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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Freckles is a pretty grey and white girl named for the little dots on either side of her nose.

photo provided by RAPS

According to the little blurb next to her picture in the gallery on the RAPS sanctuary website, "Freckles loves chicken! This helped to win her over and now you would almost think that she likes us!"

Aha - another vote for chicken in the great feline poultry vs fish debate...

Food offerings aside, it seems that Freckles isn't always quite sure what she thinks of humans. For example, I've got a couple pictures of her sitting in the basket below, staring wide-eyed over her shoulder at me and looking ready to bolt if I came a single step closer. Not wanting to bother her, I left to go and visit with the cats sitting outside the tearoom.

And very soon got this shot...

That's not a swatting paw, by the way. Now she wants a little contact, but I'm not standing close enough and so she's kneading the air while she waits.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lincoln (II)

This is our second cat with the name Lincoln. He has a beautiful face and no qualms whatsoever about using it to his advantage to obtain an extra large and preferably repeated helping of any fish that might be going around.

I find it interesting that some cats prefer poultry while others are more into fish. Zulu loves chicken so much that he's been known to steal a huge chunk meant for a number of cats out of a volunteer's hand and then to promptly make an idiot out of himself by trying to wolf the whole thing down before anyone can stop him.
Lincoln, on the other hand, is a tuna fiend.

He's discovered that he can sucker Gaye into giving him multiple morsels of the tuna she brings to feed some of the ailing cats by balancing on the edge of a couple of litter boxes and peering in the converted cage used to store and prepare meds.

And of course it's almost impossible to turn him away when he's so successful at being equal parts adorable and hilarious.

A song for Lincoln: The Andrews Sisters' Hold Tight... and not because the title fits the image above (though it does), but because it's a great song for the fish aficionado:

I like oysters, lobsters too,
I like my tasty butter fish, fooo
When I come home late at night
I get my favorite dish, fish

Hold tight, hold tight, a-hold tight, hold tight
Fododo-de-yacka saki
Want some seafood mama
Shrimps and rice they're very niiiiiiiiiiiiice

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Audrey Hepburn

A post from a while back on the RAPS cat sanctuary gallery page describes this little girl as "only the cutest cat in the world" and announces the good news that "she has finally decided she likes to be petted."

photo provided by RAPS

- This after a wait of a few years in which she made it clear that she was under no circumstances to be touched.

According to Leslie (published in The Love Blog, July 2009):
"Pretty little Audrey (named after Audrey Hepburn because of her beautiful eyes) was trapped and brought to the sanctuary many years ago. She lived in the McCracken House building, and spent 3 years atop the big wooden cages, watching the volunteers and hissing at anyone who dared get too close. One day, she decided to come down to the floor and approached me as I was petting several other cats. She rubbed against some of the other cats and then allowed me to reach out and stroke her. It was a very rewarding moment for me to have gained her trust. Audrey has since befriended many of the RAPS volunteers and staff, and will occasionally climb on people's laps. She's a great example of how feral cats can eventually warm up to people, when they are given the right opportunity."

An interesting FAQ page dealing with feral cats (along with often hard to distinguish frightened strays) provided by the ASPCA reminds us again how hard and how uncertain the process above really is: "Socializing feral cats involves an extreme amount of patience, time and energy and there is no guarantee that the cat will become tame." This appears as part of an FAQ answering why that organization can't take in ferals and which goes on to state that "unfortunately, with the numerous friendly and adoptable animals the ASPCA already has, resources to socialize feral animals are scarce."

Limited space, limited resources: a common - universal? - problem for animal shelters. I've said it before, but I still feel lucky that there are long term facilities out there like RAPS where cats like Audrey or Daisy can take all the time they need to learn or relearn to trust.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Moosha (aka Mooshie)

The RAPS website photo page describes Mooshie as energetic, talkative and personable. A nice, friendly, attractive cat with no strange quirks or behavioral oddities, Mooshie still had to wait for a good 6 years before being adopted.

photo provided by RAPS

Why? No good reason. I was told that for one reason or another, the younger Mooshie just kept getting passed over by potential adopters. Perhaps they were looking for a ginger cat that day, or a longhair,  a tabby... And then, as more years went by and Mooshie could be observed contentedly wandering around the laundry room or snoozing in the bathroom in the double wide, shelter staff started to wonder if this cat, now in the 8-9 year old range, could be happy if pulled out of this environment and placed in a strange new one.

