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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mama Jane

This post is a cheers to our Mama Jane, who happily went to a loving foster home this week. 

photo provided by RAPS

Since my feeding shifts are in a different part of the sanctuary, although I'd met her on a few occasions, I mostly knew Mama Jane as one of the cats my friends Vincent and Ayako particularly liked to visit. I didn't even know her name for the first little while, as Vincent often called her by the nickname of "Mature Cat". Lovely she is, but our girl is not a young one. 

When I was curious for a little background about Mama Jane, Leslie told me that she was named for a RAPS volunteer who "responded to a request to capture 4 cats from a yard in Burkeville", and "Mama" was added because someone thought she might be the mother of the other cats in the yard. But, adds Leslie,  
"The other three look pretty old too. Maybe they're all sisters.  

When they arrived at the shelter, all were terrified and seemed feral.  They had upper respiratory infections that keep coming back.  While they were still in a cage, we noticed that Mama Jane had sores on her back.  It was necessary for me to touch her in order to apply ointment to her sores.  She responded to my touch by putting her bum up, but remained very timid. When we released them from the cage, they all stayed as high up and far away from people as possible.  I knew there was hope for Janey, so I started offering treats to her.  She began to trust me and started to come down from the shelving.  I was gradually able to pet her more and more, and then to pick her up.  When I held her, she relaxed in my arms like a baby.  She was still afraid of other people, though, so I introduced her to some of the volunteers and staff, asking them to pet her while she was in my arms.  Before long, she was trusting and friendly toward everyone, following people around the building, leaning on their legs and posing a real trip threat."
 "Janey" won the heart of one of the Saturday volunteers, who, after much eager anticipation by all, got to take her home just the other day. I hear that she's settling in nicely and enjoying some quality lap time. Thanks to Erin and congrats to Mama Jane!

Updated December 11, 2009: 
"I went to visit Mama Jane in her new home yesterday.  She's so happy, and Erin says they were meant to be together.  They live in a very nice condo in Vancouver and Janey has a lovely bed in front of the gas fireplace.  She was really glad to see me and as precious as ever.  It was hard to say goodbye again."
 - Leslie

Friday, November 27, 2009

A cat for every surface

The RAPS blog did a fun post in the summer titled "Let sleeping cats lie... in weird places."  When I've attempted to conjure up a word picture of what a sanctuary inhabited by 800-900 cats looks like, what comes to mind is a home, or probably more a place like a farm, where every surface that could conceivably hold a cat does just that.

...not that napping in odd places is a habit limited to cats living in large numbers at a sanctuary. Case in point: yesterday I caught Leo lounging on my shoes, looking for all intents and purposes like he was trying them on. As I caught Leo just as I was on my way out the door - i.e. needing to wear the shoes he was borrowing - I didn't get a picture.

Here are some pictures I did get from around the sanctuary over the past few months.







Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good-bye, Danny Boy

photo provided by RAPS

The RAPS cat sanctuary is mourning the loss of a friend today.

When I wrote about Danny Boy just over a month ago, I was moved by how our "little trooper," undaunted by the balance problem which caused him great difficulty in walking more than a couple of steps at a time with out toppling over, was determined to move on his own steam. I still carry in my head this image of him in what turned out to be his final weeks, gamely tottering his way up the stairs to the double wide trailer while we stood by, poised to catch him if he should stumble.

photo provided by Michele

I asked Debbie, with whom he was particularly close, to say a few words in memory and in celebration of this special cat:
"Today marks the passing of a long time, much loved and extra special cat at the RAPS Cat Sanctuary.  Danny Boy was extra special not only for the 7 toes he possessed on each of his front paws, but also for his incredibly loving nature.  He also had a distinctive vocal style - more a yodel or cackle than a meow.  He would often be found purring and curled up in the lap of anyone that he could snag.  Once you met him, you were sure not to forget him.  True to his nature, he left the world as peacefully as he had lived.  He will be deeply missed by all."

Good-bye Danny Boy. You were well loved and will be well missed.

Updated November 27, 2009:
Some more memories of our Danny Boy...

