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, October 31, 2011


Early in my volunteer poop career at the sanctuary, I stepped out of my car and noticed a streak of cat fur race by me into the bushes. Worried that we had an escaped cat-vict on the loose, I reported what I saw to Leslie. Leslie assured me that there are a few feral cats that like to hang out around the sanctuary but don't live in the sanctuary. RAPS cat wanna-be’s I guess, but too shy accept an invitation. Leslie pointed out the “food stations” set up for these independent cats around the parking lot. Now, after many months driving in week after week, it seems to me that most of the “cats” I see enjoying a free dinner at the feeding stations bare a striking resemblance to Pepe Le Pew.

That was until one sunny evening when a handsome tabby cat came out to greet me on my arrival with an enthusiasm that was almost overwhelming. We hung out for a bit and puss was practically doing back flips when I stroked him. What had I done to deserve such a welcome?

This cat I later found out was Jordy, who in fact did hold residence at the sanctuary in the past but managed to convince the staff after a multitude of inexplicable escapes that he should be allowed to live outside the chain link fence permanently. Jordy, it seemed, was miserable on the inside - never quite fitting with the rest of the cats and had even the victim of occasional cat bullying. He now considers the parking lot and Doug’s shed to be his home. Impossible to know why animals will cast out one of their own; it’s an unfortunate part of life, even in our little kitty haven.

So the next time you’re pulling in to the sanctuary parking lot, drive slowly and keep an eye out for this little sweetheart. Not to worry about Jordy though, he’s got it all worked out - life on the outside is not too bad.

Friday, October 28, 2011


After two and a half years of volunteering at the sanctuary, I'm amazed (and sometimes slightly embarrassed) by how frequently I'll be introduced to a new (to me) cat who's been there all along, sometimes in plain sight. I was therefore quite heartened to learn earlier this week that this happens to the best of us.

Long-time RAPSer Marianne emailed me on Monday to introduce me to a cat whose acquaintance she had only just made herself:
I'm astonished at how often I meet a cat for the first time at the shelter and then am told that said cat has been there for years and years, sometimes even longer than I have! That happened again to me today. 
A sturdy-looking ginger guy came trotting up to me in the [doublewide] laundry room this afternoon and, when I reached down to pet him (because he seemed friendly), he took a little swat at my hand and shied away. But he quickly came back and rubbed against my leg so I tried another pet and this time he got right into it - butt and tail up, head pushing against my hand, etc. 
Just then, Leslie came by and I asked her who this handsome guy was. I was told his name was "Terry" and that he'd come to the shelter a long time ago, along with and from the same rural site as Farrah, tortie Rosie and a few other cats, most of whom have gone to the rainbow bridge. 
I remember that Rosie, Farrah and her mom and two siblings were at the shelter when I started volunteering there almost ten years so it's simply beyond me how it is that I hadn't met Terry until today. He sort of hung around me for the next little while and let me reach down to pet him whenever I wanted to. 
When I went to the sanctuary a couple of days later to meet Terry myself, he was in the laundry room again, but this time perched high up on a shelf.

I got the smack that Marianne did, but not the rubs she received afterward. Ann told me that he's fine on the floor, but not so friendly up by the ceiling.

He must like the wide open space of the floor that gives him numerous directions to move in if he starts feeling uncomfortable. Up on the planks that run around the perimeter of the room just below the ceiling, he can go only right or left, and maybe not even that if there's another car barring the way. Not surprising he can feel slightly cornered up there. And Leslie says that anytime that happens, he quickly reverts, forgetting he actually likes people.

I'll have to keep an eye out for him when he's at floor level and see if I can win him over then.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Katie (III)

Katie is a tiny little black girl with a white mark on her chest who lives in the Connor.

According to her file, when she arrived at the sanctuary in 2007, she was only 7-8 months old, unspayed, and possibly pregnant. For the next few years, she behaved like a shy feral and has little exposure to humans as possible. Consequently, no one knew what her name was until she had to be brought inside for a dental in 2010.

These days, while still not exactly confident around people, she's comfortable enough to accept, and even enjoy, some gentle strokes and chin tickles.

She likes climbing into empty cages in the Connor and hanging out there on the shelves. That's how I met her this week, going in to visit Cozy and wondering who the little girl sitting in the cage with him was. She didn't take a whole lot of convincing to let me pat her, and before long she was happily rubbing her face all over my hand.

Outside the cage, though, she's suddenly much less secure, running away (albeit not very far) if approached. Looks like she's still got a bit of a way to go before she truly trusts us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mini update: Ziggy Girl

When Ziggy Girl arrived at the sanctuary back in August, she was so stressed that banshee shrieks and violent lunges seemed to be her chosen mode of self expression. She would now and again show glimpses of a softer, gentler side, but it took very little to get her back on the defensive (if one interprets defensiveness according to the motto that "the best defense is a good offense").

