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.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Phoenix is a cat who's striking features caught my eye and led me into territory I normally don't tread. I spotted her sitting in the grass of the Princess Street pen looking so exotic that I decided I had to go in and meet her.

A sleek white cat with what can only be described as black blobs across her face, Phoenix looks as if she'd been the unfortunate loser in a particularly brutal game of paintball. A feral cat, she hid behind a corner of the building warily allowing me to approach no more than ten feet before scampering off again.

Phoenix was trapped along with two other cats about five years ago and leslie showed me an old picture of her and her siblings, Phoebe and Phyllis, that had been featured in an old edition of the Pet Connection. All three cats looked almost identical, white with black blobs on their faces. Sadly, Phoebe has since passed away but Phyllis is still at the sanctuary though the two don't have much to do with one another now.

Scared but watchful, Phoenix was not so skittish that she wouldn't allow me a few sly pictures of her before I left her in peace.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


When feral Peanut was trapped about five years ago, RAPS was told that she'd had a kitten with her. They were able to trap a young grey female, but couldn't know for certain this was Peanut's daughter... until the moment they put the two together.

Here are a couple of snapshots Leslie sent me of Peanut with her daughter, who was named Timmy.

Timmy's all grown up now, but like her mom, still not easy to get close to. Leslie says she's been able to sneak in a touch, but I wasn't so lucky, at least not on this first meeting. Timmy took one look at me and my camera and zipped off down the path to the very back of the back courtyard. 

She soon bolted again and I lost sight of her, only to catch up with her later the same evening when she wandered back to the pen where she often likes to hang out with her mom.

I didn't see Peanut this time, but I did end up following Timmy around the shed a few times trying to get a picture of her, just like I had with her mother the month before.

And, like her mom, after a few circuits of the shed, Timmy didn't look all that bothered by me any more. I don't know that she's anywhere near ready for me to sneak in a pat, but it's a start. 

Monday, June 25, 2012


I met Roland at the same time I met Nadia. While Nadia remained shy throughout the encounter, Roland was skittish and a bit swatty but willing to give me a try.

Roland and Nadia

In his youth, Roland was apparently more than just a bit swatty. Ann describes him as the meanest kitten she ever met. Leslie says he was "an unpredictable teenager who was sometimes nice, but not always." His behavior earned him the nickname "Juvie" for his juvenile-delinquent-like behavior.

These days his interactions with humans are much more positive. Although a little uncertain about an quick movements by strangers, he enjoys being petted. And, if you've got something for him to play with (even a simple stick will do), you'll have his complete attention.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I met Nadia when I was visiting a few other cats I'd recently met in one of the open pens in the back yard of the sanctuary. She was hanging out with her buddy, an orange and white shorthair nicknamed "Juvie" (more on that him in an upcoming post!).

While quite calm and content with her cat friend, she was much shier with me and it was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be able to touch her... which was too bad because she had a wood chip stuck to her chin that it would have been nice to relieve her of before taking her portrait. Oh well...

Nadia seems to be generally known as a shy girl. When she was caged in the doublewide last year before having a dental, no one had been able to get to know her well enough to be entirely sure what her name was. After briefly wondering if this was a cat named Todd, staff established that she was not Todd. And for a little while her nickname became "Not Todd." While perhaps appealing in it's way, this probably wouldn't have been the most practical name in the long run. So Catherine gave the little black cutie a new name: Nadia.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eng Teng

Eng Teng came to RAPS together with Peng Peng.

The pair ended up at the sanctuary after spending the better part of a year in foster care while their original owner received treatment for an extended period of time.

According to Leslie it was "very stressful for the kitties to lose their home and friend, go to a stranger's home (where there were other cats and dogs, and they had to be kept in a small room), and then be moved again to the sanctuary, where they were surrounded by cats and a lot of strange people."

Unlike Peng Peng, who responded to the change with aggression and distrust, Eng Teng allowed her new human friends at RAPS to see her sweet side. Sadly, she went on to become very depressed and developed liver disease. "Fortunately," says Leslie, "We were able to save her with intensive treatment and a lot of attention. She now seems quite comfortable in her new home."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Peng Peng

Peng Peng, along with cat named Eng Teng, had lived for nine years with their owner when they had to be transferred to foster care while the lady received some extended treatment. The cats were fostered by a retired RAPS volunteer for eight months. When the original owner went into an outpatient program, she didn't stay in touch with the volunteer and so Peng Peng and Eng Teng were brought to the cat sanctuary.

When Ayako and I visited last week, Peng Peng very graciously posed for a number of photos, talking to us with little "mrah" sounds all the while. The sign in the "Gericatrics" trailer with captioned photos of all the resident cats describes her as a "feisty girl, a bit unpredictable."

This made me curious about her background, and so I asked Leslie about her and Eng Teng, who I'd also happened to get a few photos of (not knowing at time that they had more in common than their similar names). She said that the loss of their home and the two moves that followed had been very stressful for both cats. Peng Peng reacted "with aggression and distrust for a while."

