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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wobbly Bob

Who would ever think that Bob would be a popular name for a cat? But we’ve had several Bobs at the Sanctuary: there was Snotty Bob, with his permanent cold; quiet short-tailed Bobby in the Old Aids; we still have Belly-Rub Bobby in the front courtyard, and if you are very quiet you might occasionally see Wobbly Bob in the back.
Back courtyard Bob came to us as so many cats did 10 or so years ago – development was hitting Blundell Road between Garden City and No 4 Road, and long-standing houses were being torn down to make way for townhouse developments. An elderly man was feeding a colony of ferals in his back yard, and when he moved out, the developer turned to Richmond Homeless Cats, and Carol arrived with her traps.  There were about 10 cats trapped from that site, and they all came to us – mostly black and white “cow cats” and brown tabbies. The last to be trapped was a ragdoll cross who was whisked away by med-staff Leslie, and named Clooney.
Darla, from that group, has her own blog entry, and had her own fans, but most of the others remained quite shy. They included Sonny and Cher, Bob and Marley (do we hear a theme here?), Harmony, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Molly and a couple of others.
Bob was actually one of the first to venture out and express interest in contact with humans.  But at some time in the years he’s been with us, he had some sort of neurological episode that leaves him very unsteady on his legs. Bob’s quite a long cat, and when startled, it sometimes looks like his front end wants to go one direction and his back legs in another. This unsteadiness has understandably left him feeling vulnerable, and his former friendliness has changed to a skittish wariness.
Chicken to the rescue! – he’s fairly food-motivated, and when chicken is being handed out, I am sometimes aware of Bob sneaking up behind me. He’s happier not making eye contact, but he no longer runs away when that happens, and he will actually approach closely enough that he can take food from the hand. 
Life must be a pretty scary prospect for poor Bob, but I think he’s learning again that humans are his friends, and that touch is possible. We just need to encourage volunteers and visitors to move gently around him and to let him know that he’s in a place of safety.

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016


This is Pumpkin, a remarkably handsome orange boy who came to us in October 2015.  We don’t know much of his history, but he definitely appeared semi-feral when he arrived.  He’s so beautiful and so interesting, that we’re really hoping he’ll tame up.
When he first arrived, he was pretty alarmed whenever anyone would come in his cage, and would do the usual hissing and swatting to deter visitors.  He would bite and scratch if you tried to touch him.  And interestingly, if you offered him a treat, he would reach up and whack it out of your hand quite aggressively before he would eat it. 
But RAPS volunteers are not easily deterred.  I found him mesmerizing from the start and was determined to get to know him better.  I spent a lot of time in his cage, and we ended up playing “chicken” a lot of the time:  I would try to sneak my hand towards him soooooo slowly that he would not notice; he would try to stay awake and alert long enough to catch me at it and chomp my hand.  I like to think I got good at this.  I did even manage to get my hand just under his tummy one day, while he rolled his eyes and went back to sleep.  But I got my share of bites and scratches too.
When he was let out of his cage, he was much harder to get at.  He found himself a spot in the room behind the double-wide, on the platform at the top of the stairs, under the heat lamp.  That suited me because there’s a mattress up there and it’s pretty warm and cozy.  I like to kitty-comfort lying down.  So I spent a lot of time up there with him too, tossing him treats and trying to get him to let me pet him.  I discovered he’s very food-motivated and I would chat with him and toss him treats, which he loved.  Through painstaking effort, I used the treats to lure him closer, and eventually got him to take food out of my hand.  I never did manage to pet him though – he was pretty determined about that.
When the spring came and the weather got nicer, the back door to that room was left open one day and he found his way outside into the courtyard.  He seemed pleased and surprised as he explored this new area in his own alert and cautious way.  And he settled himself on the outer edge of the ring of cats out there, prowling the perimeter in the hopes of getting some stray treats.
Since then, he seems to be gradually relaxing and trusting more, gently teasing the hopes of those of us who want to be best buds with him.  There was the day that Brigid was feeding him chicken and said to me – look, he doesn’t have to shake his food to kill it before he eats it any more.  Another day, I managed to rub his chin and he didn’t even seem to really mind although he looked pretty confused.  And last week, he seemed to have let his guard down and blended into the middle of the group of other cats, his body language relaxed and almost nonchalant.  He still looks completely indignant and surprised when I try to stroke his head, but he doesn’t try to take my hand off any more. 
He’s such a stunner that I’m hoping he’ll tame up enough that we can give him the full tummy rub one day.  Stay tuned.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Volunteer/Cat relationship - Lee and June

