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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Five from Five Road: 3 - Sparkie

This is the third  in a series of stories about five cats who were recently transferred to the Cat Sanctuary from the Richmond City Shelter because they were considered unadoptable.   (See Lucky and Chester)

In Sparkie’s case, it was because he pees outside the litter box.  In his defence, it’s likely the stress of unhappy changes in his life that brought on this bad habit, since it seems all was as it should be in his previous home.  Sparkie had lived for  all of his eleven  years in a happy home but, sadly and unavoidably, everything changed this past year.  His owner had to move to a care home and leave her beloved Sparkie behind.  The family  tried to find him a new home, but without success. Eventually, they had no other option but to surrender him.  Fortunately for Sparkie, the surrender was to RAPS – not every shelter is willing or able to take in an older cat.  Sparkie started out at the City Shelter but, when his less-than-desirable litter box habits were discovered, he was deemed unadoptable and transferred to the Cat Sanctuary.
It was immediately apparent at the Sanctuary that Sparkie was a sweet and gentle cat, although he was, of course, more than a little overwhelmed at first.  He would burrow under the bedding in his cage to sleep, as if hoping that this new scary stuff  would all go away and he’d be back in his former happy home when he woke up.   Fortunately, he quickly learned that, despite having to share his surroundings with lots of other cats, being at the Sanctuary wasn’t all that bad.  There’s lots of loving from lots of people and he gets to go outside now – pretty exciting for a cat that was formerly strictly an indoor guy!   He seems quite content and no longer hides under bedding. However, he  does have a rather strange relationship with warm and fuzzy blankets!  Brigid calls him “a dedicated kneader “ of anything soft.  She says that, when he gets going, he really puts his back into it and even talks while he’s doing it.  Although it’s pretty funny to see, she doesn’t think it’s suitable for family viewing.   Hmmmm - did he always exhibit this quirky behaviour or did he learn it from Deety, the master of the art of X-rated blanket kneading? 

Whatever strange behaviour he may exhibit with fuzzy blankets, Sparkie is a little gem and very much loved again!
Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Marianne Moore and Michele Wright

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Merry Little Catmas

When I’m not being a cat-slave, much of my life is taken up with music in one way or another, and one of my “hats” is as Chorus Director of Richmond Orchestra and Chorus Association. December is, of course, a busy time for musicians, and the Chorus is no exception – besides Christmas concerts, we have a tradition of taking a small group in what we call our Singing Christmas Card to sing to some of the sponsors and supporters of the organisation.

 Our formal association with RAPS was in the 2013-14 season, when the Chorus invited RAPS to be our Community Partner in a concert called All Creatures Great and Small. But even before then, I have twisted choristers’ arms to fit in a quick visit to the Cat Sanctuary on the Monday before Christmas, between visits to our printers and to the newspaper office. 
Sometimes the cats seem to be interested – though perhaps less in the music than in the possibility that all these visitors might have something interesting with them.

Sometimes cuddles are demanded

Mostly the interest is from the human listeners, and the cats couldn’t care less. But it’s a nice tradition, and one that is eagerly anticipated by the Monday volunteers.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
your ornaments shine temptingly. (x2)
      I want to whack them with my paw
      and grab them when they hit the floor.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
your ornaments shine temptingly

The decorations are up and the visitors are bringing goodies. Barb and Waldi are offering Christmas turkey to an appreciative crowd.

A little Christmas dress-up goes on

though some of us are not amused...

But even Jingles shares in the Christmas cheer occasionally!

The cats wish you all a very Meowy Catmas, and a Happy New Year!

