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, July 21, 2017

Tiny Cats

Silky - MD
Visitors to the Sanctuary often notice one of the small cats like Little Mama in the Single-wide trailer or Tricia in the Double-wide trailer and assume that they’re kittens.  It’s true that they do look like kittens but both of these cats are fully-grown and, in fact, quite mature.  There are a few other small ones around, like Sara Lee, Gizmo, and newly-arrived Bengal Jinx but none of them are kittens either.  So why are these adult cats still kitten-size?
Sara Lee - MM
In the case of the females, like Little Mama, Tricia, and Sara Lee, there’s a simple but somewhat sad explanation for their being so petite.  They all had litters of kittens when they weren’t much more than kittens themselves.  As any human female who’s been pregnant can testify, pregnancy takes a lot out of the body!  Humans are generally aware of the nutritional care required during pregnancy and are able to supplement those elements and calories that the growing baby takes from them.  Sadly, homeless female kittens don’t have that luxury. Cats can become pregnant when they’re as young as four to six months old.
Tricia - MM
At that age, their own bodies have certainly not fully developed and having a litter will most likely result in them never attaining full size.  For a young feral cat, their intake of nutritional food is erratic at best, and almost certainly insufficient to support a litter of growing kittens in utero.  They often have small litters of only two or three kittens, have difficulty giving birth, and may lose some or all of their tiny offspring shortly after birth.  Then they have to feed the voracious little babies, again at the expense of their own nutritional needs.
Little Mama - MM
Little Mama, Tricia and Sara Lee were all young and pregnant when trapped, which most likely explains their petite dimensions.  As a cat from a Bengal breeder, Jinx was unlikely to have been a teenage mom, but, despite being eleven years old, she still looks like a kitten.
Jinx - DW
There are, of course, other possible reasons besides early pregnancy for a cat being on the small side. Gizmo, known as “Gizmo the Grey”, is not nearly as large as the average adult cat but, since he’s a male, early pregnancy doesn’t explain his size.  He’s a feisty young ex-stray so probably didn’t get enough food to help his little body grow to a normal size.
Gizmo - MW
There are several other diminutive female cats at the Sanctuary, such as Jax (Jacky) in the Single-wide and Marilee in the front courtyard, but the reasons they’re small aren’t always known.
Tiny Merilee likes to snuggle with Little Orange
- who is not as small as his name implies!  - MM
Like humans, cats do just come in different sizes as a result of genetics and/or nutrition.   The “runt” of a litter or one who was ill or poorly nourished as a kitten has a decreased likelihood of reaching normal mature cat size.  Or, a small cat may simply be a member of a small breed or have parents of a small breed.  As they become elderly, cats who were normal sized or even large in their salad days lose muscle mass and begin to look as if they’re much younger.  Cheetah and Taboo in the front courtyard, and Booster in the Double-wide are all examples of cats who, as humans also do, have become smaller since they became "senior citizen cats".
Cheetah sunning his old bones - MW
So, when you visit the Sanctuary and see cats that are smaller than the others, it’s not because they’re kittens.  They’re fully grown but for some reason don’t look it.  But they do look especially cute!  

Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Melanie Draper, Marianne Moore, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Solar-charging kitties

At this time of the year, it’s not unusual to walk into the Sanctuary and see sprawled bodies all around!
Lazy afternoon in the back courtyard - DW
With the exception of cats who are caged for medical attention, or because they have just arrived with us, all our cats have pretty free rein to go wherever they want. The Single-Wide cats don’t actually get out into the courtyard, but at least they have access to light and air on the back deck, and space by windows on the front. Similarly with the leukemia cats in Old Aids – their courtyard is shaded, but depending on the time of day, patches of sunshine are available.
Miche in the SW window - MW
Humans rely on sunlight for Vitamin D and their health; cats get all they need through their food, and sunshine isn’t a necessary factor. Because they are obligate carnivores and dependent on protein, their bodies process food differently from omnivores.Their natural body temperature is warmer than a human’s and their metabolism tends to run higher. As predators, they are made for bursts of activity, followed by quiet.
Stella sunbathing - MW
If a cat can run on solar, it will. When they sleep, there is a drop in their basal metabolism that is part of shutting down the body for the sleep process. If they can offset that drop with external application of warmth – whether from a heater or from a bout of sunbathing – they can conserve energy.
Salty - MW
On the hottest days, the ambient temperature may be sufficient, and the bodies will be sprawled in shade. But we all know the cats that will wake up every 30 minutes or so and follow the patch of sunlight to its next location.
Timmy - MW
We do need to be aware of sensitive skin – especially ears; white cats, in particular, can get sunburned ears, and we have had several white cats who have developed skin cancers on their ears, needing careful supervision and treatment.
Mona - BC
Age, of course, comes into it.  The younger the cat (as with humans), the more likely it will be active despite the temperature.  Most of our Sanctuary cats are older (rather like we older humans who look after them!) and they prefer to conserve their energy for important things like mooching for treats!
Bobby knows how to relax - DA