June and Lee have been coming to the Sanctuary since 2010.
Lee writes:
We had heard about RAPS via the newspaper and June used to send donations when they were Richmond Homeless Cats. We came as visitors one Sunday, and loved this place immensely. As we are "cat crazy gals", we made ourselves a promise to start volunteering once we were both retired. This happened in 2013 & we have been visiting there ever since.
Angel and Kes
In our other life, we have 6 very special kitties of our own. Two are now senior kitties (16 next month) with health care needs. "Angel" has seizures & "Kes" our Snowshoe Siamese has been fighting kidney disease. When we are not doing kitty care we enjoy some other activities. We both enjoy the pool & June does the aqua-fit while I do my own deep water running. We both pole walk & learned the technique from a Nordic pole walking group we joined.
Lee loved sweet Jamaica in the Moore House
We have a regular Tuesday afternoon at the Sanctuary, where we go kitty-comforting in ten areas.  We start at the back pens. June likes to visit her sponsor kitty Careen in pen 5, and I go see Schatze, OJ, Pebbles & Sandy in pen 4. Then we go on to the new kitties in Pen 6, followed by the Moore trailer together & then New Aids.
Harry loved his cuddles with Lee
We then go into single-wide where June visits the kitties. I go into the leukemia room to visit with Smoochie and Bear; I miss my dear Harry and Mindy dreadfully. I head for the Hill House and Connor House to see which kitties are caged, and sit with them. June spends the rest of her time in Old Aids.
June gets lots of love from the cats
We love all the kitties at the Sanctuary and I especially like to look for the black cats. Buddy who lived in New Aids won me over a long-time ago. I was somewhat hesitant around black cats as had a bad experience many years ago. This dear boy who has since passed away helped me so much to feel comfortable and at ease with black kitties. They need love too and should not be overlooked.
Black cats need grooming, too!
When I finish in Hill House & Connor House I spend some time out in the front courtyard. We've recently lost dear Wonderful Wobbly Paulo but life goes on with more loving kitties surrounding me. They head butt, purr and are so happy for the attention. They return my love so willingly and sometimes my lap is not big enough!
Back courtyard - A. Vandenbrink
Our hope for the Sanctuary is that it will continue to thrive under our CEO Eyal's guidance. We read his detailed report in full and his plans for RAPS are commendable. He has a lot of interesting and good ideas. If a donor stepped forward with a large donation I would say buy the property RAPS sits on asap. If the Sanctuary were to lose their lease it would be tragic, and all the cats would be in jeopardy. That would be our number one priority.

