a fair amount of growling and swatting.  In Cher’s case, the growling eased off as the curiosity increased, and she spent more and more time at the front of the cage.  Christina still prefers the safety of her cage, even though it’s open now; Cher took very little time to venture out and explore the big wide world.
A first encounter with bubbles - MW
Cher’s mood swings are pretty marked – she’s obviously prone to over-stimulation, and she transitions from cuddle-kitty to killer without much warning. We’re used to warning visitors about Puffin, who also has mood swings – now we need alarm bells for Cher!
Where did it go? - MW
Puffin typically sidles up to people and demand petting – he is particularly susceptible to young women! But you have to watch his body language carefully – he’s nice till suddenly he isn’t, and the twitching tail doesn’t give much warning.  Similarly with Cher – she will launch herself at a male visitor and demand attention, and then suddenly turn on him.
Who's the next victim? - BC
Part of it may just be her age and upbringing (or lack thereof) – we see similar behaviour from grey Gizmo in the back, who can be a very brattish teenager when he chooses.  Part of it may just be that she has never learned how to interact with humans – when Chimo came to us it was because his usual mode of interaction was attack - especially when human hands and feet were within reach. With a lot of patience from the Kitty Comforters, he's now a pretty mellow fellow.
Chimo at his most cute! - MW
But I suspect that it’s a bit more than that with Cher; she’s more in the Lumi mode. For a long time we had white Lumi wear a collar as a warning that this cat was cute but would bite. And as with Cher and Puffin, there’s little or no warning.  Orange Buster-Baby, who we lost a couple of years ago, used to have to be caged when visitors were around because something in his brain just made him attack for no reason.
Such a pretty face - but not to be trusted! - MW
Visitors very often forget that cats are carnivores who are hardwired to hunt, and moving fingers are irresistible. It’s up to us to provide cats like Cher and Gizmo with interactive toys to exercise their hunting instincts, and not offer them fingers to practice on.  And we hope that as they mature, they do so, not into the Baby/Lumi mode, but into the Chimo one of being lovable and loved.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Michele Wright

Friday, September 15, 2017

Black Cats in the New Aids pen

Norman and Denzel - BC
Many of the volunteers at the Sanctuary work in specific areas, and get to know the cats there really well, while not knowing cats in other areas. I do quite a lot of fill-in in the main complex, but somehow I rarely spend much time in New Aids and the Moore House.  Following a shift last week, rather than sitting down with my usual cuddle-buddies, I decided it was time for a visit with the Aids cats.
Max and Tiberius - BC
In part, this was prompted by plans for next year’s RAPS Cat Sanctuary Calendar. Two of the pictures we’ve selected are of cats from the New Aids pen, and though I was in on the selection, the photos had been taken by Michele. In fact, both are black cats – notoriously difficult to photograph – and though you’ll have to wait for the calendar to see the final beautiful pictures, this is a quick introduction to some of the personalities involved.
Norman - MW
Claire introduced us to Norman several years ago. He came to us through VOKRA  – he was found as a stray and taken to Killarney Vet Hospital.  When it turned out he was FIV-positive, and a little nippy, it proved more difficult to find him a home, and he was transferred to our care. He’s a handsome black panther of a boy, very friendly now, and ready to interact with humans; he’s a little more picky about his own space with other cats.  Petting at the front end is encouraged; an old hind leg injury left him a little sensitive about rear-end touch.
Norman - MW
It is worth noting again that, though communicable, the FIV virus is only transmitted through blood, i.e. cat-bites, and as such is more often seen in unneutered male cats. Once the cat is neutered and settled down, he can actually co-exist with Aids-negative cats quite happily, as long as the cats get along. The story of Simba and Jack, a couple of years ago, was an example of a pair that didn’t want to be separated.
Denzel - MW
If you’re sitting with Norman, the chances are that Denzel will be somewhere close. These two are not exactly buddies, but they both like human attention, and the chance of treats. Denzel is one of those cats whose black fur is flecked with white hairs, giving him a slightly grizzled appearance. He’s another “import”, coming from Keremeos.
Denzel - PH
Tiberius - MW
Tiberius is not a friendly cat – but there’s been a big improvement in his behaviour since he first came to us as an angry feral. He prefers to use one of the many shelters in the courtyard rather than enter the house, and because he was so unapproachable in his first years with us, he was frequently very matted, developing dreadlocks that had to be shaved off under sedation.  
Tiberius - BC
These days he is much more a part of the courtyard crowd, even entering the house on occasion, and he is no longer spooked by the sight of a human in his space. He’s ready to hover at treat-tossing distance, and risk another cat moving in on his prize.  It takes a while, but we’ll bring him round...
Minew - MD
This pretty girl is the second of the black cats to feature in the 2018 calendar. Minew is one of the smaller population of female Aids cats – Holland was introduced in an earlier blog – and has come to us from one of the shelters on Vancouver Island. I don’t know whether Minew’s name derives from “minou”, which is the French word for a little cat.  Minew is still pretty shy, and seems to hang around Holland – two timid girls giving each other courage.  She’s more ready to interact with humans than her older buddy, and is often happy to play with a string toy.  You need to be careful when petting her – she’s one of those cats who is very particular about where she’s touched, and very quickly overstimulated by sensation. She’s so cute, it’s easy to forget about those teeth!
Minew - MD
We’ve recently had more cats come into New Aids, transferred from other rescues.  I can see that I need to spend more time here to make new friends and introduce them through the blog.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Pictures by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Michele Wright