And so, when friends of mine came around looking for a someone exactly like Mooshie, they wondered if they were going to have to convince people at the sanctuary to let them take Mooshie home. But home Mooshie went, and I'm pleased to report that this is one happy, well-adjusted cat.

photo provided by Lisa and Koh

There was a slight change of name - Mooshie is now Moosha - but that doesn't seem to be cramping the cat's style. Moosha plays well with their other cat, who is also in the 8-9 year old range, and has quite contentedly replaced the sanctuary bathroom with middle of the large, comfy human bed as the napping spot of choice.

photo provided by Lisa and Koh

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lincoln (I)

There are two cats with the name Lincoln living at the sanctuary. Here's the incredible story of the first one, provided by Lisa (originally published in The Love Blog, July 2009):
"Our precious Lincoln dragged himself into a woman's kitchen through her cat door after (we guess) being hit by a car. When RAPS got him he was immediately taken to our vet. He had X rays as he couldn't walk properly on his hind end. The X-Rays showed that his hips were completely shattered. Our vet instructed us that Lincoln must have complete cage rest for at least a couple of months if he had any possibility of healing.

After 3 months, we did another set of X-Rays only to find that his hips were still not healed. 2 more months, same thing - not healed. By this time, Lincoln was walking well, and pacing back and forth in his little cage, getting restless so we chanced moving him into a bigger cage and he did great!

Lincoln was climbing the mesh walls, and scratching on his post like a normal cat. We were scared he would re-injure himself but he seemed fine. After a few more months, and more X-Rays (which still showed that his hips are completely shattered) we decided to let him out of the cage to see what happened.

He is doing great! Lincoln goes up and down the cages and the scratching posts like any other cat. He is a bit of a medical mystery as our vet can not explain why he seems to have no pain. It may be that his pain receptors in his hind end do not work (which obviously works in his favor)."

Lincoln is a mystery indeed. Interacting with him, it's hard to see how he's different than any of the other cats. Perhaps in his case a little obliviousness is a good thing - he can walk and climb and play because it just doesn't occur to him that there's any reason he shouldn't be able to.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I introduced Cookie a while back as a cat in the habit of requesting attention with a polite tap-tap-tap. Sadie is equally friendly and infinitely pushier in the way she goes about it; she simply starts climbing a person's leg.

Most of my close encounters with her start like this:

... knees buckled in sudden, claw-induced pain, trying to unhook her while she vigorously rubs her face all over my hand. Still, she really is a sweet girl who delights in being held while she purrs endlessly, so it's not hard to forgive her for her rudeness in the way she asks for a little love.

Sadie can often be found in the back yard outside the tea room. If you're lucky enough to catch her in a moment of repose, you can see she's quite a nice looking cat.

But these moments tend to be short-lived, particularly if she's in a good mood. It's funny - it never occurred to me when I started this project that I'd have as hard a time photographing the friendly tame cats as I would the shy ferals. A shy cat can potentially be captured if you speak spoftly and carry a good zoom lense, but a friendly cat is up close, bobbing and weaving, purring and wriggling... and consequently very hard to keep in focus.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Winston is one of the more recent arrivals. He's in a nice big cage while he acclimates and the sign on the door tells us he's a "nice boy."

The cages located in different buildings around the property all have paper signs on them showing the name of the cat and, particularly if they're new, a little bit about their temperament or where they came from. Some new cats are too frightened and unsure of their surroundings to accept visitors, while others, like Winston, are quite glad of the company.

Winston was friendly enough when I first met him last week, but now he's even friendlier, very chatty, and starting to think he's about ready to explore what's going on outside his cage. His chatter is endearingly cheerful, with an expressive range of trills and chirps punctuating at regular intervals a loud, steady purr.

