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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Claire, Daphne & Leo

In addition to being Canada Day, tomorrow marks one year in my first pet friendly apartment, and one year since I brought two cats from the sanctuary home to live with me.

It's been fun getting to know each other over the past year. And it's interesting, when bringing home adult cats, how some personality traits show up right away, while others only really manifest once they've gotten to know you to their satisfaction. Here's a brief retrospective of our first year:

July 2009
Leo searches for hiding spots in the cardboard jungle; 
Daphne felt at home from the first

Summer 2009
Leo finds potted plants to be good company 
and likes to sit as close as possible

Autumn 2009
Bought for the cats: 1 stuffed rat from Ikea
Bought for the human: 1 Ikea lamp in small box
The rat gets moved around the apartment from time to time, 
but it's the box they love and I still haven't been permitted to recyle.

Autumn 2009
The first cats I've lived with who actually care for each other
rather than simply living under a truce of mutual toleration.

December 2009
Leo has come to love me, but he worships his mom. 
He is still distraught if he has to be without her for even a few moments.

December 2009
Spending Christmas at my parents' in Victoria meant bringing the furry family with me.
Leo hated the car and yowled as long as it was in motion, but felt safe in the room set aside for them at my parents' place. Daphne was ready to move in. When we got home, I was sure they'd be traumatized by so much as the sight of their carriers. They quickly proved me wrong by climbing right in.

January 2009
Cat vs. Marmot: Daphne shows her "Olympic spirit"

January 2010
Leo prefers to eat with his hands

April 2010
Daphne sitting pretty. She loves lounging on the cat tree 
by my third floor window and watching passers by. 

Mini update - Morresy

Since so many people have taken an interest and an active role in poor frightened Morresy's well-being, I thought I'd do a quick update to let you know he's doing quite well indeed.

The concerted efforts of all to make him feel safe and loved seem to be paying off already. On Monday night it was the beginnings of a purr, then this afternoon he gave Ann a little purr and leaned his head into her hand while she scratched his chin. By the time I came to visit him this evening, he was ready to stand up and climb out of his bed for a proper cuddle culminating in purrs, rubs and finally a solid head butt.

We're thinking this one has the makings of a most excellent cat to be around.

I'll post more pictures once his fur's grown in and his ears have healed so we can all revel in his transformation into a handsome boy.

Monday, June 28, 2010


You may have come across big fluffy Zander sprawled like this:

photo provided by Karen

Or this:
photo provided by Phaedra

Or snuggled up with his paws crossed like this:

Or even oozing over the edge of a counter top designed for a much smaller cat like this:

photo provided by Karen

Zander came to RAPS seven or eight years ago, says Leslie, part of a small menagerie left behind when the lady who'd owned them succumbed to cancer. RAPS took in young Zander plus dogs, a rabbit and some fish, and were able to find homes for most of the animals. Zander was among those adopted out, but developed urinary crystals a couple of years later and was returned. Later, RAPS volunteer Linda tried adopting him herself, but had to bring him back after he proved overly bossy with her cats.

Leslie calls him "a lovely boy" and I think all at the sanctuary would agree. She thinks he would do well in a townhouse, being "too active for a apartment life." This may not be obvious from the sprawling poses pictured above, but notice how each sprawl is executed in a different location. This boy likes a little freedom to move.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Does this not look like a sweet and innocent cat?

Meet Nova, introduced by the sign on his cage door as "A 15 year old boy who was at #5 Road. He is very friendly & loves his wet food." He only arrived on June 10, so we're still getting to know him. It can take a little while to get the hang of their quirks, particularly with a cat who's had 15 years to build up a repertoire.
"Friendly" + "loves wet food" = a good start.

On June 23, a new sign appeared on his door:

This was accompanied by a further warning written on the whiteboard in the kitten trailer where he's living, and by a living cautionary note in the person of Leslie, who I encountered sporting a couple of sizable bandages - one from the upper jaw, one from the lower - on her forearm.