"I remember when I first found him on the dyke by the end of 3 Road and tried to trap him. Then Carol got him a few months later.... he's been around a long time."
- Fearn

"From what I recall, Carol said he just came right up to her and she scooped him into a carrier/trap she had.[...] Carol found out, once Danny Boy had been released from his cage that he loved to sit on your lap while you were in the bathroom!"
"I still remember the day he escaped from his cage and how we managed to lure him back with treats. He was called Big Foot at that time and I hated the name so called him Danny Boy and it stuck."
- Stephanie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


People who prefer dogs to cats often cite cats’ independence and aloofness as a reason. And yet people who know cats in all their flavours are well aware that "aloof" is not always the word of the day.

photo provided by RAPS

It seems that this cat's would-be adopter could have gone with someone a little less determinedly affectionate.

Here's the skinny on Winnie, provided by our sanctuary cat expert, Leslie (originally published in The Love Blog, July 2009):

"Winnie was found at a gun club in Richmond (She was named after the Winchester rifle.). RAPS has a feeding site there and has taken in several cats from that location over the years. The gun club is near a marina, and we believe some of the cats were abandoned off boats. Winnie is an extremely affectionate cat with an instant purr. She was adopted briefly several years ago, but returned because the person found her "too needy." Soon after she returned to the sanctuary, we learned that she was an unpredictable girl who suddenly bit people on the nose when they snuggled her. We believe, though, that our beautiful blue-eyed girl has given up that behaviour, as we haven't witnessed it in a very long time."

Winnie is another one of those cats who can be hard to photograph because she's too busy trying to cuddle up to the photographer.

Here she is madly kneeding her bed as she waits for me to stop fiddling with my camera and start softing her again:

So, I suppose we could say guilty as charged for being affectionate. I was surprised to hear about the nose biting, though. Like Love Blogger Barbara, I've never seen her dish out more than a little love bite to the fingers. And purr upon purr...

Sunday, November 22, 2009


For those not in a position to adopt a cat, RAPS has a sponsorship program that allows people to sponsor a cat of their choice for $15 a month. The sponsor receives a photo of their sponsor cat and an open invitation to visit and spend time with him or her. This is a nice option for people who'd like to make a difference for their favorite shelter cat but can't go the adoption route. It's also a great way to support those cats who aren't so clearly adoptable as some...

Take, for example, Panda:

photo provided by Ann

Panda is being sponsored by Ann's sister Karen, a teacher who has helped fund the care of several cats since her first visit to RAPS a couple of years ago. Ann thought it would be a good idea to sponsor some "less than attractive cats" and would pick them out for her sister. Panda was selected by a vote of sorts: Karen showed the pictures from Ann's latest "less than attractive cat" quest to her class and based her choice on whichever cat got the biggest "EWW" response from the students. Ann tells me that "Panda was the winner hands down!!!!!"

Here is the picture that did it:

photo provided by Ann

And does Panda's sponsor share in the aesthetics-only judgment of her students? It would seem not. In an e-mail opening with a greeting of "Cheers from Panda's Number One Fan", here's what Karen had to say:
"Well you could write that such a cat would need to get by on personality and not on looks.  Or that a cat with such interesting and and creative markings must have the same attributes when considering wit and intelligence.  But all this sounds high faluting. Panda is just the cutest diddums.  He has such sparkle and shine - memorable and mesmerizing.  He’s a one of a kind and makes me happy just to see him!  I trust my sister whenever she says she has just the cat for me!!!!!!!"
For more information on the RAPS sponsorship program, go to: http://www.rapsociety.com/support.htm

Update February 2, 2010: I'm sad to report that Panda is no longer with us as of this morning. She had weakened quickly over the past day or so and, when her condition could not be improved, the RAPS vet ensured she would not suffer. 

photo taken January 25, 2010

Saturday, November 21, 2009


And so we wrap up what has turned into Cats Who End in Y-sound Week here at the Neko blog...

Today's poster girl is Lexi, who's been quoted as saying "Am I not the prettiest girl at the shelter?"

photo provided by RAPS

I'd noticed Lexi around the shelter - a beautiful coat like that can't fail to catch your attention - but didn't get a chance to really interact with her until fairly recently.

This was the almost immediate result:

Soft and warm, purring and wriggling. It's baffling that she should have come to us in much the same way Tilley did (and frankly baffling in Tilley's case as well).

