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, August 31, 2011


I was taken by surprise a few weeks ago as I walked into the cat sanctuary doors. I was greeted by the usual deluge of cats floating towards me with the grace and fluidity of a school of fish swimming in the ocean. Such is the way at the cat sanctuary; it is beautiful to be received in such a manner and welcomed with a shower of affection.

Wanting to bask in kitty love I immediately sat down on the warm cement revelling in it all. That was until our tuna laden volunteer Jez walked onto the scene. The current changed and the cats turned in unison and swam away from me towards Jez.

All except one.

Jasper a beautiful brown tabby cat had decided that cuddles were better than tuna and he was now happy to be the sole proprietor of my lap having no further competition. Had I not had a job to do, I’m sure he would have draped himself on my lap all evening and into the night. In fact, it was difficult to get a photo of Jasper on his own, so persistent he was to be in my lap.

It was love at first purr for me.

Remarkably, he came to the no 5 road shelter as a kitten and was the only one of his litter not to get adopted. It is truly baffling how this loving and gentle cat had not been snatched up.

Now every time I come to the shelter, I loiter around the front courtyard outside of the Connor building where he spends his time. I have never had to look for him as within a few minutes he eventually appears out of nowhere and comes to greet me, inviting me to sit down and provide him with a warm lap and soothing cuddles. In return for the borrowed use of my lap, he provides me with an immense release of all the days stress and fills my heart with love and happiness.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ziggy Girl

I was a little trepidatious about entering this new arrival's cage tonight. The sign on her door said:

"Ziggy Girl"
surrendered for peeing
She is very nasty at the moment.

And if this wasn't enough, Debbie told me how, earlier in the day, Ziggy Girl had been screaming like a banshee when Louise so much as tried to enter her cage. There were even reports of lunging and slashing.

Keeping an eye on the blanket draped over the back corner of the cage, I slowly opened the door and quietly announced my non-violent intention to fill her water dish. I expected mayhem to start, but instead this little head poked out from the side of the drape and blinked at me. I blinked back (it seemed only polite).

Next thing I knew, I'd crouched down and reached out to her, still half expecting at least a swat and prepared to ignore it. Instead, she gave a little yawn, sniffed my hand and then gave it a little rub with her head.

Twice later during my shift I repeated the experiment, each time expecting her to turn into the angry kitty I'd been warned about. But each time it was all purrs, rubs and yawns and stretches.

There's often no knowing what they've experienced before coming to us... and generally what goes on in those little cat brains of theirs. And so there's no knowing why one person makes a particular cat's guest list and another gets an angry rebuff for no reason that us human types can see. Maybe I sounded, looked or smelled like somebody she used to know?

Updated September 2, 2011: Before I start sounding too special, I'd like to point out that when I went to visit Ziggy a second time and ignored her "not accepting visitors" demeanor, she felt obliged to respond by biting me silly!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Update: Maddie

When I first came across Maddie back in April of last year, she was a kooky kitty who had parked herself on top of the cages in the newcomers area. She was happy to dance around up there to keep my attention on her, but I never did get her to come down for a ground level cuddle (Phaedra apparently had better luck... sometimes).

Maddie has since had to be moved to the Old AIDS building.  Once there, it didn't take her long to find and latch onto friendly Jeremy. Jeremy, of course, didn't mind a bit.

In fact, I became reacquainted with Maddie last week when I was taking pictures of Jeremy for the blog. He was hanging out in the rafters, comfortably surveying the scene, and I'd barely had a chance to get a ladder out to introduce myself before this crinkle-eared tabby barged in, demanding first his attention and then mine. Somewhere in there, she decided I was to be her friend and that's all there was to it.

Phaedra describes Maddie these days as being very much into headbutts, pets and snuggles with everyone. She can apparently get a little pushy with her affections and has been known to force a snuggle on another cat whether they're interested or not.

Being a former feral, Maddie can still be a bit unpredictable at times if something sets her off, but for the most part, says Phaedra, she's all about the love.

I got to experience both the love and the pushiness the next time I went to visit, where Maddie practically chased me around the room for cuddles. If my attention appeared to be on anything or anyone other than her, she didn't hesitate to march up and lightly claw at my leg until I returned to the all important task of being her pal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jeremy (King Tut)

Brigid suggested I get to know this lovely, friendly boy in the Old AIDS building and recommended Phaedra as a good person to ask about him.

 photo by Phaedra

Here's what Phaedra had to say:
"Jeremy is actually called King Tut as he was trapped out by King Tire.
He used to live in the back courtyard. My daughter spotted him one day and asked me who he was. I had no idea what his name was, so my daughter said he looks like a Jeremy and it's stuck for me.
Back then, he wasn't so big on snuggling or even allowing you to touch him. After lots of courting and flirting, I finally won him over and he would patiently wait for the flocks of kitties to leave me alone so we could have some quiet lap time. We used to do this every day at either coffee break or lunch time.
When he was diagnosed with feline leukemia, I was heartbroken for him and promised him that I would visit him every day I worked. So every day after work I go and sit with Jeremy.
Obviously I can't just sit with him because Panther and Jasper and all the other kitties in that area would not have that, so I've had to bear the burden of loving them all up after work. ;)Not quite sure how I ended up being persuaded to buy a case of cat tuna every pay cheque and feed them at least two cans every day... Somehow they managed to convince me to do it without my prior knowledge. 
Having followed Jeremy to the Old AIDS, I've taken an interest in making the change of spaces easier on all the new kitties that enter that area. It just seems like the right thing to do."
Jeremy (I think we're all calling him that now) has been so successfully turned into a cuddler that he's ready and willing to love up anyone, anytime, seemingly all the time. Don't expect much alone time with him, though. Offer him your lap and soon find Panther and Jasper tucking themselves neatly in beside him. Fortunately, he's just as willing to snuggle with his cat friends as he is with his human friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

cat photography behind the scenes

Photographers sometimes have to get into tricky spots to get the perfect shot. RAPS animal care worker Ann thought our readers should see some of the hard work that goes into getting the cat photos that appear in the Neko Files posts.

