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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Sam-I-Am

Sam  (BC)
Meet Sam...

Sam’s only been with us a short while, but much personality has emerged!  His elderly owners had to move to senior care, and were able to take him with them, but when first one and then the other began to be unwell and unable to care for him, the family arranged to have him come to RAPS. 

Slightly suspicious  (BC)
In the Adoption Centre, Sam was not a happy camper.  For a cat who had obviously been the centre of the household, with free rein to get to into anything he wanted, it was a shock.  Other cats?  Horrors!  A cage?  How dare they!  Sam was alternately closed down, and very angry. It doesn’t help that he’s not a small cat, and the Adoption Centre cages must have felt a bit claustrophobic.  The staff decided to move him across to the Sanctuary, where the cages are much larger, and though there are more cats, there is also more space.

Worth showing the belly?   (KN)
After a short stay in a Sanctuary cage, we were able to release Sam into the Front Courtyard – usually one of the delays in releasing a cat is in order to make sure that they are fully vaccinated, and since we had Sam’s records, that wasn’t an issue.  We left him with his collar on as a signal to weekend visitors that he’s a bit temperamental, though we’re already seeing that he is calmer than when he came in.

LBF
Orange tabbies usually have golden or green eyes – it’s unusual to have a blue-eyed-boy with that colouring. His ears are often flat, but that’s more suspicion of other cats than anything – when he’s relaxed and happy they perk right up.  He likes human attention in a limited way;  we need to watch him around visitors because he tends to roll over and show his belly – and, as with many cats, it’s a trap! But he’s also discovered that when he’s had enough, he can go and chill out in the Hill House, which is off-limits to visitors.

Happiness is a head-rub   (LBF)
Sam is not an unadoptable cat, like so many of the other Sanctuary residents. But we won’t let him go to just anybody – he needs to be a one-and-only cat, he needs a cat-savvy adopter who will read his body language and react accordingly, and he needs someone that he can love.

We won’t offer you green eggs and ham, sweet boy, but much love until it’s time for you to move on to your own home. For the pleasure of your company, thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult & Karen Nicholson



Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Love Attack

The warning collar says that new girl Peaches
needs to be approached with caution  (KN)
What are the primary words that come up when you think of cats?  My bet is that they would include “cuddly”, “soft”, “purring”, “stroke” and many more like that.  They’re certainly in the minds of our Sunday visitors, who are sometimes disappointed to be told that they can’t pet all the cats! Since the return of our weekend visiting hours, we’ve needed to be able to have guests identify some of the cats that are particularly reactive, offering slaps and swats instead of (sometimes as well as) purrs - and most of those cats are now sporting collars as a visual warning.

JJ wears a warning collar
- but Kasha needs no warning!  (LBF)
But sometimes it’s not so much about the petting itself, as about the relationship of pet-ee and petter! JJ stands out with her handsome blue collar, and all the volunteers know that we need to move carefully around her.  But when Kasha is anywhere close, JJ is a different and totally cuddly cat; her only frustration is that she wants Kasha to sit and pet her all the time!  She has now begun to snuggle with other volunteers if Kasha’s not available, and most of us have learned to let JJ pet the human, and not vice versa!

Cole "come pet me" look - MW
Cole was an angry, reactive boy when he first came to us; our black panther has changed a lot since then. Mostly he hangs out in the DoubleWide laundry room, but occasionally he is very emotionally needy, and begs for attention. He can often be found at the gate – not to go gate-busting, as he used to, but to welcome whoever comes through, and demand a cuddle. Like a small child, saying “Up! Up!”, he stretches up, wanting to be lifted; he’s one of those cats who likes being held upright, and butts his head under your chin. Sadly, he’s a big boy, and there’s only so much cuddling you can do; he wants to be walked around, and when you sit, he’s off to find someone else to pay attention to him.