Friday, September 8, 2017


There are certain areas where you can usually meet certain cats.  Jamie is a boundary cat!
The Hill House is something of a cat co-op, with lots of beds and plenty of shared space. Often you can go straight to a specific bed when you want to find Faline, for instance, and Treacle always had her own little corner. Other cats will migrate from bed to bed, and there is often a puddle of mutual adoration on the top of the trolley that divides the room.
The trolley also abuts the window into what we call the Old Rabbit Area (it’s a long time since there were any rabbits there!) which is usually the home for the feral cats. In contrast to the open beds in the Hill House, this area has all its shelves draped with sheets in the summer and with blankets in the winter, so that timid or shy cats can find a space to hide.
Jamie can’t quite make up his mind where he belongs. Sometimes he’s tucked in a basket with the other ferals, other times he’s rubbing and bunting and purring with the other cats in the Hill House – especially when food is in the offing.  For some time he’s been a very shy cat, but the last year or so has seen great progress, and Jamie has some devoted human fans who always spend time with him.
Leslie tells me that he came to the Sanctuary in 2008 when Carol Reichert trapped a mama cat, who was named Caroline, and her three babies. Mama-cat disapproved of the whole thing, and excavated her way out via a vent in the Hill House (which has since been securely blocked). Two of the three kittens were recovered, but Caroline and baby III made a clean getaway.
Jamie was named for Leslie’s daughter Jaime, and initially it was thought he was a she, but the inevitable vet-check straightened that out and the spelling was adjusted.  Jamie’s sister is the pretty little grey and white Janine, who was featured in the 2015 calendar.
Janine - MW
The love-puddle in the Hill House is usually led by ginger boy Daniel, who seems to be very popular. A variety of other cats get into it – tabby Cloverleaf, black Shady, grey Sarah. But Jamie is always there in the middle of the action, and accepts caresses from cats and humans alike with great enthusiasm.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper and Michele Wright; video by Carol Porteous

Friday, September 1, 2017


This beautiful flame-point ragdoll came to us from a home where he was dearly loved, but where he persisted in leaving his signature in all the wrong places!
Sometimes a cat-pee situation can be tracked down to some sort of stress at home: a new baby, a nearby dog, a new person (as in little Bengal Jinx). Sometimes it’s a medical problem, which is why a vet visit is always a good idea when the behaviour starts.  Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the size or quantity of litterboxes.  And sometimes it’s because the cat just likes to do it!
Ollie likes to pee outside his litterbox – and after seven years of cleaning floors and replacing furniture, his family finally admitted defeat and Ollie came to us. Initially he was in a cage in the Connor, where he instantly endeared himself to all the volunteers, begging for attention.  He was moved briefly to a Double-Wide cage, and since release, has made himself thoroughly at home in the back courtyard area.
His favourite perch is the one he has stolen from Eli, on top of the canned-food cupboard in the Double-Wide, but he has little fear of exploring, and can be found in a variety of hideouts.
Unlike Jobie, who was brought to us labelled as a ragdoll cat, but who had very different ideas about what that might mean, Ollie is very happy to receive human attention.  He’s a typical cat – when he wants to be petted, he wants it Right Now, if you please!  If he’s perched up on the cupboard it’s because he’s in his “I want to be alone” mode – but not in any sort of nasty sense; he just wants quiet time.
We’re very happy to have him with us!

