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, August 31, 2012


Nala and housemate Mooshie were surrendered to RAPS at the ages of 12 and 13 because their owners were moving. We feel for them, as we always do for senior cats who for whatever reason can't be kept by the people they've known all their lives.

Fortunately, now that Mooshie and Nala have adjusted to RAPS being their permanent home, they seem overall pretty cool with it.

While Mooshie seemed to have perfected the art of photobombing (as Martha can attest), Nala's style, in the evenings anyway, is to enjoy her comfy chair and let the cuddles come to her. She knows they will.

Updated September 9, 2012: When I posted about Nala last month, little did I suspect that would be one of my last opportunities to see her. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Little baby foster kitties Part III

My visit with Ann and her foster kitties this week was preceded by some sad news: the littlest of the runties had begun to show signs of weakening and, despite being rushed to the vet, ultimately didn't make it. Sometimes nature steps in in ways it's hard to like.

But this still leaves eight kittens who need all the attention they can get, greedily sharing nine kittens' worth of love from their human mom and visitors.

Here's what they were up to this week:

Exploring and playing
Sucking on the rim of the bowl should get the milk out, right?
Ayako tries to give the kitty a hint
Kitty thinks: "Prey! I feel an instinctive need to drag this into my lair!"
Learning to use a litterbox... Well, starting to learn
More practice using teeth and claws
Already working on perfecting the cat stare
Play more or sleep?
Getting sleepy...

Monday, August 27, 2012


I must admit, it is often hard for me to distinguish between all the black cats here at the sanctuary.  I have a hard time telling one from another and so many of their names I cover with a generic “puss” till I can find something special or distinguishing about them.
A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Kenya, a feral girl who came to the sanctuary in 2004 and she definitely stands out from the rest of the black cat crowd with her odd but endearing head tilt.  Evidently, this is due to an old inner ear infection that has left her with permanent damage to the balance centre of her brain causing her to tilt her head in order to maintain equilibrium in the world around her.  Fortunately, she seems to manage quite well despite the head tilt - she was climbing and running well (mostly in an attempt to get away from me) and to see her run with her head off kilter is a thing that will make you smile.

Kenya has yet to completely surrender her feral tendencies and was very reluctant to let me get close enough to her to give her a stroke.  I’m told that with a lot of patience and perhaps a little bribery with some canned tuna I may get lucky with her one day, but for now she remains just out of my reach. As people shy as she is however, she is not so feral as to let her guard down and play with a leaf like a kitten with me looking on from a distance.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Do Not Enter": caring for feral cats

While there are many things that make RAPS pretty special, one of the things that really sets us apart is the safe place to live that the sanctuary is able to provide for feral cats. This is something to be proud of, not only  because it's a long-term commitment for RAPS to take in these wild cats, the vast majority of whom will never be adoptable, but because providing them with the care they need to live as long and healthy lives as possible is no easy task.

Volunteers and visitors to the sanctuary will be familiar with this sign that occasionally appears on a cage door:

Sometimes it's there simply because the temporary resident of the cage is a flight risk determined to make life in lock up very temporary indeed. And sometimes it's there because the cat receiving medical attention is a feral needing to be approached with extreme caution.

Recently Dell, one of our ferals who's had a particularly hard time accepting the idea of humans coming anywhere near him, was looking sickly and needed to be brought in from the back pens for medical care. We don't know what happened to Dell before he came to RAPS, but whatever it was taught him to respond to any human presence that makes him feel uncomfortable by rushing and trying to drive the interloper away. Needless to say, capturing him and then daily getting close enough to give him any medication he might need is not an easy task. The only way to capture him safely (for his sake as well as the med staff's) is to net him.

Here, Leslie is obliged to use the net even when Dell is in his cage to keep him still for long enough to treat him.

Sturdy gloves are a good idea too. And you can see what the cats have done to even those over time!

Fluids and meds successfully given, the net is removed and Leslie has to get out of the cage before Dell moves from simply hissing as he is in the photo below to actually trying to chase her away.

So next time you see RAPS med staff setting out with a net, a pair of battered gloves, and a look of determination, think for a moment about how hard they work to look after all the animals in their care, even the ones who will never, ever, say thank you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Little baby foster kitties Part II

Last week I posted about Ann's foster Kaynine and her litter of nine. I went to visit them again this week and will continue to do so a few  more times in the coming weeks until the babies are weaned and ready to go to their forever homes. For those friends of RAPS who haven't been able to meet this adorable foster family (and for those who have but can't get enough baby pics), I'll be doing a short series of posts to document their rapid growth and development.

With just a week between visits, they're already a lot more active and interested in their surroundings. Eyes were already open last week, but this week they seem to be getting just a little bit better at processing some of the information coming in.

They've already gotten pretty good at clambering (all the practice climbing over mom), but Ann's now put down a nice, soft blanket so they can start using those little legs for some supervised walking/stumbling around.

It's amazing how much more cat-like they look after just a week.

... and how much more cat-like they act. Vincent and Ayako came along to join in the kitten feeding and socializing effort. The kittens were delighted and Vincent's charge expressed its happiness in true cat fashion by happily digging in its tiny little claws. I didn't get a picture, but Ayako later captured the moment in one of her wonderful kitty sketches.

cartoon by Ayako
(click on the picture to see a larger image)
Mostly, though, the kittens still look like the tiny, fragile babies that they are, in much need of looking after by cat mom and foster mom alike.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Emery is a three year old tabby Manx. He was adopted twice, the first time as a kitten, and brought back for peeing. I believe his second home was a place where he could be the only pet, but it ultimately didn't stop the problem of inappropriate urination. And so he'll now be living at the sanctuary.