soaking up sun’s rays
absorbing its energy, cats
are solar powered   

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pen 2 cats - 3: Orange Is The New Black?

In the first blog introducing the Pen 2 cats we met the two blacks – Kevin and Palma – and the two tuxedos – Booty and Tubby. Last week’s introduction was to the tabbies: Calvin, Chase, Sophie, Celeste and Zivko.   All the cats in this week’s group have the gene that gives rise to orange colouring in one format or another. The majority of orange cats are male – statistically only about 5% are female – but it is the orange gene that can give a female cat either tortoiseshell colouring (black and orange) or calico colouring (white and orange – generally with some black). And torties and calicos are always female.

I have noted in other blogs that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between one black cat and another. That can also be true of the coloured cats – sometimes the identity is clear; sometimes it’s only subtle markings or behaviour that distinguishes one cat from another.
Parry - MW
There are three orange males in Pen 2.  The most friendly and outgoing of the three is Parry, who loves to have human attention, and is always eager to be fussed over. The pale tail-tip is a giveaway of his identity.  Also friendly, but preferably at ground level, is peachy-orange Taffy; he was caged for a while for health reasons, and the Kitty Comforters obviously made him feel happier about human contact.
Taffy - AM
The third orange boy is Pavel – with no white tail-tip, and much more shy than Parry, he will often be found snuggling with someone on an upper shelf in the hut, or hiding out in the undergrowth at the back of the pen.
Pavel & Paula - DA
All the other coloured cats are female.  Paula is classic calico; white fur with strong orange and black markings. She is pretty shy, preferring to hide out with Pavel in the hut, or just out of reach. She will accept treats as long as you don't get too close!
Paula - PH
Minnow is another calico, with much paler colouring; she is outgoing and friendly, and clearly pretty dominant in the colony.
Minnow - MW
The remaining two cats are dilute torties – the strong colouring of regular torties like KitKat, Blaze and Toes in the front courtyard takes on a much more subtle shade in Barbie and Salina. Barbie's colour-markings are clearer than her buddy's, and she is pettable, especially if treats are on offer; Salina is much more muted in colour, and she can be clearly distinguished by a little white dot on her nose; she is much more skittish and wary about interaction with humans.
Barbie - AM
Salina - BC
Sanctuary Manager Janet Reid tells me that we will probably be opening up Pen 2 sometime in the near future. If these ones follow the pattern of other cats from opened pens, we will probably find that the majority will continue to make Pen 2 their base, even as the braver ones start exploring the full range of the back courtyard.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Angelina Mak & Michele Wright

Friday, June 30, 2017

Our Sweet Buddy

With so many felines to blog about, it’s rare that there’ll be a repeat on one particular cat unless there is a significant change in circumstances – usually that the said cat has progressed from feral to friendly.  But blogging about the Pen 2 tabbies last week reminded me of other tabbies I love, and I did a little visiting around – both personally and on the blog – with that in mind.
I was particularly struck by the blog entry Claire wrote back in 2010 to introduce Buddy. Long-term volunteers will remember that we used to keep the rabbit hutch in the Double-Wide, just outside the med-cage and Buddy would sit on the shelf and visit with Amy and Kringle (and with Kris, after Amy passed). The rabbits were eventually relocated to the New Aids pen (they have now been adopted out), and their hutch was replaced by a set of shelves with cat-beds.
Buddy chose not to relocate. There are a few other cats that you will always find on those shelves – Spike and his BFF, Princess, often Lincoln and Luigi – but you will almost always find Buddy there. Whether it’s proximity to the med cage and the goodies that come out of it, or the fact that very few people go past without offering petting and cuddles, Buddy has decided that this is His Place.
Buddy dressed up for potential adoption - PH
In our recent Adoption weekend, in which Hannah and Birdie, Poosie and Gracie-Mae, and several others all found loving homes, we had Buddy on the list. He’s an older boy – he came in to us fully grown in 2009 and we think he’s probably about 14 years old.  There have been a few nibbles at adoption and they’ve never worked out – and once again, on this weekend, Buddy was passed over for younger, livelier cats. Many of us have mixed feelings. We’d love Buddy to have a home where he has a person of his own, and much love and petting.  But he also has much love and petting with us, and he would be sorely missed.
The majority of the cats at the 5 Road Shelter are looking for adoption – they don’t want to stay in that space, which is a place of transition. Most of our Sanctuary cats feel they have a home; they’ve learned to interact with other cats and they have a lot of human fans. Buddy has made his home on the shelf by the med cage, and we would need to be very sure that any alternative home will give him something better than he already has with us.