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Jax (a.k.a."Jackie")

Jax (a.k.a. “Jackie” - because we already had a tabby/white Jax) is one of those tiny cats who, although fully grown at almost three years old, still looks like a kitten.  I’m not sure if that’s because she had a litter of kittens while still young herself or not. Whatever the reason, she won’t get any bigger!
Before coming to RAPS, Jax alternated between two homes and, during that time, began to show signs of unpredictable aggression.  Perhaps she was confused or frustrated, not knowing where her real home was – who knows?  Fortunately, her owner found RAPS and Jax was surrendered to RAPS’ City Shelter.  She was adopted from there twice and returned shortly after both times because of her anti-social behaviour.
During renovations at the City Shelter last year, Jax was transferred, along a with a few other cats, to the Cat Sanctuary.  This was supposed to be a temporary stay but, because her behaviour didn’t improve, it was determined that her chances of being adopted were not great, so she’s stayed at the Sanctuary.
Over the past year, cute little Jax has become a much nicer cat!  She’s less likely to lash out unexpectedly and will sometimes gently paw a visitor’s leg for attention.  She enjoys (okay, maybe “tolerates” is a better word) being picked up and held up to the window where she can look out onto the activities in the front courtyard.  Just recently, she even climbed on to my lap and was I honoured with a few “head bonks”.  Despite several such cozy moments with her lately, I’m still waiting to hear her purr.
Jax’s favourite spot is at the base of one of the tall scratching posts, with her back safely up against the outside of a cage wall.   She’s definitely not keen to mingle with the other cats in her area.
Despite her shyness, Jax is one of the most playful cats in the Single-Wide trailer.  She’ll play for hours with a catnip pillow or toy mouse and will happily chase a mop, a string toy or, her favourite, a laser light.  She’ll chase that for as long as someone is willing to wave it around and will then spend twenty minutes afterward searching for it!
I have no doubt that, given a bit more time and lots of reassuring love, Jax will become a very nice little cat.  And maybe even start to purr!   Then, with a better attitude, she could still find a forever home.

Blog and photos by Marianne Moore

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Cats love our Students!

Tiffany, Lauren & Karen - BC
During the summer months many of our regular volunteers are away on holiday, and managing to keep the shift board filled is often a hard task. It couldn’t be done without the assistance of our students, made possible by a government grant, for which we are most grateful. This year we were fortunate enough to have three of them at the Cat Sanctuary. Lauren, Tiffany and Karen filled in for missing volunteers as cleaners and feeders, and tackled projects that we’re normally too busy to deal with – painting the benches in the back courtyard, pulling out cages and scrubbing walls, cleaning grout between paving stones, and giving cat-trees a much-needed brush-up.
Lauren scrubbing scoops - BC
LAUREN is a long-term Sanctuary worker. Her dad found out about us when Lauren was just 11, and wanted to work with animals.  Normally volunteers have to wait till they’re 16 to do a shift, but we always make an exception for parent-child teams, and Dave and Lauren have been feeding the front courtyard cats on Sunday afternoons for nine years now.
Eva - MW
Lauren has been exploring possibilities in study and is doing wildlife and fisheries management in the fall. She says this summer’s made her really used to dirty work (which she tackles with great gusto!)
She has one cat – Kiya – at home, and at the Sanctuary, her favourite is Eva in Old Aids, who she describes as sweet and cuddly (also round, and looking like a meatloaf!)
Karen cleaning the cat-tree -
a horrid job, but it has to be done! - BC
KAREN says: I first visited the sanctuary when I was 6 years old, soon after moving into a new house. My new neighbor Stephanie Ross had introduced herself and invited me to visit the Cat Sanctuary and after that first visit, I was enthralled by cats. Unfortunately, the rest of my family is allergic to cats, so I had to wait until I was old enough to volunteer by myself, then I spent a summer volunteering at the 5 rd shelter. At the end of that summer, I convinced my family to adopt two kittens from the same litter at the shelter. Apparently I am very purrrrsuasive. Those kittens are now 3.5 years old and are two of the greatest joys in my life. I also help Stephanie rescue feral cats.
Fussing cats in the back courtyard - BC
In September, I'll be entering my 3rd year of Applied Animal Biology at UBC, while hopefully still coming to the sanctuary to lend a hand. Working at the sanctuary this summer has taught me that there are over 400 different cats with over 400 different personalities at the sanctuary and each one directly benefits from the hard work the staff and volunteers do each day.
Spirit - MW
It's difficult to choose one cat as my favourite, but I would have to choose Spirit. He's a shy but slightly mischievous boy, but once he gets to know you, he becomes very chatty and friendly. The first time I met him, I thought he had escaped his cage, but once I opened the cage door, I saw his blanket move slightly - he had burrowed under his blanket and was sleeping soundly.
Tiffany working at the litterbox "bath"  - BC
TIFFANY says:  I started as a volunteer at the cat shelter about five years ago in the Single-wide and Leukemia room. I heard about it online and was excited to check it out since I don't have cats of my own. My favourite kitties back then were Belinda, Shilo, and Butterbean. Over the next four years, I've been working as a summer student at the shelter - I couldn't get enough of the cats and kept coming back.
Pets for Tyson - BC
I'm headed to my fourth year at UBC in the fall and will graduate with a Behavioural Neurosciences major and Applied Animal Biology minor. I'm also contemplating applying for veterinary school in Saskatchewan afterwards! This summer has taught me that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Working two jobs has definitely taught me how to manage my working hours and off-time.
Chimo - Tiffany's photo
The cat I keep near and dear to my heart is Chimo (our orange little tabby with the pig tail, often in Waldie's hut). I met him when he was a little rascal when he arrived at the shelter. When I learnt he wasn't making friends - he's a little socially awkward - I spent more and more time with him and eventually fell in love with his antics. He loves belly rubs (if you're slow and careful) and playtime so please give him some love if you can. :)
Thanks for getting to know me, and many thanks to Brigid for allowing a feature of us summer students here."
Snuggles with Chimo, Romeo and Matt - BC
We are so lucky to have had these three wonderful young women working at the Sanctuary this summer!  Cats, volunteers and staff alike offer thanks to them for their energy, enthusiasm and empathy.