A nice boy indeed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mama Kumar

Mama Kumar's story, by Leslie (first published in The Love Blog, July 2009):
"Mama Kumar lived with a woman who loved all animals and had a large collection of cats. Sadly, she passed away from cancer and RAPS attempted to find homes for all of her pets, including dogs, rabbits, birds and several Japanese Fighting Fish. The woman's surname was Kumar and this particular cat had been a mother, hence the name Mama Kumar. Although she's a nice cat, she's pretty independent and not overly fond of other cats, so she has never been chosen for adoption."
Very sadly, we lost Mama Kumar this afternoon. She's been poorly for the last little while, not eating, getting thinner and weaker... A trip to the vet revealed a tumor in her stomach.

I'm sorry - and a little surprised - to say that among the hundreds of pictures I've taken since I first came to the the sanctuary in May, I don't have a single photo of Mama Kumar. It's not that I found her uninteresting or unimportant; on the contrary, she's such a fixture at RAPS that I had it in my mind many times to do a portrait. But the light would be bad, or my camera battery would run down, or another cat would distract me...
I just thought she'd always be there.

And so my portrait of Mama Kumar ended up being the sketch below, done as I sat down to write this blog after I got home from this evening's shift at RAPS. The sketch is based on a beautiful photo taken by Barbara Doduk which captures Mama Kumar just as I'd like to remember her: sitting up straight and tall, one bright, intelligent eye taking in everything around her. 

drawing by Claire

Added November, 6, 2009:
I came across a lovely picture of Mama Kumar taken by another volunteer that would be a shame not to share.

photo provided by Michele

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Isabelle is a blind cat living in the single wide trailer.

She can be found curled up in one of the cat beds spread over the platform provided by the tops of the cages, or popping her head out of the large, shallow wooden box on top of a shelving unit one step down from the cage-top.

She appears to be peeking out of the box, surveying her surroundings, but if you look closely as she turns her attention to different things around her, she's focusing with her nose, not with her eyes.

The only notice she paid my camera flash was the sound it made...

The article on Living with a Blind Cat from Know Your Cat describes how blind cats relay on "scent, memory and spatial orientation to navigate. As long as the environment is constant they have little problem with that, but changes to their known environment confuses and upsets them."

Hence Isabelle's relatively limited area of operation. She always knows where to find her big comfortable box, a soft cat bed, food, water, litter box.

She's a sweet cat and likes to be softed. A slow approach giving her time for a good sniff of fingers, a gentle stroke and she's soon leaning into the hand and purring.

An article on Living with a Disabled Cat by Sarah Hartwell notes that "Interestingly, other cats are often more tolerant of blind cats (which may collide with them) than they are of sighted cats." This seems to be the case for Isabelle, who in turn takes it with good grace when another cat climbs in her box snuggles up close out of the conviction that what she really needs at that moment is a good old cat huddle. 

Update July 22, 2010: We're all very sad to have lost Isabelle today. As Phaedra wrote on Facebook, "Don't think it was possible to love Isabelle more than her kitty friends but I sure tried, she will be missed by many and loved always. ♥"

And here is the link to a wonderful video she posted of Isabelle and one of her friends.

And here is a photographic tribute which has been posted near Isabelle's usual sleeping spot:

Saturday, October 17, 2009


A story from Leslie (first published in The Love Blog in July 2009):
"Groucho was surrendered to the sanctuary several years ago with his mother and brother, when the boys were just a year old. A family adopted his mom and bro, then came back to adopt Groucho a few weeks later. They felt badly for having left him behind. Unfortunately, their landlord wouldn't allow so many cats, so Groucho was returned."

I can understand how the family must have felt in having to leave Groucho behind. I still feel a little bad for not being able to take Angel home when I adopted her mother and brother. Fortunately, both Groucho and Angel appear quite content to be at the sanctuary.

Groucho can often be seen on the table in the McCracken House (aka the double wide) which serves as a nice, sunny sleeping spot by the window and, vastly more importantly, as the place where the evening meal is prepared.

Groucho is a regular member of the feeding time crew who like to "help" us volunteers by testing each can opened for quality. Although occasionally distracted, as cats are, by other important pursuits such as licking himself, Groucho is an enthusiastic and dilligent food-tester.

