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, August 30, 2010


Kayleigh came from Annacis Island as a kitten some years ago, along with two siblings. He and I were formally introduced today, thanks to him being confined to a cage in the doublewide while he takes a course of meds for an ear wound. After a couple of meows, though, I realized we had in fact met before.

Kayleigh's assigned area of the sanctuary is the front courtyard, but his favorite place seems to be on the landing at the top of the stairs leading into the singlewide. There, anyone passing between the newcomers' area and the singlewide proper will be treated to a burst of high pitched, almost comically desperate meows as he vies for attention, affection, food.... anything you've got, really.

Now that he's temporarily caged, Kayleigh's putting the meows of desperation to good use as he tries to pretend his solid frame is just an illusion and that he is in fact a poor skinny thing who could really use an extra helping or three. In the end, Leslie begged me to just give the cat some food so he'd be quiet for long enough for her to concentrate on dispensing meds for a few minutes. And with Kayleigh's friendly face, rakish set of his right ear and eagerness to dance around his cage in return for even a little attention, it wasn't too hard to cave in and give him what he wanted.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I was first introduced to Gilbert as a project of Ann's involving many hours gentle, patient coaxing - not to mention over $100 worth of Temptations cat treats - to win him over.

Marianne tells me he was brought to the sanctuary about a year ago after a family had discovered him hanging around their back yard. He was not exactly friendly even then, but Marianne describes how, "while he was in a cage in the Connor, [she] could sit with him and, after a few hisses, he'd let [her] pet him and even seemed to enjoy it." Immediately upon being let out of the cage, though, he disappeared into the rafters of another building where he'd accept treats readily enough but permit no further human contact.

Gilbert in the rafters
photo provided by Marianne

A few months ago, a nice woman came with her young son to see Gilbert. Having been the ones responsible for bringing Gilbert to RAPS, they were, understandably, a little disappointed to find him hiding out among the rafters and still refusing to fraternize with humans. Marianne tried to tell them about how she'd been able to pet him when he first came, but she found it hard to convince them with Gilbert there staring at them from the ceiling.

Now, thanks to Ann's efforts (i.e. lots of attention and a whole pile of treats), Gilbert will not only climb down to come and see her when she's in the front courtyard, but he's even started climbing onto her lap. And, as a rather nice side effect, he's starting to think maybe the rest of us are worth a chance as well.

Ann & Gilbert
photos provided by Marianne

As Marianne says: "Another example of how hard work and gentle loving can bring a previously unsociable cat around, to the benefit and enjoyment of him/her and ourselves."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last month I wrote about a beautiful tabby and white semi-feral named Esme who'd been adopted out but had to return to live at the sanctuary when the change of environment proved too much for her. For anyone who was baffled by why her adoption story wasn't a successful one, read on.

Jenny is another semi-feral whose good looks and sparkling personality won the heart of a nice woman who wanted nothing more than to welcome her into her home.

If you meet Jenny on the back porch of the singlewide trailer at the sanctuary, you'll find her both active and affectionate. She actually sought me out before I even knew who she was, meowing for attention and dancing for joy when she received it. The next time I met her, she repeated the performance and followed it up with a head butt to my rear end with a level of force and enthusiasm that a medium sized dog would have been proud to achieve. In other words, she'd love to love you and isn't at all shy about showing it.

In fact, I was only able to get the photo below after I'd finally gotten her worn out from a cuddle session that bordered on the epic.

With a personality like this, I suppose I can see why her adoptive parent saw the instructions given to her by RAPS staff for introducing an adopted cat into the household as less "rules" than "guidelines." Jenny's so outgoing at the sanctuary that you wouldn't think she'd be phased by meeting lively new people, so calm in her environment that she shouldn't need to be initially confined to just one room in her new home...