Blog by Lee Turner, (ed. BJC)
Photos by June Price, Lee Turner & A Vandenbrink

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Rookie came to us through long-term volunteers Barb and Waldi Trotzki. They have been associated with RAPS since before it existed as Richmond Homeless Cats, and their own collection of cats at home also includes strays that have discovered a place of safety. Their house backs onto a green belt with a lot of wildlife – prime hunting ground for a cat who finds itself in the great outdoors.
Barb says:
Rookie came to us in the winter of 2012/13 as an apparent stray.  He tried to adopt us over the next two years, succeeding somewhat, in that we fed him, provided a place to sleep and shelter in bad weather, but our four male cats were not welcoming.  We called him Rookie, as the newest member of the crew.
Rookie tried hard to boss his way into the family, and not being neutered, he was always looking for a confrontation with our other cats and there were numerous fights, some with injuries. He was friendly with both Waldi and I, let us pet him a little, but became quite excited quickly and did not hesitate to land a scratch or two, but always coming back and trying to move in. We liked him for his spirit and beauty and arranged for our house sitter to feed him when we were away.
Then in 2014, just two days before we were going on a lengthy holiday he came limping into the yard.  We took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with a torn ligament.  It meant either $1800 for surgery or six weeks cage rest. It was a good time to have him neutered and Leslie offered to board him in the Sanctuary, and as it turned out, a sanctuary it was for him. 
Six weeks of rest, and Rookie was back in form. He was put into Pen 5, which has a nice group of cats, many of whom had come from the 5 Road Shelter after having gone unadopted for some time. Rookie settled in well – though he didn’t seem to be particularly close to any of the other cats, and he was often found in his favourite corner near the gate. He was always ready to welcome Barb and Waldi when they came to feed and clean up the back pens, or just to visit, and he had a serious fan-club among the other volunteers who worked in the back pens.
Recently we have opened up Pen 5, and Rookie was among the first to venture out. With immense confidence, he has investigated the area, made his presence known to other cats, and generally established his territory
Barb says:
He is so sweet now, not the tough tomcat he used to be, I can pick him up, carry him around, he learned to purr, and is totally happy there. We hear from other volunteers that he comes when called by his name and follows people around. We sponsor him, feeling a bit guilty about having surrendered him, but it was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Blog by Brigid Coult & Barb Trotzki
Photos by Brigid Coult, Shoval Gamliel-Kumar, Barbara Trotzki, Michele Wright

An addendum from Chris Peters:
It was a very hot afternoon and Rookie was just snoozing like he'd been out late the night before and just couldn't quite get all the way through the door before passing out...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Heartbreak Harry

I try to keep the Neko Blog focused on the joys of the Sanctuary – and there are many joys.  But for all of us, staff and volunteers, the hardest part is always when we lose a cat.  I blogged when we lost our beloved Cookie almost two years ago, when we lost beautiful Kojak (with a memorial to our other leukemia cats) and when we lost sweet Daisy last month.  Lee asked me last week to post something about Mindy, and I hesitated, because she wasn’t well known to a lot of people – I ended up posting Lee’s tribute on Mindy’s blog page.
But this week has dealt a blow to many of us with the death of our beloved Harry, and I’m breaking my own rule and offering a cat-obituary.


Harry came to us just over four years ago.  We like to call ourselves Richmond’s best-kept secret – our address is not posted, our entrance is not signed – people wishing to surrender cats take them to the No 5 Road shelter, where it is decided if this is an adoptable cat or one that needs to come to us. Harry’s owners had obviously done their detective homework; he was found in a cage at the door by the morning med staff, and attached to the cage was a note that let us know that Harry had a peeing problem, and that in spite of surgery, the problem continued – to the ruination of their floors.
The Sanctuary exists for cats like Harry. We instantly fell in love with him – and it was mutual. After a short cage-stay to acclimatise him, Harry ventured out and made slaves of us all. 
Sadly, he was either carrying the leukemia virus latently, or picked it up; a blood test let us know that Harry had to be moved into the Old Aids area with the other leukemia cats. 
Leukemia cats are very susceptible to every random germ, and it hits them hard, since their immune systems are down. Not only did Harry catch every upper respiratory infection going, he was also stressed by other more dominant cats in the enclosure. 
It was decided to remove him into the Leukemia room at the back of the single-wide trailer. There he shared with no more than four or five other shy cats, and rapidly settled down.

There are all sorts of jokes about “dogs have owners; cats have staff” and “in ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have never forgotten this”. And there’s a grain of truth in it – many cats will accept our love as long as they please, and then walk away when something else is offered. But Harry was a lover; he gave back love to those who loved him, and he was never happier than when sitting on a lap, and looking lovingly into the eyes of his friend. And everybody was Harry’s friend. Many people made a point of going to the Leukemia room any time they visited, to have Harry-time, and there was no better way to spend an hour.
One thing we always know about our leukemia cats – we lose them too soon. Over four years with us, Harry had fought off a series of infections and renal problems and always pushed through. This time it was too much for that tired body.

Many of us will be holding you in our hearts, Harry, and looking for you when we, too, get to the Rainbow Bridge.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman, June Price, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Analyzing the tabbies

Checking into the genetic modifiers for the dilute cats got me started on analysing some of the other cat colourings we have around the Sanctuary. It’s frequently been noted that we have a number of black cats, and that they’re not always easy to tell apart – but the same is true with some of our many tabbies. A little Googling led me to identify the four main types of tabby markings, and then it was off to the Sanctuary to match cats up. I quickly realised that the markings were most easily seen in the short-haired cats, and that in longer-haired ones, distinct patterns were blurred by ruffled fur.