As the ever amiable Groucho is far from being from being a grouchy-puss, it's fairly obvious that his name has a lot to do with his markings, particularly his "mustache", reminiscent of the famous Marx Brother.

drawing by Claire

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Update: Jingles

When I introduced Jingles last month, she was doing her best to act the part of The Cat Who Hates Everybody. I'm pleased to report that, for the moment, her disposition seems to be improving.

... somewhat.

She still hates having to deal with the multitude of other cats at the shelter, for example. She's out of her cage, finally (shelter staff had tried to get her used to being out before, but it just didn't stick), and will accept or even ask for a little attention... just as long as there are no other cats nearby.

I did a strange dance with her last week -  She'd call me over to pat her, I'd do as she asked until other cats wanting similar attention would start moving in, at which point I'd have to jump clear just before she switched into hissing-clawing mode, the interlopers would scatter, she'd call me over to pat her again, I'd do so... and so on.

This week she'd found herself a nice soft perch and was acting so normal, mellow even, that for a moment I wondered if it was even her. I continued to wonder if I'd mistaken her markings until another cat reached up to see if there was room left on the perch and was promptly and sharply rebuffed. 

As for me, far from being rebuffed, I was allowed to soft her at length. I suspect she thought about swatting me once or twice, just for old time's sake, but in the end it seemed she couldn't be bothered. Instead, she slowly relaxed into a contented purr followed by a contented nap.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Danny Boy

Danny Boy is a polydactyl cat. In simple terms, this means more than the usual allotment of toes.

Literary and trivia buffs have likely heard about cats with this particular trait through their most famous fan, Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway Cat
photo by Rob O'Neal, Associated Press
originally published in the LA Times
The Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida, continues to care for the descendants of the original Hemingway Cats. 

Danny Boy is a darling and has lived at the sanctuary for years. I was surprised to hear that he was a difficult cat to get along with in the early days, since his personality now makes it hard not to be fond of him.

He's been having a hard time of it recently, with terrible balance problems from an inner ear infection. There's hope that once the ear infection is completely cleared up, his balance will return to normal, but with neurological issues it's hard to accurately predict the outcome. In the mean time, he's in a cage so he can be given his meds and protected from falling.

When I arrived for my feeding shift yesterday, he'd been brought out of his cage for a little - closely supervised - exercise in the front yard. He looked just like a child taking its first steps, gamely trying his best - as long as his human "mom" was close by. I joined them and he made his crooked way over to me, then stumbled against my ankles for a weave and a purr. The definition of a little trooper.
I hope to see him back up to full power again soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


A story from Leslie (first published in The Love Blog in July 2009)

"RAPS receives many calls from companies that have discovered cats and kittens living on their properties. Little Cecilia was found with kittens and 2 other black/white adults at a seafood cannery in Richmond. RAPS found homes for the kittens and the 3 young adults came to live at the sanctuary, where they became tame and friendly cats. Cecilia befriended a shy, long-haired grey male named Desi and the 2 are inseparable."

Desi was off doing cat stuff when I took the picture above, giving Cecilia the opportunity to lobby for a little MeMeMe! time, meowing, dancing and generally showing off from her perch on top of this storage unit where we keep our buckets.

From the RAPS website:

RAPS History
"Our organization was founded in 1989 by dedicated animal lovers who recognized the dangers to cats living on city streets, in alleys and industrial areas. There was no group helping the feral (wild) offspring of lost and abandoned cats. Cats that were wild, or tame but frightened, were quickly killed when taken to city animal control pounds throughout the Vancouver region that were then operated by another organization.

Volunteers took on the task and expense of trapping cats, spaying and neutering them, and providing veterinary care. Tame cats were fostered, and wild cats released where feeding stations were set up so that fresh food and water could be provided daily. Found kittens were fostered, tamed and adopted to loving homes."

The problem of feral cats living in industrial areas and other places they may be seen as pests or otherwise come to harm is one faced by humane and protection societies in many areas.
Here's a link to the Canadian Federation of Human Societies page on feral cats.