Tugboat loves his cuddles with Debbie  (DW)
More vocal in his demands, Tugboat is another who is insistent on having a cuddle when he needs it. Our old boy is getting arthritic and unsteady; he shuttles between the Double-Wide couch, (where he snuggles with Plum), and his favourite basket in the Tea-Room.  When he wants attention, his creaky voice can’t be ignored, and he’s feather-light in your arms. There are lots of people who will give Tuggy any amount of cuddle time.

Wylee having a very important
discussion with Louise (BC)
Sweet Wylee is not often seen during visiting hours – he hides in the Newcomers area, which is a cats-only zone, and if he is seen, he is often confused with Gizmo. But in the evening, when the med-staff are doing their rounds, he will sometimes emerge; if there’s a tea-break he will check who’s attending, and if it’s Louise, he will leap on her lap, scoot up to her shoulder, and bury his head in her neck, begging for petting. Molly will do, at a pinch; I’ve occasionally been favoured; but Louise is definitely his Perfect Person, and Cuddler #1.

Roe is blissed-out
when she's in Justin's lap  (JS)
Roe is usually one of the cats who waits at the front courtyard main gate; she likes visitors and the attention and petting she can get while she’s around them. But certain people are her priority. If Justin arrives, she is anxious for all his focus; she is quick to monopolize his lap and to squirm around being cute, and receiving the caresses she wants. If she knows he’s around but not with her, she sulks, waiting for him to come back to her.

Sometimes shy, sometimes cuddly  (KN)
Last week I was doing a back-pen shift and got ambushed by Odin outside Pen 1. He was very insistent that I sit with him and give cuddles – something he doesn’t always do. Odin tends to be a loner; he doesn’t hate other cats, but he’s not part of a social crowd. He’s also wary with humans, but Alice has spent a lot of time with him, and his comfort with her has transferred to other people. He suffers, to a certain extent, from black-cat-itis – when people can’t immediately ID a black cat, it’s easy to overlook them altogether.  Odin is worth hunting for!

Marty & Merrin love snuggles  (JS)
When Justin can’t be found petting Roe in the front courtyard, he can often be found smothered by cats in the Single-Wide. Most of the love-attack cats in the Sanctuary want to be the ONLY cat – and when another cat appears on the scene, they move. The Cuddle Crew in the Single-Wide love being together;  piling on to a chair together is bested only by piling on top of a human on their chair. If they’re athletic, they jump up; if they’re not, there are steps, and ways of edging into the pile. If they are late-comers (yes, I mean you, Bossanova!) they approach from above and sneak down over the shoulder. They actually prefer being crowded on the chair to using the couch on the deck – but there they also have to give space to NikkiSixToes, Shaggy and sometimes big black Kiefer.

Cuddles is zoned-out...   (KN)
It's perhaps unfortunate that the cat called Cuddles is another of the collared ones, who is approachable only when blissed-out on catnip!

Wherever you go in the Sanctuary, there are always ferals who will hold back, reactive cats who will go “purr-purr-purr-SLAP!” and the beloved ones who come to us looking for love.

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Fabian

Fabian, hiding in the gardens  (KN)
Shy Fabian came to us last year. Many of our cats come through other shelters, but this boy was a feral who we helped to trap after he was found marking someone's front porch. He was terrified when he came in - so much so that the med-staff couldn't easily do an assessment, and it had to wait till the hospital had time for him, and it could be done under sedation. He was an intact male with many small wounds, presumably from fighting; he was lucky not to have FIV or FeLV. The hospital cleaned him up, neutered him (which helped with some of the aggression), treated his injuries and de-flea'd him before he came back to us.

KN
In common with most of our new cats, he had a period in a cage, offering the Kitty Comforters a chance to see if he could be socialised. He remained scared, was not to be tempted by food or petting, and on release from his cage, he joined the other timid cats on the back deck of the Double-Wide trailer.  There he was able to find the inaccessible (to humans) perches high up on the walls, and stare down on us with a carefully blank “I am not interested in anything you can offer” expression on his face.