Most common would probably be the MACKEREL tabby – distinguished mainly by the clear stripe markings on the sides, and almost always by the clear “M” marking on the forehead.  Apparently they’re also called “fishbone tabbies”, though it’s the markings on the side of the mackerel fish that gives the feline patterning its name.  Our clearest mackerel tabbies are probably Whisky and Cloverleaf
A Whiskey stretch - MW
Cloverleaf - MW
But mackerel markings can be seen in some of our other coloured tabbies too. Little Orange`s fur shows lovely stripes.
Little O, snoozing on a hot day - MW
The CLASSIC tabby is also known as a “blotched” or “marbled” pattern – rather than clear stripes, the colours appear in swirls, and sometimes in a bullseye pattern on the side.  I think our most beautiful classic tabby is timid Quinn who hangs out in the back courtyard. He’s often found in Waldie’s hut, but when approached by humans, scuttles away to hide.  He can be tempted by a bit of chicken, if you can do it when Owl’s not watching!
Quinn - `now, which way should I run...`- MW
This handsome boy in the barncat pen shows the clear bullseye.

Pumpkin is a relative newcomer to the back courtyard, but making himself at home. His pale orange shows the markings in the right light.
Pumpkin is gradually becoming tamer - ML
The TICKED tabbies have fur that changes colour along each hair, called an agouti pattern, which gives the effect of a salt-and-pepper mixture. For the most part, the cats with this sort of patterning also show faint remnants of the other patterns as well. In many of them, it's their contrast colour, with black patterns.  
Piper says "This is MY shelf!"
The SPOTTED tabbies are actually a sub-set of the Mackerel or Classic tabbies – the stripes in the original genetic pattern are broken up to form spots.  The clearest examples of this are Lucky, our Bengal, and Emery, who clearly has some Bengal in him.
We can see how in a wild cat this would be protective colouring.
One of many wonderful Lucky pics by Michele..

But this is probably the most common marking, with the remnants of spots or stripes showing through the agouti fur for both long and short-haired tabbies.
Birdie showing his pretty markings - MW

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Moira Langley & Michele Wright

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Princess Diva

This elegant lady came to us more than a year ago when her owners moved out of town.  When she was surrendered, we were told that she had originated as a feral barn-cat, and when adopted, had settled into home life quite happily. However, her adopters then got a dog. This did not go down well with Princess Diva, and she reverted to living outside.
True feral cats may be TNR'd (trapped-neutered-released), but this girl's owners had the sense to realise that they couldn't just go off and leave her to fend for herself. At the same time, as a former feral, she didn't make a very likely candidate for adoption. One of the requests RAPS makes of adopters is that they do not allow their cats outside; coyotes, raccoons, cars and all the other perils of outdoor life usually make for a shorter lifespan, and with the right enrichment (interactive play, seating at different heights, places to hide) an indoor cat will do very well.
But Princess Diva would not fare well at the No 5 Road shelter – too little space, too many cats – and it was decided that she would come to us at the Sanctuary.  She began her stay with us in the Moore House with the "gericatrics", thinking to give her some quieter space, but her cranky roommates upped her own quotient of crankiness.  For a while she was transferred to the Double-Wide in preparation for eventual release into the back courtyard – it was during this period that the lovely photo of her in the 2016 calendar was taken.
Upon release she made her way to the back pens, and has settled there fairly happily. She is the original "cat who walks by herself" - we rarely see her interacting with other cats. It`s not like Timmy or Leland, the front courtyard "garbo cats" who actively dislike other cats – Princess Diva just seems not to notice lesser felines; they're beneath her attention.
With humans, she will occasionally permit a little worshipful petting; in the right mood, a bit of gentle head-rubbing will produce a quiet purr, but she rarely allows further contact, and a warning growl will let you know that the hand has gone too far down the body, before she wanders off again to be about her own business.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Michele Wright