In the US, October 16th is National Feral Cat Day. An article by Stacy Mantle for About.com describes the experience of helping feral colony on a past National Feral Cat Day. I like the quote she leads off with:
Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.                                        -  Saint Francis of Assisi

Update September 13, 2010: I've just found out and sad to report that we've lost Cecilia. She wasn't feeling terribly well this summer and when blood work was done, everyone was shocked to discover she had leukemia. She was moved to the leukemia room, but her condition turned out to be already quite advanced, and so she was not with us much longer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I can't write about Fergus without Annie following soon after. She's remarkably assertive for her size and will want to be given her due.

Annie lives with Fergus and other FIV positive cats in the New AIDS house. Whenever I sit down, she manages to get around what seems to be a logistical impossibility of finding a little cuddle space that's not already occupied by a furry purring mass of Fergus. A knee, a hip, the arm of the chair (as in the photo from Sunday's post)... she's flexible.

Once thus installed, it's a matter of waiting for the tail to start swishing wildly back and forth. This isn't the red alert warning that it might be for another, more temperamental cat. If anything, she seems to mean it something more akin to wagging and generally accompanies the movement with a good deal of purring and circling. But, being a cat and not a dog, each circle will ideally position her to lightly slap the sitter across the face a few times with her tail. Ideally for her, not so great, perhaps, for the recipient.

For me, this little quirk is more than made up for by the sight of her face: as she really gets into her cuddle dance, she often lets the tip of her pink tongue out between her teeth. The resulting expression looks faintly ridiculous and totally adorable.

photo provided by Ayako

Update November 23, 2010: I'm very sad to report that Annie is no longer with us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Fergus has been living in the New AIDS house for a few years, but you'd never know to look at him that he's FIV positive. He's a big, friendly black & white cat who loves nothing better than some quality lap time with one of his many human friends.

Claire, Fergus (center) and friends 
photo provided by Vincent

Just before the picture above was taken, I wanted to see how much time passed between when I sat down and when the first cat climbed into my lap. It took them the same amount of time it took me to lift my hand and look at my watch.

Fergus was having ear problems for a while there: infection, strange growths, concern over cancer... Fortunately, the growths turned out to be benign and Fergus only needed some antibiotics for the ear infection to fix him up. All of this necessitated a number of vet visits and tests though, which needed to be paid for.

RAPS is very lucky to have the support of the Helfer Wellness Fund, which was set up by Tricia Helfer (well known to Battlestar Galactica fans as Number 6) and her sister Tara to make sure that RAPS can give cats like Fergus the veterinary care they need. Check out the fund's blog for stories on Fergus, Sweet Pea and others.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Tilley is a pretty little girl with a wonderful soft, silvery coat. In good weather, she can often be found on or near the table outside the tearoom, catching a bit of early evening sun as it streams through the passage from the front yard.

I didn't actually know Tilley's background until I read Barbara's blogathon entry on her. Check out that post, but in brief: Tilley's owner or owners just didn't want her anymore after she'd had kittens. And this isn't even the only instance of this kind of thing happening. Apparently, some people will choose kitten over mom.

I find this baffling in general, and perhaps even more so in Tilley's case because the people who surrendered her couldn't even have made a plausible attempt at the cat-aren't-as-cute-as-kittens logic that other kitten aficionados may try to pull since Tilley is so obviously one cute as heck kitty. Giving birth has in no way robbed her of her girlish good looks or generally high cuteness factor.

It is a widely known fact that kittens grow into cats. It's odd that this is not always taken into consideration.

A reminder: (stats from www.wisegeek.com)

  • domestic cat = 12-18 years
  • dog = 12.8 years
  • rabbit = 5-15 years
  • budgie = 10-15 years
  • goldfish = 5-10 years
  • hamster = 3 years
  • mouse = 3-5 years
  • rat = 2-3 years
  • cockatoo = up to 70
Needless to say, those who fear they may have commitment issues should avoid signing up for a cockatoo. As for the cats, the single digit number of months they'll look kittenish leaves a lot of years of adult cat.

But- cute cat, fun cat! Don't believe me? Ask Tilley.

And if you hear of anyone who wants to test drive a pet with only the most minimal time and zero emotional commitment, just tell them two words:
sea monkeys.