Have another look at the picture at the top of this post. Still look innocent?

Apparently, next time he saw Leslie after chomping down on her, he was all ready for another cuddle. She, naturally, opted for caution and a rain cheque.

15 years worth of life and resulting marks that we don't know about. Or maybe he's just being an old guy who gets a little confused when there's too much excitement. Hard to tell. For now, best to just do as the sign says and keep the loves short and sweet.  

Updated September 9, 2011: Sadly, this old boy is no longer with us. We're glad we were at least able to give him a safe place to live for as long as he needed it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Interesting how cat friends are made. Sometimes it's at the whim of the human, such as when I took an interest in Pickle because she reminded me of a cat I had growing up. And sometimes, the human has no say in the matter - it's all up to the cat.

Earlier this month, Shady decided I was going to be her friend. And that's all there was too it. Leslie noticed her pawing at my back as I crouched to visit with Cozy and came over to make the proper introductions. Shady was so insistently friendly that I was surprised to learn that she isn't like this with everyone she meets.

I learned from Lisa that Shady came in as a kitten with her sister. Initially, when they were in a cage in the kitten trailer, the sister was the more tame of the two. But later, once they were released into the main sanctuary population, Shady became the tame one. Now, when a group of cats cluster around a human visitor to receive cuddles and treats, Shady will often decide to join them. Demands for intensive one-on-one cuddle time? That's apparently a little more unusual. No wonder when Lisa saw me getting trills and headbutts out of a little black-brown cat, she asked "Who is that?" and was surprised by the answer.

Maybe I look like someone Shady used to know.

Monday, June 21, 2010


This sorry looking creature arrived at the sanctuary just last Thursday. He was trapped on McLennan Avenue in Richmond, a wandering unneutered male with an impossibly matted coat and earmites so bad that he would have scratched his ears off if only it would put a stop to the discomfort.

Given the name Morresy, he's been to the vet, had his ears treated and his coat shaved. His cage in the doublewide is has blankets hung around his bed to give him a little refuge.

And a refuge he needs. Unlike many of the frightened strays I've met so far, I haven't seen Morresy lash out or spit; instead he just hunches down and quivers. He's thought to like being scratched under the chin... but that only works if you can quietly sit with him long enough for the quivering and flinching at every touch to subside. Wait a little longer, still being quiet and gentle as ever, and he slowly starts to relax enough to remember how hungry he is. It begins with a few lip smacks, a couple of licks, and then suddenly he's inhaling the plate of canned food being held in front of him.

Even with all the patience needed and the likely prospect of slow progress, there's something so rewarding about working with a cat who needs convincing before they realize that their world doesn't have to be a place of fear and uncertainty.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Back in July of 2009, The Richmond Review cover story was an article with the headline Animal group pushes for pet sale ban. The article featured a purebred Cocker Spaniel named Christopher and a purebred Persian named Logan, both of whom ended up at the RAPS No. 5 Rd. shelter.

 Logan; Christopher
 from photos by Mark Patrick

It's an interesting piece, highlighting both the shelter's concern over the not insubstantial number of pet store purchases who are later (or sometimes sooner) abandoned, and the founder of a pet store chain who felt the problem lies not with pet stores, but with puppy mills and other such unscrupulous dispensers of pets. The pet store spokesman insisted his staff are well-trained and make sure to educate the customer on their pet purchase. "I don't think people would spend $2,000 just for impulse buying from our store." the article quotes him, as saying. "I don't see that at all."

One would hope not to see that. But then, a purchase doesn't necessarily have to be a whim for it to be unwise. Even if the seller does make an effort to explain all the responsibilities and challenges of ownership, is it always possible to know for sure that the prospective owner is paying more attention than most people do when they scroll through all the terms and conditions that websites often require people to agree to when making online purchases? 

Logan and another Persian, Luke, were purchased at $1,800 for the pair. Just three days later, they were surrendered to RAPS. Did they shed on a suede sofa? Not cuddle on demand? Get Fancy Feast residue stuck to their little pink noses after eating?
Who knows?