From Leslie (originally published in The Love Blog in July, 2009):
"Our beautiful girls, Tilley and Lexi, have similar stories. Both were surrendered to RAPS by people who no longer wanted them, once they'd had kittens. Sometimes, for reasons that we can't comprehend, people will give up their adult cats and keep their kittens. People who aren't capable of bonding with their pets, but are temporarily attracted to cute, young animals, shouldn't have pets."
photo provided by Michele

Updated September 17, 2010: I'm sad to report that we lost Lexi yesterday. This was not expected and came as quite a shock to us all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Some cats are roamers who like to expand their area of operation into the largest perimeter they can patrol. Others are content with a smaller space just so long as it is completely, utterly, and quite uncontestably theirs.

This is Deety's space:

And he's more than content with it.

So rarely does he move from this shelf that Vincent has given him the nickname of "Furniture Cat." There's even a sign posted on the wall above him to prevent well-meaning volunteers from moving his bed elsewhere. Conventional cat care wisdom says that cats would rather not have their bed, food and litter box in such close proximity, but Deety likes his little home just the way it is.

He also likes his soft toy, a white fleece gingerbread man of the type one often sees in the dog toy section of pet supply stores. Correction, loves his toy. Sometimes he loves it with an intensity and vigor that may make visitors with small children wish to cover questioning eyes...

As Barbara writes on her Flickr page where she features many RAPS cats, "Deety is a funny little boy... and a character to be sure." That he is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


When they first came to the sanctuary, Salty and Shelley were so attached to one another that shelter staff thought it would be too cruel to separate them. The caption next to their picture on the gallery page read "These sweet, gentle siblings are hoping for a home together", echoing the dear hope that they could be adopted out together.

Shelley and Salty 
photo provided by RAPS

Several years later, they're still at the sanctuary. And the undying devotion? They grew out of it.

I haven't had a chance to get to know Shelley yet, so for the moment I'll just write about Salty, who has made an effort to capture my attention - and affection - on a number of occasions.

The first time I met him, he was sitting amongst the flowers and greenery in one of the planters out the back, determined to show off for me and receive some praise. But he’d respond to my attempts to soft him by skittering just out of reach.

More recently, I’ve run into him a couple of times in the double wide and was so entertained by his show-off routine, now expanded to include dancing, weaving and sitting up like a meerkat so I can stroke his head and back, that I had to ask Leslie about him.

That’s when she told me about him and Shelley. And how even after it was established that the siblings could in fact live without each other, nobody chose Salty to adopt. So that several years later, there he is still. Either potential adopters found him a little on the shy side, or sometimes there may have been no more of a reason than they were looking for a ginger that day, or a calico, a longhair…

I’ve brought several friends out to the sanctuary since I started volunteering there and they found it enjoyable and relaxing to spend time with any number of happy cats. Some even came out on other occasions, enjoying it all over again. But when I took my dad out there, he grew quiet and seemed a little sad. Later he said it was all a bit overwhelming, all those good cats…

I didn’t fully understand how he felt right away, since their presence is one of the things that makes each volunteer shift a joy. But meeting Salty, a nice looking fellow with a personality that's both sweet and fun...  and who's living in a shelter rather than a home simply because nobody picked him. And suddenly I find myself getting kind of quiet and feeling a little sad.
All those good cats...

MUTTS by Patrick McDonnell

Monday, November 16, 2009


With between 800 and 900 cats at the sanctuary and all of them having names, learning what names go with what faces takes a while.

Distinctive markings make this face easy to remember, but its owner is shy and generally found peering down from the top of one of the cages.

My friend Vincent dubbed her "Surgical Cat" because the crescents of white on her cheeks look a little like the outline of a surgical mask.

Today, thanks to the fact that she has a bit of a cold and is in a cage for meds and extra food, I learned Surgical Cat is more commonly known as Zary. And, according to the sign posted on her door, she's not just shy but feral. Impressive, then, that she's as friendly as she is. She won't allow herself to be touched, of course, but she quite cheerfully meowed for her dinner and wasn't overly concerned about me coming in her cage to take pictures after.