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pen 2 cats - 2:Too Many Tabbies!

Calvin - MW
The Pen 2 cats were introduced in a recent blog, with some specific focus on the black, and black-and-white inhabitants.
Too many tabbies - DA
I hesitated over tackling an introduction to the cats in this pen, because five of them are at first sight seemingly identical tabbies, and it’s difficult to tell them all apart until you spend real time with them.  All of them have the characteristic tabby M marking on their foreheads, but their subtler markings vary.  Most tabbies have lines that appear to go from the corners of their eyes, and may run parallel or otherwise; it’s worth looking also for cheek markings and for the chest rings that may run cleanly or be interrupted
Sophie - MW
The most outgoing and confident of the Pen 5 tabbies is Sophie – she frequently meets visitors at the gate and demands attention. Sophie is a tubby-tabby, and not afraid to indulge in leg-rubs; she solicits petting, but really wants it to consist mainly of head-rubbing, and she is quick to object when the hand moves too far down her back.
Calvin - MW
Insofar as a tabby can be elegant, it’s personified (?catified) in Calvin.  He is leggy and streamlined; his facial markings are the easiest to distinguish, because the outer strokes of his M marking are brown smudges rather than black lines. Both he and his buddy Chase have yellow eyes; Chase has the clearer M marking, and his cheek lines are slightly divergent, where Calvin’s are more convergent.  Chase is a bit more wary of human contact than Calvin, who, like Sophie, solicits petting.
Chase says "I'm not ready for contact!" - MW
Calvin is photographer Michele Wright’s favourite of the Pen 2 cats, and her affection is clear in the beautiful pictures she takes of him.
Calvin - MW
The other tabby that is easy to distinguish is Celeste, who has the most beautiful big round green eyes  – they remind me of the eyes of our recently departed Sophie’s, in the Moore House.
Celeste - MW
Celeste is a bit smaller than the others, and her M marking has a strong dark strokes on the outside. She has dark under-eye shading and convergent cheek-lines
Zivko - BC
Looking very like Sophie, but much less outgoing is Zivko.  His tabby M markings are much darker, the outer strokes being black smudges, and his cheek markings are more varied than Sophie’s clear lines. He also has a small white chest-spot. He does not want to be petted – he would rather stay away from humans, but when approached, regards the finger offered for sniffing with great disdain; his expression says “You expect me to bunt against THAT?”
Zivko - MW
A challenge to volunteers to get to know these five!  When pen 2 is opened in a month or so, they’ll be venturing out – and then we have to be able to distinguish them from Stella and LouLou and Jody and the many other back-courtyard tabbies in our care.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cheddar, Keanu & Reno