Luke was fortunate enough to get adopted from the shelter. For Logan, still looking for a forever home after the initial three day tease, the wait was just too long. After a lengthy sojourn at the No. 5 Rd. shelter, the 4 year old began to express his bitter disappointment in the medium of pee. Now he's at the sanctuary, which will in all likelihood be his permanent home.

Logan is - has become - one heck of a grump. When Ann tried to introduce me to him, he growled almost nonstop for the whole time we had the gall to invade his cage. No swatting or biting, which I appreciated, only glares and growls aplenty. I went back a couple of days later, armed with a bag of cat treats. This earned me an audience, but only for roughly 10 seconds after the consumption of a treat was I allowed to continue any laying on of hands. After that, it was back to the grumpy growls.

Ah well, I think he's earned the right to a few rotten moods.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


When I first met Pickle, she was curious about me but no way was she going to let me touch her. She just wanted to peek at me from behind a couple of water jugs.

Around the time I started becoming friends with Cozy, Pickles, still interested in peeking at me, decided maybe I could pat her a little bit before she had enough and scooted away. And so I kept trying to make friends with her.

Why persist when there are so many other cats who already want to be friends and don't need all this convincing? Well, initially she caught my attention because she reminded me of a cat I had growing up who had similar markings and was similarly skittish. And then I started taking a shine to her for her own sake.

When I asked Leslie and Lisa about her, I found out her name and that she came in as a wild kitten. Her odd spookiness? Leslie said that nobody had ever singled her out to really pay attention to.

Aw... now I'm extra determined to win this cat over!

Lisa added that in her experience, Pickle "likes you to think she is very ferocious when in fact you can usually touch her or comb her with few side effects."
Side effects? Apparently, Pickle has gotten Lisa with some of her pointy bits on occasion. But Lisa knows not to take it personally, putting it down to being "the big bad medicine lady."
Hopefully, "big weird camera lady" will have better luck. Stay tuned....

Monday, June 14, 2010


Cozy is one of my new best buddies at the sanctuary. I'm not sure which one of us first decided to befriend the other, but whoever it was, it seems to have stuck.

Cozy's such a sweetheart now, I was surprised to find out from Leslie that when he came to the shelter as an adult cat years ago, he was so wild that people were afraid to go in his cage. His brother, then by far the tamer of the two, was adopted by former regular volunteer Tess. It may have taken him a little longer, but Cozy did end up taking up his brother's view that people are a kind of OK.

I'd tried once to pick Cozy up and was gently rebuffed with a wiggly escape. Assuming that wasn't his thing, I didn't push the issue. It never occurred to me that this might be a cat who'd just never been held and cuddled before!

Friday, June 11, 2010

sanctuary gardens welcome summer

With the cool, rainy weather we've been having, it's hard to fathom that the longest day of the year is just around the corner. At the sanctuary, the biggest visual reminder that summer is really almost here is the proliferation of flowers in the beds lining the back courtyard.

The sanctuary gardens got their start early on, when volunteers began bringing in surplus plants from their own gardens. They've been lovingly maintained by a core group of green-thumbed volunteers ever since. Check out Marianne's article from the August 2009 RAPSity news for more.

And here are some photos of the gardens this spring:




Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When I got to know Cecilia last autumn, I was told that she and a grey longhair named Desi were inseparable. Well, either they were on the outs or my timing was just unlucky, but for ages I never ever saw them together. In fact, while Cecilia would often come to say hello, I hardly saw anything of Desi, period.

And then this week, at last, I was able to see the duo for myself:

Although not nearly as outgoing and confident as Cecilia, at least not with someone he doesn't know very well, Desi did let me stroke him a little and appeared to enjoy it. Pretty good for a former feral! Leslie tells me he was trapped as an adult on Desmond Street in Richmond and that's how he got the name "Desi."

She also describes him as just a "gentle, gentle timid boy." He's a sweet guy - no wonder Cecilia is so fond of him.