Blog compiled by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Friday, August 11, 2017

Reluctant Lions

Bear in full fur - MW
With the summer heat also comes a regular phenomenon at the Cat Sanctuary – lots of hair! Volunteers  regularly spend extra time with a variety of brushes and combs in hand, grooming blissful and grumpy cats alike. Some of them seem to be able to attend to themselves fairly well (bar the odd hairball); others definitely need human assistance. Our summer students (see future blog) are cleaning all the nooks and crannies where cat-hair accumulates; we could probably compile another dozen cats from the fur that comes off each week. Long-haired, short-haired, they’re all shedding like crazy.
Dell's fine hair mats easily - MW
But there are always a few cats for whom grooming is a problem. We have our share of tubby cats who don’t do so well at cleaning themselves because the rear end is so hard to reach – a little shave job around the tail area is usually enough to prevent messy backsides.  Often these are short-haired cats who otherwise have no difficulty in grooming.  However, there are several long-haired cats whose fine fur always seems to mat, and for whom being combed is a real problem.
For anyone who wondered if Bear was big or just fluffy... - DW
The first one this summer to get the traditional lion cut was Bear. Formerly an inhabitant of the Leukemia Room at the back of the Single-Wide, Bear and his buddy Smoochy have become inhabitants of the Val Jones pen (extended now, for Bear, to the Old Aids area). Bear is not always the most approachable cat, and certainly not an easy one to keep groomed; by late spring it was obvious that his mats were giving problems, and he was finally whisked off to the vet for a full lion-cut.  It was obviously something of a surprise to everyone to discover that this enormous ball of fluff was actually a scrawny little body underneath.  We offered him a sweater, which was not appreciated! When the summer heat finally arrived, Bear must have been one of the few who really approved.
He’s now grown out a couple of months of fuzz and is looking quite good!
One of the back-courtyard regulars, Matt doesn’t appreciate being groomed in the regular way, with the inevitable result that he’s a mess by early summer. Last year he got away with just having the worst clumps taken off; this year our lumpy fuzzball got the full treatment, and is now going by the nickname of De-Matt!
"Do you have chicken? Or shall I go back to bed?  -  BC
He’s obviously a bit embarrassed about it all;  he’s found himself a comfy bed to retreat to, and emerges only when he thinks it’s worth showing his face.
Former Pen 6, now Moore House resident Sophia is a constant grooming problem.  She came to us from a closing shelter on the Sunshine Coast, and a volunteer there told us that she was always grumpy for them too – until she got her haircut.  Then she would be sweetness and light, soliciting petting and being very affectionate – for about three weeks, before she reverted to her “Don’t touch me!” mode.
Pet me, please! - BC
Sophia’s just had her summer lion-cut, and as predicted, she can’t get enough attention. The challenge for us will be to keep her enjoying being handled, and to prevent the mats recurring in the first place.
Undressed, but still handsome!  - BC
Handsome Dell in pen 3 is another with long fine fur that mats.  Two years ago we gave him a lion cut, and then managed to keep him groomed so that it wasn’t necessary last summer.  But during the winter months a fallen tree meant limited access to his pen, and his regular grooming partners couldn’t keep him brushed out, so that by the time the summer came, it was obvious that Dell would need attention. Leslie and I managed to get the worst mats off in a cuddle session, but it was not an elegant look!  So when Dell had to go in for a dental (five teeth out!) they took the opportunity of having him sedated and gave him the full lion cut.  Currently he’s in a cage while his mouth heals, so by the time he returns to his own pen, he should have a little protective fuzz.
Come in and pet me - I'm bored!  - DW
There are one or two others with clumps of fur that may need a bit of attention – though we hope not the full works – but for the time being, we’re all busy with combs, furminators, grooming gloves and the like, to keep ahead of the summer mats.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolinski, Michele Wright