Earlier this month, she was released from her cage. I was initially worried that she'd run off and hide somewhere where she'd never get a chance to know us better, but she surprised me by staying put in the doublewide, parking herself between a chair and a shelf where she could comfortably peek at everyone. It was also pleasantly surprising how easily she could be coaxed out for some strokes, rubs and purrs.

This week she'd moved herself out to the back porch and staked out a little den under a cover on one of the chairs. This didn't exactly seem to be progress, but anytime I went out there and called her, these two round eyes and tufted ears would emerge, followed by the rest of her, ready for cuddles. She even welcomed being stroked by two pairs of hands at once (something Gunther still tends to find rather threatening).

That said, she is still not overfond of other cats encroaching on her personal space and will (so far) invariably respond with a hiss.

She also seems not to have learned how to hold back when she bites, so that the only way she could think of to tell volunteer Ayako that she needed a little break from being patted last week was to bite her really hard on the leg. Hopefully she'll start learning that this sort of thing really isn't necessary: if she does it too often, she'll get herself a reputation as A Biter. And then many people will be less likely to take a chance on her... when a chance is exactly what she needs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mama Mia

Mama Mia was brought to RAPS along with Dinky and her other offspring when the people who'd been putting out food for them in their yard could no longer do so.

Initially housed together with her family in the feral-friendly BC Packers Pen in the rear of the sanctuary, Mama Mia was later moved inside to the Singlewide where she can currently be found.

With the same ongoing ear problems as her son, Dinky, Mama Mia recently had to have a portion of her ear removed just like he did. When I photographed her a little over a week ago, she was still wearing her cone from the vet. Though understandably not delighted about the situation, she bore it with good grace.

Mama Mia had become quite tame for the woman who'd been putting food out for her at her home and given her and her kittens their names, but it still took Mama Mia a little while to get used to her new human friends at RAPS. Linda remembers her as quite mistrustful at first. Trust was earned, though, and now Mama Mia very much enjoys being brushed and having her head rubbed.

Even with her new RAPS friends, Mama Mia never forgot the people who'd first welcomed her and her little family and given them a safe haven. When the son of the woman who used to feed them came to the sanctuary to visit, Mama Mia remembered him and was delighted to see him.

It still takes her a few moments to really warm up to people she doesn't know, but only a few moments. A soft voice and a gentle hand, and she's bestowing little headbutts in no time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sara Lou

Sara Lou came to RAPS as a feral young adult with her nearly identical sister Sara Lee.

Sara Lou was so upset about her new surroundings that she not only chewed her way out of the cage the sisters had been put in, but out of the building in which the cage was located. Although she thankfully didn't make it out of the sanctuary altogether, she put such an effort into resisting capture that RAPS staff in the end thought it best to respect her wishes.

photo by Barbara

As a result, while Sara Lee's regular contact with staff and volunteers taught her to trust humans early on, Sara Lou never really did tame up. After over eight years at the sanctuary, it's only been fairly recently that she's begun to allow people to get close enough that she might consider sniffing a finger tip.

Luckily for me, posing for photos is now well within her comfort zone. Attempts to make actual contact, though, were repeatedly greeted with a neat little scoot just out of reach... followed by an equally neat little look-at-me pose.  Progress? Sure. Slow but sure.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Lassie was trapped as a feral kitten at the same place in Ladner where we got Kenny.

She's tamed up over time, so that when she joined the crowd of front courtyard cats who greeted me when I arrived at the sanctuary this evening, it was hard to believe she'd ever been wild. She was happy to visit with me and receive any rubs on offer, to the point that she was hard to photograph because her efforts to stay within easy stroking distance made for a lot of awkward camera angles and out of focus shots. 

Lassie's hyperthyroid, which makes her a bit on the skinny side. Her most obvious distinguishing feature, though, would have to be her odd coloured left eye. It makes it easy to find her among other tabbies in the front courtyard.

Friday, October 14, 2011


When Dinky and his siblings were feral kittens, their mom found them a house where they could count on food being put out by the couple who lived there. The mom, named Mama Mia by the human carers, got comfortable enough that she would even go into the house, but Dinky & Co. weren't ready to be so brave.

Time passed and the couple were no longer together. And so Mama Mia and her still feral kids were brought to the RAPS sanctuary to be looked after. Leslie put them all in the BC Packers pen together, feeling that was the place they would feel most comfortable.

On arrival, the whole family was found to have chronic respiratory, eye and ear trouble. Dinky had to come in for treatment the most often, and so he became tamest soonest.