Watching from above  (BC)
For years the cats on the deck had accessed the great outdoors by going through the main building and the laundry room – for many of them that was a scary prospect, only to be executed when minimal humans were around. Last summer handyman Ken installed a cat door in the emergency exit on the deck – and many of the residents took the opportunity for The Great Escape.

The DW deck heatseekers  (KN)
For many of them that amounted to lolling around in the sun close to the exit. A few, like Hickory, ventured further a bit too quickly and then panicked when they couldn’t immediately find their way home; he now happily ventures all over the place. But because cats tend to be territorial, they almost all continued to return to the DW Deck in the evenings for dinner and together-time.

Fabian snoozing  (KN)
Not Fabian...

Fabian ventured out with the others, but he recovered his sense of self as a feral cat who lived outdoors, and he decided that the deck was no longer home. He took up residence with the McLeod cats at the back of Pen 1, and they seemed to accept him easily enough.  

And he discovered Mercury.

Mercury was the shyest of that colony, and he welcomed Fabian as a fellow scaredy-cat. The two of them generally share quarters in one of the straw-filled dog-houses at the back, and can sometimes be seen enjoying the sun and their solitude.

Good to cuddle with a buddy on a cold day  (LBF)
Interestingly, Mercury has started to show his courage, and comes to hover on the edge of the chicken-treat crowd. He hears when I call and saunters towards the others as if it really doesn’t matter – but he’s quick to pounce when a treat comes his way, and sometimes he stands his ground when approached, and accepts the treat by hand.  Fabian has not joined his buddy. I came face to face with Fabian while scooping a box at the back of Pen 1 last week; he froze while I worked, and I tried not to make eye contact, but as soon as he felt I was a little too close for his comfort, he was up and out of there. Convincing this feral boy that we only wish him well will take much time and patience!

Hiding away  (KN)

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult and Karen Nicholson

Update: Very sad to report that less than a month after this blog, we lost Fabian to cancer. One of the problems with feral cats is that they hide their discomfort, and by the time it was discovered, it was too late.  Rest well, Fabian 😿

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Old Boys Club

Moxie  (MW)
More than a year ago I blogged about the Boys’ Club that much of the Back Courtyard has become – the little “families” of male cats that constitute their own small colonies, and how they interact. There are a number of females to be found there as well, but many of the latter seem to prefer the solo life. However there is one group in particular that I specially love. Strictly speaking, they’re a “Newcomers” group (not because they’re new, but because that’s what we call the area between the SingleWide trailer and the courtyard). Now that we’re finally getting warm days, they’re deciding that being out in the sun is a much nicer place to be.

Woody enjoying the warmth  (BC)

Woody was an adult when he came to us in 2006, so we estimate he’s around 17 years old – perhaps more. He is one of those ferals who doesn’t hide in terror, but just prefers to stay out of the way; he’s pretty sociable with other cats, and now tolerates humans – especially the med-staff, who bring him his medications in tasty food disguises.  He used to spend all his time in the Newcomers, but we now see him appearing in the courtyard on a regular basis.

Best buds - Moxie & Pumpkin  (KN)

Moxie is the last of his family; his brother Willi and sister Samantha have both passed. He's been at the Sanctuary since 2009; we think he’s more than 17 years old. I remember him as a dapper tuxedo gentleman, bonded with a little tortie called Vienna; in his senior years he’s looking a little more scruffy, and he prefers the company of his own gender, though he is tolerant of Alexandria’s tendency to do yoga inches from his nose.

Moxie is reluctantly willing to share space...   (KN)

Dark orange Albi was named for the sociable husband of a former staff member – but feline Albi was anything BUT social.  He arrived in the Sanctuary in 2012, and we think he’s now around 14 or so. At first he was a very shy boy, preferring to hide away, though allowing occasional petting - we think he was likely a stray rather than a feral.  In the last few years he has begun coming to us, looking for contact – he is one of those submissive cats who almost immediately rolls on his back, trusting his vulnerability to our hands. 