This shot was set up to capture a mystery tabby under the chair.
Abby felt certain she would make a better subject.

Each of the following photos is accompanied by the behind-the-scenes version, taken by Ann.


As with many cats, getting his attention can take a little work

Zander with Georgie (above) and Daisy (top)

Friday, August 19, 2011


It's been about a year since Max came to the sanctuary... for the second time.

He originally came to RAPS when a woman phoned Carol at the No. 5 Rd. shelter and insisted RAPS take her cat. She was not particularly interested in the fact that the shelter was full to capacity or that there is a fee to surrender an animal. If RAPS wouldn't take him, she threatened, she would have to just let him go somewhere. 

RAPS staff member Ann felt bad for Max and decided to take him home herself temporarily until space could be found for him. And so, after a brief sojurn at Ann's, Max came to live at the sanctuary for the first time.

After being diagnosed with bladder crystals, Max's treatment included many months in a cage with a special diet to help resolve the problem. He became increasingly depressed, and seemed inclined to just let himself waste away. Ann stepped in once again to take him home, this time with the idea that it would be a permanent arrangement.

All was well for 18 months or so between Max and resident household cats Stubbs and Muffin. And then Max started acting aggressive, going after the elderly Stubbs with a Jerry-like abandon. Concerned for Stubbs and worried that Max would start going for the big-talking but ultimately pretty defenseless Muffin, Ann had to face the hard decision and the heartache of bringing Max back to the sanctuary.

Remembering how miserable he'd been the first time, she worried about how he'd fare. True, he was a pretty grumpy boy for a while, but he settled in to the singlewide where Ann asked that he be placed and these days seems to be doing just fine. Phew!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I first noticed Sally in the spring of last year, a pretty calico who could often be found sitting in the window of a small building in the back courtyard. The few times I tried to touch her, though, I would be met with the sort of cringing and expression of wide-eyed horror that are generally meant to signal a cat is not friendly and is about to either run away or get out the claws.

Fellow volunteers Kim and Ayako had a similar experience, until one day Kim discovered an interesting thing: Sally actually likes to be petted. It may have been because Sally had a chance to get used to Kim, but Kim managed to make contact and was quickly rewarded with a solid purr and a tail in the air.

photo by Kim

photo by Kim

When Kim brought me over to see this, we found Sally hanging out on a shelf hidden behind a blanket - again, not a place you'd expect to find a kitty who wants to be found. But Kim had only to stroke her head and pat her back at the base of her tail a couple of times before Sally was purring away, clearly enjoying the attention. I tried as well and even got Sally trying some headbutts, although this was seemingly newish territory for her, as she became a bit uncertain after the first few bonks and switched to looking perplexed and smacking me instead.

I found out from Leslie afterward that Sally and her shy tortie sister Soleil were both trapped at a Richmond automotive garage. They were both feral, but were being fed while they were there, and so had become at least somewhat used to humans.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dusty (II)

 photo by Kim

Dusty was trapped around two years ago with her kittens, all pretty tabbies like their mom. The kittens lived in the Kitten Trailer until they'd all had their shots and could be adopted out. Dusty, a feral and therefore unsuitable for adoption, remained at the sanctuary.

photo by Kim

She's still shy, as is to be expected from a feral, but is slowly getting more comfortable around humans. She also has her cat friends. In particular, I'm told she loves black longhair Leo and is campaigning to be his girlfriend.

I was introduced to Dusty by fellow volunteer Kim, who's discovered that over time this feral kitty has felt less of a need to hiss when approached and may even allow a fingertip to be extended towards her before scooting away.

photo by Kim

Although Dusty wouldn't let me come quite close enough to be in danger of touching her, I was permitted to take quite a few pictures without making her feel threatened. And when Kim and I were standing nearby, talking about her, Dusty couldn't seem to resist the beginnings of a little tail-in-the-air showing off before making a show of getting away from us, almost as if saying, "Look at me - I'm running away. I'm going to run away from you now."
Dusty, methinks thou dost protest too much.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let sleeping cats lie

photo by Brigid

Why let sleeping cats lie? Because, for some of them, if they wake up and catch you calling them cute as a little buttercup while they snoozed, furry belly exposed and paws in the air, you may be in trouble.
Trust me. I know.

With the warm weather comes an increased likelihood that cats at the sanctuary can be found sprawled in any manner of cute-as-a-buttercup (or sometimes just plain strange) poses as they rest to save up energy for more napping later.
Here's a sampling.

photo by Michele
photo by Michele
photo by Michele
photo by Phaedra
photo by Ayako
photo by Ayako

photo by Brigid