While Peng Peng seems a lot more ready to trust people these days, it's not fair to expect her to be completely over the big changes to her life over the past few years. I have a feeling she'll hold on to her right to the "unpredictable" label for a while yet.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Who's that kitty? I mean the black one...

I love meeting the many black cats at the sanctuary and count among them some of my closest cat buddies (Colin and Shady to name just a couple), but that doesn't stop it from being a bit of a struggle to get 100% positive ID's on a lot of them, particularly just from a photo.

Here are a few photos from over the past few years of black cats I've admired but either hadn't met properly or couldn't confidently match with a name at the time, and so never got to include in blog posts. I offer them here as a mini photo essay in celebration of our black cats.

(And of course if anyone's confident about a name or two, please write it in a comment. There are 12 photos; you can refer to them by number and I'll fill in any names as they come in.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Harry (II)

Harry is one of the newest arrivals at the sanctuary, having appeared just this past Sunday. As with more than a few other cats who end up in shelters, it was a problem with inappropriate peeing that made his former people ultimately decide they couldn't keep him.

Meeting him on Monday, it was immediately clear that Harry is a darling. In fact, he was moving around his cage so much that it was all I could do to get a clear photo of him. Fellow volunteers Annette and Ed, making their own attempts to document the newcomer, didn't have it much easier.

photo by Ed

photo by Ed

photo by Annette  
(with subject continuing to resist sitting still!)

Despite his exuberance, though, we were still able to see a few telltale signs of stress over the sudden change in his circumstances - a hiss at a passing cat, a low growl when he's had enough of the human visiting his cage...
Winding up in a shelter is a big change for an animal, however friendly and outgoing the personality.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Tibet came to the cat sanctuary as part of the same group that included Asia, Sahara, Cairo and others.

The whole group started off in one of the back pens, but some started showing signs of problems such as eye infections and so were brought into the singlewide for observation and care. They ended up staying there. Tibet stayed healthy, and so he was able to continue living outside.

I met Tibet last week when I was photographing Trixie and other cats in the back yard. I noticed this tabby watching me, seemingly interested but just a bit too shy to approach. I eventually approached him and, after a moment or two of the skittish uncertainty due a stranger, he was delighted to interact.

Once he'd decided I was friend material, Tibet was fully committed to sealing the deal with an enthusiastic performance of cat dances and hand rubs.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gone but not forgotten

Visitors to the cat sanctuary will have noticed a series of wooden cat cutouts painted with a variety of faces, coat patterns and names. This is our own small version of the Rainbow Bridge, the place where all good pets go after they leave this world.

The idea started with a small number of larger cutouts displayed on the fences in the back courtyard. Seeing these, Marianne Moore was inspired a few years ago to start creating some of her own to commemorate the sanctuary cats who are no longer with us. Once she started, she just kept going. "It’s become my way of grieving for and honouring resident cats that we’ve lost –  some I barely knew but they were friends of  other volunteers, many were my own good friends and I’ve shed more than a few tears over those."

Regretful that she hadn't started the project sooner and been able to commemorate all the cats we've lost over the years, she also created a larger cutout dedicated to all "The Unknown Kitties."

And where does Marianne get all the wooden cutouts she paints? She used to clean out Michaels, but even then it was hard to find enough. Recently, Kati DeGraaf, another volunteer, has started producing the wooden shapes to keep Marianne in good supply.

As fellow volunteer myself, I really appreciate having this tribute to the sanctuary cats who've passed away. I've met so many wonderful cats during my first three years at RAPS that I'm unable to easily keep them all constantly vivid and alive in my thoughts without a little help. For those cats who are no longer present and able to remind me personally as they once would have, it's a comfort to be able to go and pass my eyes over the names and faces of all the little wooden cats and take a moment to spare a thought in their memory.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Trixie is a feral who's been at the RAPS sanctuary for some time.

She used to be a girlfriend of Travis, a marvelous tabby & white cat magnet who has sadly since passed away. She may not have found another close cat friend in his absence, but fortunately she does seem to get along with the other cats in general and so can't be too lonely.

In classic shy feral style, though, Trixie is not particularly interested in getting along with people. In trying to photograph her I found myself "chasing" her (i.e., walking very slowly with her scooting away whenever I got too close) around the shed in the open pen where she lives.

She was apparently in a cage in the doublewide for a dental not so long ago, but I never had a chance to meet her then since she opted to hide behind her drape most (if not all) of the time. Leslie says she made a point of trying to sneak in a pat here and there if hopes of getting Trixie even just a little bit more used to the idea of being touched.

For me, while Trixie had no intention of letting me get close enough to lay a hand on her, but by the time we'd done a couple slow circles of the shed, she was allowing me to come a bit closer before she started to get nervous. It's a start.