It's easy to see why people would want to try to make it work having Emery in their home, as he clearly loves people. He was behind the drape in his cage when I went to introduce myself this evening, but I only had to say hello for him to pop out to greet me and generally be fussed over.

Ann mentioned that he's not been so big on the idea of other cats, particularly on first arrival at the sanctuary. By the time I met him a few days later, though, he'd at least got to the point where other cats could walk by his cage without him taking exception.

One thing he does like is cat grass. There was a nice little box of it in his cage that, once spotted, so totally captured his heart that there was no room left for me until he'd had his fill. I had to leave him to it and come back later to resume our get-to-know-you cuddles.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jessie (II)

Jessie is another mama cat who ended up at RAPS after being surrendered to the No. 5 Rd. shelter. Her kittens are all weaned now, but this pretty mama unfortunately had the complication of testing positive for feline leukemia. She's now living at the sanctuary, where there are facilities to look after leukemia cats.

Her markings may remind some RAPS regulars of doublewide trailer resident Jingles, but the similarity is only skin, er, fur deep. While Jingles remains a cheerfully grumpy girl much of the time, Jessie is simply cheerful. Even on first meeting she was delighted to interact and receive any cuddles on offer. A very sweet girl.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Loving foster care (for "fatties" and "runties" alike)

As some of the cats who come to RAPS are pregnant on arrival, there's sometimes a need for staff or experienced volunteers who are able to foster mom and her kittens at home until they're old enough to be weaned.

Sanctuary staff member Ann had yet to take a turn at this when a young black female arrived at the No. 5 Rd. shelter with a bellyful of kittens, so it was her turn to be "conscripted" for foster duty. No doubt imagining that her first RAPS litter would be just three or four strong, Ann agreed readily enough... then discovered she would be caring for a litter of nine.

We're not sure what her name was at 5 Rd., but Ann calls mama cat "Kaynine." (Hmmm... wonder where the "nine" came from?)

Kaynine is a surprisingly laid-back mom for one so young, quickly accepting not only her foster human's presence but her assistance with the kittens. Now, with the babies still tiny but getting more wiggly all the time, Kaynine is entirely content to let Ann leave the room with a bowlful of them and help out with the feeding.

Ann's worked out a system by which she relieves poor put-upon mom of first the littlest kittens (or as she calls them, the "runties") who might need a little extra food to help them catch up, and then their bigger and rounder siblings ("fatties") in turn. Kaynine enjoys a little relief from her duties, and the kittens get a little extra cat milk and some human socializing.

Helping Ann to feed the runties on Monday night, I was not surprised to find myself wearing a certain amount of milk. I was surprised to find myself eventually wearing three contented, sleepy kittens like a furry necklace.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fast Eddy

Fast Eddy insisted on introducing himself to me while I was trying to photograph another cat. Bumping my arm when I whenever I took aim, he wore an expression of “who me?” when I looked to see who the culprit was. Like many things in life, sometimes it's easier to go with the flow so I changed my focus and aimed the camera at him. He seemed pleased with this decision.

Judging by his affectionate nature, Fast Eddy would make a wonderful house cat but unfortunately he had been surrendered to RAPS a few years back for the dreaded problem of innapropriate urination. He's a confident cat who likes people but I noticed he could get a little tempermental with other cats trying to hone in on his people time by swatting them in the face as a reminder to wait their turn.

I was curious as to how Fast Eddy earned his name. I could certainly see how fast he was on the make with me, could that be it? Considering Fast Eddy's very round shape I could also guess that he may be fast on the move toward a full plate of food. When I asked Ann about Fast Eddy, she rolled her eyes and said “Fat Eddy is more like it”  and yes indeed it looks as if he enjoys his Fancy Feast a little too well.

Update by Claire August 14, 2012:
Judy from RAPS, who provided a home to Fast Eddy before he came to live at the sanctuary, was kind enough to share a bit more of his story with us. Here's what she had to say:
Fast Eddy was a stray in our neighbourhood. He would wander the street yowling and howling. I finally managed to trap hm and get him in for neutering and the necessary shots. I thought he would be an outside cat so I set about buying a small dog house and setting up a nice place where he could eat. He just didn't seem like the kind of guy who would want to spend any time inside but I was wrong. My husband named him Fast Eddy because he could race in the back door in the blink of an eye. We would be in the kitchen and look down and there he was.....we'd say to each other "how did he get in here" and actually used to check to see if the screens had come off one of the windows.
Unfortunately he started urinating all over the house and Carol agreed to take him to the shelter. He still doesn't like other cats much but has settled in pretty well. Marianne Moore has nicknamed him Roy Orbison because he can do that high pitched howl when he is annoyed either by another cat looking at him or someone trying to brush him or do anything he doesn't think is a good idea. He's turned into a bit of a character.

Friday, August 10, 2012


When I was visiting with and getting to know Gabby last month, the audience was interrupted after a time by the appearance of a shorthaired tabby who sidled up to him, threw a few loving looks his way (which he didn't notice), started washing his face (which he did notice), then settled down next to him for a snuggle.

I believe  -- if the photo I sent her allowed Leslie to play "name that tabby" with her usual accuracy --  that the tabby in question is Pippin, another one of the cats from Princess Street in Steveston (others include Prince, Maddy, and Niblet).

Pippin & Niblet

Seeing sanctuary cats cuddling and generally enjoying each other's company always makes me smile. They may have been lost, surrendered, abandoned, or unwanted, but they can still find and enjoy friendship at the sanctuary. We try to make friends with as many as will let us (and a few who need a bit of convincing), but it's always so nice to see them making their own connections as well.