Sweet Albi - ripened to perfection  (MW)
All three senior gentlemen have slowed down considerably; they like a quiet pace of life, with occasional treats and petting, and a lot of sleep, cat-style. They are often chivvied out of it by the younger and more energetic Pumpkin.

Pumpkin  (KN)
Pumpkin came to us as a youngster in 2015, so he might be 8 or 9 years old. He was found near the 5 Road Shelter;  we don't know if he was dumped off or made his way there. At the Shelter he was very resistant to human contact initially, and brought to the Sanctuary as a feral, but work with the Kitty Comforters, and some serious food motivation have changed his outlook on life. Pumpkin is one of those cats who hears the chicken bag before it ever comes out of my pocket, and he is focused and athletic in intercepting treats intended for other cats. I love the Pumpkin blog that Kitty Comforter Moira wrote about him the year after his arrival.

Woody & Moxie, watched by Pumpkin  (KN)
Pumpkin adores the three older cats, and can often be found bunting and rubbing and tail-weaving with them – in fact, he is so enthusiastic about it that his strength sometime pushes them off balance. He can also be found sharing sleeping space with them in the Newcomers area, and I suspect his energy helps to keep them going. When the old guys appear in the courtyard, Pumpkin will not be far away, and we all love to see the affection among them.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Tucker

Tucker  (KN)
The RAPS Cat Sanctuary is so-named because we are a place of safety for many cats who have no other options. There are shelters and rescues around the province who do wonderful work, but who are unable to offer long-term options for ferals, for leukemia cats, for the incontinent or aggressive. Tucker is one such cat.

Tucker in time-out  (BC)
Tucker came to us last year, and has spent much of his time in a large cage next to the med-staff area. Because of aggression, he was transferred from Broken Promises Rescue in Victoria, who tell us that he was trapped as a feral kitten with his mother and the rest of his litter. We understand that he suffered a neurological injury that may have resulted in a personality change as well as a physical handicap. The rescue works through fostering, and Tucker didn’t do well, being picked on by his mother and another cat in the home. It doesn’t take much to startle him and he easily becomes overstimulated. Loud noises scare him, and make him jumpy. And when he’s scared or reactive, he swipes out and his swipes are forceful. 

"Smack!"  (BC)
When you watch Tucker get around, it’s easy to see that he’s not quite in control of his body.  Like our sweet Honey Bear (now gone) his movements are a little jerky and without the usual elegance of a cat. There’s a slightly unfocused look to his eyes, as if he can see something we can’t;  that may actually be a vision issue, because he had eye problems that needed treatment for a while, but I’m inclined to think it ties more to his neurological issues.

Helping Molly in the morning  (MS)
Med-staff Molly says “He's getting better with the other cats, and knows to steer clear of the more assertive personalities, but he will attack the older, sweeter ones like Tuggy and Dazzle. I think it's that he can tell they're easy targets. I'm hopeful that he'll learn not to, but everything takes him twice as long to figure out. He's an incredibly sweet boy, who loves to be held and sit on laps. Just do it with an ounce of caution, as he gets nasty when other cats are around, or when he gets set down he may lash out. I have a soft spot for him, but he's not the most popular with everyone else”.

Jasper having a face-off with Tucker  (BC)
Tucker’s foster in Victoria also has a soft spot for him, but recognized that he was not a cat for anyone but a really cat-savvy person. When we have visitors at the weekend, Tucker is caged so that he doesn’t get over-stimulated. Once visitors have gone, he emerges and wanders, exploring with no sense of other cats’ territory. Med staff are used to keeping an eye on him, and watching to see when things have become a bit too much and he needs to be back in his peaceful place. Even feisty Jasper can become a target at such times, and it’s always better to intervene before an actual cat-fight takes place.