Maybe she'll turn out to be one of those cats who will climb down from her high perch one day and forget that she's scared of being softed. Hey, if it worked for Audrey...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Jerry is another cat featured in "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr (or Ms) Hyde Cats at the RAPS Cat Sanctuary."
"Jerry is usually a well-mannered, easy-going and playful cat, but don’t ever try to break up an argument between him and another cat! Several volunteers and a few well-meaning visitors who attempted to act as referees in one of Jerry’s 'disagreements' have become victims themselves. Being at the receiving end of one of Jerry’s attacks can be quite a shock, especially for those who previously saw only his nice side. Fortunately, Jerry doesn’t get into too many altercations, but there has been talk among sanctuary volunteers of forming a 'Jerry Victim Support Group'."

On one of my first visits to the sanctuary, I came across this nice looking cat napping on a cushion placed on a shelf at about eye level. Sensing my presence, the cat gave a little yawn, had a little stretch, then waited for me to come over and visit. A little pat, a little purr, a cuddle, more wriggles and purrs, all culminating in a nose rub.

As I was leaving the room, Debbie came in, having just then remembered to warn me about this cat named Jerry and his history of doing things to volunteers that leave scars...
"Which one's Jerry?" I wanted to know.
You can probably guess which one.

I considered this a narrow escape and made an effort to avoid him thereafter. Perhaps unfairly... He's only ever behaved like Dr. Jeckyll with me, after all, and sometimes even looks slightly confused when I turn down his invitation to come over and give him a nice soft.

Or is that all just a ploy...?

A question for other RAPS people:
Has Jerry ever given you trouble when he's not involved in some altercation with another cat?

Added Nov. 15 pm:
So far, the answer appears to be an emphatic YES!
In response to my question, Ann sent me this evidence that the Jerry-threat is never to be taken lightly-

photo provided by Ann

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Greyson is a recent arrival at the shelter. Gaye, one of our animal care workers, brought him in at the beginning of the month after seeing him hanging around her neighborhood for a while.

Although he's tame, suddenly coming into contact with hundreds of strange cats in a strange new environment can be a pretty overwhelming, so Greyson's got a cage to himself in the double wide trailer for now.

And yes, like Hubert and Winston, this boy has a big head.

Ann now has a theory about me:
drawing by Claire

"Claire likes big-headed cats!" she says to Shannon in the sort of cheerfully triumphant playground voice we all must have some residual memories of from school.
Narrowly avoiding a knee-jerk "I do not!", I only manage to protest that it's just because Ann keeps pointing them out to me and they keep turning out to be cute.
Lame, but true.

It's easy to love and admire handsome cats like Leonard or beauties like Daphne, but I (and I'm quite sure I'm not alone) can't help but have a soft spot as well for the ones with some little quirk that sets them apart: raggedy Chance, curly tailed and obliviously crippled Lincoln, alternately shy and goofy Leo... just to name a few.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Mario is a “cat magnet” according to the RAPS sanctuary website… and just about everybody else. Fittingly, his feature in The Love Blog is titled Everyone Loves Mario.

photo provided by RAPS

Mario is famously popular among the other cats and is rarely seen without at least a couple representatives of his entourage of adoring fans. They trail around after him as he makes his rounds and cuddle up against him when he’s in repose. Sometimes it can be hard to get a good picture of him as this or that admirer runs into the shot, joyfully offering up a rear end for his inspection.

Mario takes all this with good grace. 

I don’t know who Mario considers to be his number one fan, but as far as we’re concerned, this would have to be Howie.

photo provided by RAPS

Howie was brought in as a feral adult and angrily resisted any and all human efforts to befriend him. Then he met Mario and became one of his most devoted followers… literally. He would follow him everywhere. The big fluffy love guru worked his mysterious magic and slowly but surely tamed Howie, who now welcomes human contact and will even seek out a lap now and again.

A responsible leader, Mario doesn’t forget to look after his fans: when Howie was on meds a little while back and had to stay in a cage, Mario would ask to be let into the cage as well and site with him to to keep him company.

Mario enjoys a little attention from his human friends too, though you have to be willing to work around his busy celebrity schedule.

Knowing all this about him, I was surprised to read in The Love Blog that he was quite a shy boy when he was first brought in after being trapped along with more than a dozen other cats living in an alley in East Vancouver. According to Leslie, “…we saw his potential and kept him indoors, rather than relaeasing him into one of the rear yards. It didn’t take him long to relax and accept his new home, and to become one of our most famous Romeos.”