With tame cats who've already had the experience of living with a family, the assumption that they'll manage to adjust may prove true. With a semi-feral, though, appearances of unphasability can all too often be deceiving. When Jenny's new person gave her the run of the whole house right away and invited her mother as a houseguest at the same time, Jenny, in a word, freaked. And soon couldn't be found anywhere.

The woman who'd adopted her was distraught, horrified at the thought that somehow, despite all precautions, the frightened cat might have escaped outside. Leslie and Gaye remember going to the house and looking in all possible hiding places. Eventually, they found Jenny where she'd wedged herself in an impossibly small place under a table holding an entertainment system. Only after dismantling this, removing the large TV and tilting the table could they extract the terrified Jenny.

And, after trauma to all involved, back to the sanctuary she went. Making friends with semi-ferals at the shelter, let alone bringing one home, takes a long time and an unbelievable amount of patience. Not everyone realizes just how much, particularly when the cat in question seems to be giving a million signals to the contrary... until you take them out of their comfort zone. For Jenny, it was all just way too much all at once.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Fido came to the RAPS sanctuary after Debbie's neighbors alerted her to a cat who'd been hanging around their complex, apparently going door to door and meowing in hopes that someone might take pity and feed him. When he was brought in and given the standard check-up for new arrivals, he was found to already have a shelter tattoo. This revealed that he'd been at the Chilliwack SPCA as a youth, where he'd been neutered (placing his current age at around 2-3) and given the name of Fido. Debbie thinks he must have been adopted by people in Chilliwack who then moved to Richmond, likely even to her complex, then moved away again and left Fido behind.

Fido can initially come across as a somewhat unapproachable cat, not because he's likely to lash out - far from it - but because he's not always terribly responsive. The first few times I met him, he'd let me pet him without protest, but there was nothing I could do to coax him to move from the prone position I'd found him in.

And then I brought in a stick of matatabi. After repeated snubbings by the cats in the front courtyard, I wandered into the teens building. There I found my first taker.

The next time I saw him, Debbie told me his story. She felt for him since he so often seems to feel a little down and she echoed my observation that it can be tough to get through to him enough for him to bother getting out of bed. She has managed to get a response out of him, though, and is even able to hold and cuddle him.

Seeing me with Debbie, Fido must have decided I was OK. Not only did he stand up for me, but he treated me to his very best cat dance of showing off. After that, I couldn't resist picking him up for a cuddle.... and was rewarded with a contented purr.

Debbie thinks Fido would do well in a new home and would love to see him adopted. As would I. Such a nice boy, and so loving once he realizes it's safe to show it.

Updated May 13, 2011:  Fido sadly had to go to the rainbow bridge this week. Staff noticed he seemed to be feeling poorly lately. When he went to the vet, X-rays revealed a large mass in his chest.
Hate to see him go, but would hate even more to see him suffer.

Friday, August 20, 2010


It all started from a picture. I was visiting with various cats in the singlewide back in February when I looked up and saw this tabby face peering at me from the top of the cages. I snapped a photo.

A couple of months later, in accordance with my rule of only featuring the images of cats who've yet to have a post dedicated to them, I cropped the photo to make an amusing header shot. And here came an unexpected snag: when I decided it was finally time to write about the cat belonging to this funny little face and pass the coverkitty crown onto someone else, nobody could tell me who this particular cat was.

Even after I went back into the singlewide and photographed every tabby in the place until I found the one who was an exact match for the facial markings of the original shot, I was unable to get a name. Linda was able to tell me that it was one of the feral cats who has just recently become more approachable, and Debbie thought either Burkeville (by the airport) or a fish cannery might have been the original trapping location.

Leslie was able to fill in another few pieces. To start with, putting an end to the need for pronoun evasions, I can now say with confidence that this cat is a girl. Also, wherever she and the others she was brought in with might originally have been trapped, they came to us via the No. 5 Road shelter, where they'd been kept as kittens until it became apparent that they just weren't going to tame up. And so Carol asked the sanctuary to take them.