Tucker sleeping - MS
We have a limited number of cages for med-care and new cats, and don’t usually allow any cage-space to be claimed, though there are always exceptions – many long-term volunteers will fondly remember little tuxedo Aurora, who spent most of her life with us, refusing to leave her cage. And big blond Oscar (now adopted) would sulk and refuse to eat when shut out of his favourite space. Tucker’s cage is a safe refuge for him, and it’s large enough that it can have its own cat-tree, to make his (occasionally unsteady) climbing a bit safer. Molly says that part of his self-soothing seems to be lying is a slightly twisted posture with his head thrown back – it doesn’t look comfortable, but he does it often enough that it obviously does give him comfort.

Quiet time in his cage  (BC)
We don’t know Tucker’s future – if adopted, it would have to be to someone very cat-savvy, who was prepared to have him be an only cat. There may be other medical issues; for now, at least, he is best in our care, with access to the knowledge of the vets at the RAPS Hospital, and with staff and volunteers who love him.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Karen Nicholson & Molly Sjerdal

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Ferals in Four

Lloyd  (LBF)
Most of our back pens are open; when groups of cats come in we may restrict them to a single pen for awhile, but it tends to be a temporary thing so that they can become accustomed to their new lives at the Sanctuary.  One pen, though, is always closed. Pen 4 is the biggest one at the back and is the home to some of our most feral and scared cats. While we have a lot of ferals roaming freely, the Pen 4 cats are ones we feel will benefit most from a quiet life with minimal human interruption. 

Sierra   (KN)
That’s not to say that they have no contact with humans. But when you open the gate and they look at you in horror, or you enter the cabin to a panicked scurry of cats exiting, it’s a pretty clear indication that the intrusion should be kept short! So they get a brief visit from someone doing the morning cleanup, and one in the evening when the boxes are scooped again and dinner is delivered. The med-staff on duty will check on them, and occasionally one of the Kitty Comforters will visit.

Sierra & Lloyd  (LBF)
Cats like Len and Lloyd will benefit most from those visits.  The Kitty Comforters will take whatever time it needs to allow cats to relax and know that they’re safe; they are quiet and patient and they carry food with them!  And treats are essential. Many of these cats don’t know how to play, so toys are no good. But food – especially lickables...  Mmm...

Len & Lloyd  (LBF)
Len and Lloyd came to us a year ago from a rescue in Kamloops – we have tight ties with Sammy’s Forgotten Felines, thanks to Assistant Manager Valerie – and we have a few others cats from the same place. If you have a feral colony, it needs to be managed carefully – cats regularly checked and TNR’d (trap/neuter/release). If for any reason the cats cannot be monitored (perhaps a land-owner who doesn’t allow access), it may be better not to do the release – but then, of course, you have to find somewhere to keep cats that don’t want anything to do with humans. This is where the Sanctuary comes in – we are a resource for the rescues that cannot home unadoptable ferals.  

Ranger enjoying a little "out" time   (MW)
We thought they were around 5 years old when they arrived, and it was very obvious that these two would not be joining the big cat-party in the courtyard; though we caged them together for comfort, they spent all their time hiding, and resisted socialization. Pen 4 was the place for them, where they could be with other ferals, and have a variety of beds and houses in which to hide out. They share the space with chonky Ranger, who had come in as a feral flown down to us from Masset. Ranger is a poster-boy for feral socialization, having progressed from suspicious glaring, to allowing pets and accepting treats – so much so that he now has in-out privileges: he will wait at the gate in the morning to be released, explore around for 20-30 minutes, and then wait by the gate to be re-admitted! 