Cheddar & Reno - MW
Many volunteers have probably never met these three young cats in the Leukemia Room of the Single Wide, an area that doubles as the Sanctuary office. Although it’s a nice bright room, it’s a bit “off the beaten track” for even the most regular volunteers. In September, 2016, Keanu, Cheddar and Reno were transferred to RAPS from a shelter on Vancouver Island that didn’t have the facilities to keep cats who’d tested positive for the leukemia virus. Fortunately, we were able to take them into our care and they came to the Sanctuary. Reno was only about one year old at the time; Keanu and Cheddar just a few months old. 
Keanu & Cheddar - MW
Because the Leukemia Room was temporarily occupied by a few cats from the City Shelter, the youngsters started out in “Animal Care Staff Only” cages in Hill House before being moved to their present location in November. Sometimes, young cats who test positive for leukemia overcome the virus and test negative when they’re a little older but, unfortunately, that hasn’t happened with these three cuties. They’ve just recently re-tested positive so will soon be on the move again, this time to a larger area in another building. It has an open deck so they’ll be able to enjoy the breeze, watch the birds go by and, best of all, be accessible for visits from more volunteers.
Keanu - MM
The two boys, Keanu and Cheddar, were quite shy but enjoyed being petted right from the start. Poor Keanu had a bit of a setback when he had to be treated for a cold and eye infection but seems to have forgotten that. Although they’re still easily startled, the guys have progressed to rolling over for tummy rubs! It’s hoped that more encounters with people will make them much braver still.
Cheddar - MM
Reno, being that much older when she arrived, has had a more difficult time trusting us. Up until just recently, any attempt by me to touch her or even get close to her with a string toy or treat was met with a loud hiss and swats. But then she learned that the wand of a string toy rubbed on her chin felt good and that if she wanted a treat she had to edge in close to the other two, even if that meant being touched by my hand – eeek! 
Reno - MM
However, after many visits with her and quite a bit of blood loss (all mine, none hers), she one day took a leap of faith and rested her front paws on my hand. Breakthrough! She then quickly moved past that to sniffing my finger and allowing a few little cheek and ear rubs. If I move in too fast, she’ll slap my hand but with her claws retracted and, when her back is turned to look out the window, she’ll even tolerate some proper petting down her back! I don’t expect that she’ll ever turn into a cuddling, purring lap cat, but I like to think that she’ll at least come to find pleasure and comfort from us big, scary people and that she’ll be healthy enough to enjoy those interactions with us for many, many years to come.       

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Marianne Moore & Michele Wright

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pen 2 cats - an introduction

Tubby - MW
RAPS runs both the City Shelter, on No 5 Road, and the Sanctuary, and there’s some give-and-take between the two. When we have a cat come to us who turns out to be very friendly, it will often be taken over to the Shelter, where it has a chance of being seen by more people, and potentially adopted. Conversely, cats who have been at the Shelter for some time and not been adopted may end up with us.
Kevin - AM
Last year we had a batch of such cats come to us. Pen 2 was cleared out and closed to back courtyard cats, and the transition was made – there were more than a dozen newcomers: five tabbies, three oranges, a handful of calicos and torties, two blacks and two tuxedos.
Booty - AM
Why were they not adopted? There was a variety of reasons. Some were very shy; when potential adopters appeared, the cats would vanish, only to re-emerge when the coast was clear. Others were more approachable, but erratic in reactions – biting and swatting does not encourage people to offer a home to a cat. Still others proved to have bad bathroom habits – peeing in odd corners, probably to try and establish territory, or just managing to miss the litter box.
Palma - MW
It was decided to keep them all together as a colony, since they came together from the Shelter.  For the first few weeks they kept mostly to their cabin, but visits from volunteers – including some of the people who had cared for them at 5 Road – made them more comfortable with new surroundings. Some settled in very quickly; others remained wary.
Tubby - MW
Those of us who clean the back pens quickly realised that this was the pen that would always need work. In spite of generous litter-boxes and outside areas in which to do their thing, there is very often poop on the floor, litter all over the matting and well paw-dabbled dirty water.  We established a feeding station at the back of the cabin for the shyer cats who preferred to hold back, as well as the usual water and dry food outside the door and inside.
Kevin - DA
Personalities began to emerge. Nobody can miss tuxedo Tubby – the only long-haired one in the set. Tubby is one of the erratic-reactions cats – mostly he’s very friendly, and then suddenly he’s had enough and out come the claws and teeth. Poor Tubby has some reason – he’s one of those long-hair cats that mats easily, and sometimes needs shaving in patches; occasionally you will find Tubby-hair around, where he’s either been self-grooming or been in a fight with someone.  The other tux in the family is Booty – Booty is shy, but more willing to explore the ranges of the pen than some of his buddies.
Booty - PH
There are two black cats with a small white patch on the chest : Kevin and Palma, both of whom are extremely shy. I understand that the only way to tell the difference between them is that Kevin has white hair inside his ears!
Tubby sunbathing - MW
Over the next couple of months I will hope to learn to identify more individuals in this lovely clowder of cats, and introduce them to a wider circle of friends.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Phaedra Hardman, Angelina Mak, Michele Wright