Once at the sanctuary, nobody got to see much of our little header kitty since she spent all of her time hiding behind blankets. It's only more recently, now that she's starting to become a little less threatened by and a lot more curious about the humans she sees at the sanctuary, that she ventures out more and more frequently to have a good old stare. Leslie's even been permitted to touch a fingertip to her nose.

And still, her name remains unknown. It was generally agreed that she's much too cute to go without a name, so I've started calling her Saba. "Saba" is Japanese for "mackerel" and therefore a natural as a tabby name.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Handsome 13 year old Kade came to the sanctuary in June, brought over from the No. 5 Road shelter along with a few other senior cats whose age made them unlikely candidates for adoption.

The reason he came to be at RAPS in the first place? We were told he was surrendered when his owners had a baby.

Kade has pleasant demeanour to go with his good looks. He's alert, friendly, and has been content to receive kind words and strokes any time I've gone to visit him.
And yet...

There's something about him that suggests distance, even wistfulness. He has the look of a long time pet who misses his family. Can't help but wonder if he'll ever let us see his true, unguarded personality. Can't help but hope.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sanctuary cats beat the heat

"Beat the heat" may not actually be the best expression here, seeing as any sort of beating would involve effort. And anyone who knows cats respond to the rather toasty temperatures we've had these past few days (ok, not just the cats) knows that effort is not something to be spent foolishly.

The impetus to expend effort in writing about this rather than succumbing to a pre-bedtime nap comes from one of the drawings Vincent and Ayako shared with me last year. It's just too cute not to share with everyone.

The cats are saying atsui, or "hot" in Japanese. You may recognize the cat on the left as PeeWee.

RAPS staff do various things to help keep the cats (and the humans) from overheating.

We have a fountain out the back,

A cool mist stick out the front,

Buckets of water here and there,

And sanity-preserving fans inside the main buildings.

Other than that, there's a whole lot of sleeping going on.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bon Jovi

15 year old Bon Jovi was surrendered to the sanctuary earlier this month. RAPS staff were told that the woman's landlord wouldn't allow him in her residence.

He's understandably feeling a little stressed right now, but this doesn't appear to be preventing his super friendly personality from shining through in the slightest. He purrs, rubs, and bestows little licks and love bites on fingers. He'll even respond to a verbal greeting with a meow that reminds me somewhat of a politer version of Soprano's "mraowr!!"

friendlycat = blurrycat

Slightly less apparent is what he has in common with his namesake. I'll have to leave that one to the reader's imagination. It's either that, or indulge in bad puns involving Bon Jovi song titles and the theme of surrendered animals...

Updated November 11, 2011: Sadly, Bon Jovi passed away this week. Although it's really too bad he couldn't have stayed in his original home just that much longer, we're glad to have been able to provide a safe place for him to live the last year of his life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The subject of today's post is not a who but a what: meet matatabi.

Matatabi (またたび), silvervine in English, is a plant native to east Asia. In Japan, it's popular for its entertaining, catnip-like effect on cats.

I'd heard about it but never seen it until my friends Vincent and Ayako brought a package of silvervine twigs back from a recent trip to Japan.

My cats liked it well enough, but the response was hardly electric. I was curious to see if I'd have any better luck with the cats at the sanctuary, so last night I came armed with one of these supposedly magic twigs. When I showed it to Karen, Doug and Ann, they looked unconvinced. It didn't help that the first few cats I tried presenting it to just gave me a look as if to say "Uh, yeah... it's a stick."

And then I had a taker...

And another...

... and another. I soon ceased to doubt the power of the twig.
Interesting, though, how some cats found the scent incredibly appealing while others stuck to their original just-a-stick position.

Here are a few more cats who fell into the pro- camp:

Worried Harry looks a little too excited? Fear not. He went right back to his nap as soon as I took the matatabi away.

Instructions on usage from back of matatabi package

As for Lincoln, he dropped it of his own accord after suddenly discovering a case of the munchies.