Len  (KN)
Lisa Brill-Friesen has made a serious project of the Pen 4 cats. It began when we moved the Merritt cats (Michonne & Garth, both now passed, and tuxedo Desmond) from Pen 3 – Lisa has infinite patience with these ferals, and for the others that joined them, especially little Sierra, who snuggled with Garth. Regular visits, quiet conversation and bribery have gone a long way, and Sierra now allows herself to be touched by Lisa (though by nobody else). Len and Lloyd are not ready for that yet, but they are interested, and they watch carefully as Sierra is petted and occasionally groomed a bit. They are starting to remain out in the open – though not too close – when we enter the pen. A short stay in a cage for dental care was a temporary setback, but any fine day brings them out to sit in the sunshine and watch what the braver cats are getting up to – and what they might possibly achieve in the future. 

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Cuddle Crew

Marty, Dodger & Merran   (JS)
A few years ago, it was usual for visitors to the Sanctuary to ask for the Dryer Gang, who hung out in the Single-Wide trailer.  Just inside the door, the lid of the dryer made a well-loved place for the cats to hang out together – usually some combination of Simone, Bantam, Chickadee, Zoe and Little Mama. The warmth coming up from below, and the vibration, combined with its situation just inside the door where everyone who entered offered attention – it was the favourite place to be. (Search “Dryer Gang” in the Neko Blog for more pictures!)

Sitting with a lapful  (JS)
Things have changed in the SingleWide, though. As our cats age, the faces change; all the core Dryer Gang members have now passed, and so has the dryer, which has been replaced by a stacked washer/dryer – too high for comfortable cat access. Instead, the big chair in the middle of the room has been taken over by the cats, and the Cuddle Crew has evolved.  As with the Dryer Gang, this is not a fixed combination, but there is a core group that is usually present.  Most of them are cats that were too shy in earlier years to interact with humans, and now they can’t wait for attention.

Dodger  (LBF)
Dodger is probably the central point of the group – the Simone figure round whom the others gather. She’s always enjoyed human attention, but usually from a shelf or the floor; now she has become a lap-cats, and loves to have petting and belly-rubs.

Dodger, Marty, Merran, Mr Pink  (KN)
Usually Marty is present. He is probably the oldest and most frail – he’s the last of a group of cats that came to us in 2008, and he is under medical care for an eye condition. He’s a climber – either up from the floor or down from the shelves behind the chair and over the shoulder – and loves to have hands on him.

Marty & Merran (JN)
Tabby Merran came to us from the same trapping operation as cow-cats Kirsty and Mya – but he sure doesn’t have the same genetics in terms of colouring!  He took a long while to become comfortable with us, and was an expert in finding all the hiding places available; he’s still a little wary, but he loves snuggles with the other cats and is willing to tolerate human attention.

Dodger & Mr Pink  (JK)
Mr Pink is probably the closest thing we have to a Salty/Mario equivalent in the Single-Wide;  they were the cats in the Back Courtyard that all the other cats loved to love. Pink is also something of a cat-magnet; he gets on with everyone (except perhaps BeeBoo), the shy cats are relaxed around him, and he just loves having visitors.

Bossanova (KN)
I have known Bossanova since he first came in as a very angry feral, and watched his progress as anger became timidity, and then as he gradually became braver. I think those of us who know him back in the early days would have found it hard to imagine that this boy would become a lap-cat – less for snuggles than for the prospect of treats, perhaps, but the end result is another member of the Cuddle Crew.

"Come sit down! You're late for cuddles!"  (JN)
Other cats swing in and out of this group – Presley, Nova, Shaggy, Sarah Paylan, Kirstie and others – and it changes when they move out on the back deck. But the core group can usually be found together. 

Marty, Dodger, Merran  (LBF)
I am fascinated that this sort of consistent gathering has always been a feature of the SingleWide – and it doesn’t really exist in the DoubleWide. There are usually cats in the DW that like being on the couch, and when there was a cat-magnet like Salty, there was competition to be with him. And there are cats on the DW deck who like to snuggle together, but do NOT want human attention.  But the SW Cuddle Crew are a very cooperative bunch, enjoying each other’s company, as well as all the attention they can get from the humans around. 

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Jennine Kariya, 
Joanne Nicholson, Karen Nicholson, Justin Saint