Volunteer Linda was one of the ones called upon to help with the taming. Here's what she remembers:
I got to know him a couple of years ago when Leslie asked me to befriend him and see if he would let me brush him, etc.
When I first started visiting Dinky in the pen and he didn't want anything to do with me, another of the cats (very feral - he would hiss and spit at me) would herd Dinky over towards me. It was most interesting to observe, as obviously the other cat felt that Dinky needed me!
It took a while, but once he realized how good a brushing felt, I could go into the pen and call "Dinky, brushing!" and he would come out from wherever. Then he allowed me to pick him up and put him on the wooden ledge (easier on my back to brush him). And he just loves to have his head rubbed. That was a bit of a challenge when he had the collar on, but I managed!

White cats are apparently especially prone to skin problems, up to and including cancer, on their sensitive ears. Not long ago, an ugly tumor formed on Dinky's left ear that had to be removed along with the top portion of the ear.

What with meds, a cone from the vet and general discomfort, Dinky wasn't a happy boy for a little while there and would mostly hide behind his privacy curtain. When I visited him earlier this week, he was looking much happier, sitting out in the open where he could check out what was going on and where people wouldn't forget to stop by his cage and pay him a visit. Or two or three.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sara Lee

Since I started volunteering the spring of 2009, Sara Lee has been one of my most dedicated helpers when I dish out the doublewide cats' wet food every week.

 September 2009
Skouch, Sara Lee and Shadow

Given Sara Lee's dedication to helping - "helping" - with the preparation of dinner, it may seem odd that I haven't dedicated a post to her in the past.

The reason is largely a case of mistaken, or at very least uncertain, identity. While Sara Lee is attentive and affectionate for the duration of the time it takes me to serve out 12 large plates of wet food, after this she promptly disappears. Sometimes the confusingly similar looking Noelle will mysteriously appear in her place, the two having somehow pulled a switcheroo while my back was turned.

These sorts of shenanigans led to a long period of uncertainty on my part as to which little black cat I was looking at.

Sara Lee - now that I can be sure it is she - was trapped as a feral youngster along with her sister Sara Lou back in 2003 by Mary Pritchard, having come from one Mary's feeding sites in the Steveston area. Despite being only 1 - 2 years old herself, Sara Lee already had kittens.

Arriving at the sanctuary, Sara Lee and Sara Lou were put in a cage together but, overnight, Sara Lou chewed her way out and disappeared into the back yard. For reasons known only to herself, Sara Lee opted not to follow her sister to possible freedom, instead staying put in her cage.

As a result, while Sara Lou never did tame up, Sara Lee's early and continued exposure to RAPS staff and volunteers turned her into a friendly, cuddly purr-machine who's as comfortable with people as can be.
Especially if it happens to be feeding time.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Later this week, look forward to the stories of Sara Lee and Dinky. For today, I'd like to celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend with a cat-themed take on the holiday.

comic by Ronald Neal

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oh, graceless kitties of autumn!

Yes, it's that time again - time to share a few photos of our furry sanctuary friends taken on occasions where they opted not to sit pretty.

Here's what I was able to round up for the October blooper reel:

photo by Michele 

Logan, post shave (so the graceless part, really not his fault)
photo by Michele 

Who can resist a little pink tongue shot?
photo by Michele 

Salty making is own fun
photo by Michele 

photo by Michele

Sadie vs. plant
photo by Phaedra 

Mario takes his followers' well-being very seriously
photo by Phaedra


Melvin, caught between poses

Zander. Not exactly an unusual pose for him, but still - funny!

Renee, giving the ever-popular back paw salute

Salty, once again just doing his thing

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A Flickr page of Noelle photos by former (and hopefully future!) RAPS volunteer Barbara Doduk describes Noelle as "a tiny little mushy kitty."

photo by Barbara

When Noelle first came to RAPS years ago, surrendered at the age of about 1 1/2 for peeing, staff noted in her file that she was "a funny, hyper cat." Leslie remembers Noelle as so hyper that she could actually be seen doing flips in her cage.

These days, most people will be more familiar with Noelle as Barbara describes her, unless of course they've encountered her when another cat has had the ill manners to encroach on her personal space. At such times, she can be a proper little grouchypants.

  photo by Barbara

It's also important to observe the correct cuddle protocol when it comes to Noelle, i.e., she must be in the mood. I made the mistake earlier this week of interrupting her perfectly nice cuddle with Brigid to wave my arms at her and flash a camera in her face so I could do this blog post. I thought I could make it up to her by picking her up myself afterward. Noelle thought not, at least not right away.

Updated December 12, 2012: I'm sad to report that we lost Noelle today. She had a personality much larger than her diminutive form and her absence will be keenly felt. Luckily, her dear human friend John was able to spend some time with her on Monday night. Here's a photo of her enjoying his company from back in the spring.