Blogger: Brigid Coult
Pictures by Debbie Wolanski & Marianne Moore

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Endings / New Beginnings

Volunteer Carol Porteous writes:

Reading a recent NEKO file on Autumn (October 13 update) and seeing her beautiful picture in the 2015 calendar (November) I felt inclined to write about “Treat” now renamed Ben.  Ben is one of the six kittens that were rescued along with Autumn.  There was his brother Trick, Pancake and Waffle, Leif and Ariel.  The last four came in first with their mama, and were joined shortly by Trick and Treat
Four of the six kittens that came in with Autumn
I was looking to find a companion for my gentle boy Furrbee.  I wanted to make sure I chose the right forever friend.  
When I arrived at the 5 Road Shelter there were many cats all in need of a good loving home.  I spent time petting and getting acquainted with all the cats but one caught my eye in particular.  He was being very social head butting all the other cats (weather or not some of them appreciated it!)   He was very handsome with an extra long tail and gorgeous markings.   He was a little shy but still enjoyed being petted.
Ben aka "Treat"
A day later I returned to the shelter where I asked some questions about “Treat”.  It was recommended he go to a home where there was at least another cat for a companion.  I felt confident that he would accept Furbee and Furb would like him also.  I decided “Treat” would have his forever home.
I was amazed at how quickly Furbee and Ben accepted each other.
Furrbee & Ben
They quickly became the dynamic duo bonding together like peanut butter and jam.   It was wonderful to see them sleeping in a giant fur ball on the bed and playing together.

It was at the Shelter while adopting Ben that I learned about the “Sanctuary”.  I had never heard about this place but I was urged to go visit.  So one fine Sunday I dropped in to see what it was all about. 
Cats! Cats! Cats!  Everywhere.  All shapes and sizes.  Brown ones, black ones, white ones…was I in heaven?   I could come here and volunteer?  
YES!  I am now very privileged and proud to volunteer at the Sanctuary with such an amazing group of people.   These caring and special people come together to save so many cats - some with medical issues or so-called “hard to adopt” or other problems - and the RAPS mandate is that every life is worth saving.  I knew I had come to the right place.   I am especially touched that there is a special place at the Sanctuary for cats with feline leukemia and feline AIDS - a place where these cats can live out their lives in safety and comfort.  I believe this to be the “Heart” of the Sanctuary and I am proud that I volunteer with these cats. 
Ben has his forever home
So it was my dear Ben who brought me to this "Club Med for cats".  Every time I look into Autumn’s eyes at the Sanctuary I see Bennie’s eyes.  The same beautiful shape and color.   She knows that her son is safe and happy.
A happy ending for Benny and a happy new beginning for me!
Blog by Carol Porteous.
Photos by Carol Porteous & Debbie Wolanski

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Five from Five Road: 2 - Chester

This is the second in a series of stories about five cats who were recently transferred to the Cat Sanctuary from the Richmond City Shelter because they were considered unadoptable.  Chester was believed to be unadoptable because he appeared so unfriendly - scratching, biting or otherwise showing signs of aggression towards his caregivers there.  For a cat like Chester, who was known to be someone’s pet at one time, that kind of behaviour is a defensive one, the result of stress, fear and mistrust.   Fortunately, in a non-threatening environment and shown gentle love, such cats can become affectionate again, and Chester’s now well on his way there.   But he had to use up a few of his nine lives first!     

We don’t always know what trials and misadventures cats experience before they come to RAPS but, thanks to his rescuer, we know some of what Chester had to go through.  It’s a wonder that he trusts any of us at all, and the fact that he’s a pretty nice boy despite all he’s been through is quite remarkable.  His owners had kept Chester outside, allowing him into their house only during feeding time.  Doesn’t sound like a loving environment for a cat, does it?  To make matters worse,  when Chester’s family  moved, they left him outside to fend for himself permanently!  Fortunately, Sharon, a volunteer at RAPS City Shelter, lived nearby and, seeing how Chester’d been treated, she’d been keeping an eye on him all along.  Unable to take him in herself when she realized that he’d been left behind, she started putting  food out for him.  He’d gracefully run along the top of her fence to enjoy his meal but wasn’t going to let her get too close.  On one occasion, Sharon spotted poor Chester cowering under a shrub, being attacked by crows. She was able to chase the crows away and Chester carried on, still homeless.

By the time his people had been gone for about a week, Chester had established a twice-a-day feeding schedule at Sharon’s place and she’d often see him lounging around in her back yard.  But, one evening, he didn't show up for dinner.  Sharon walked around the neighbourhood, calling his name and rattling the treat bag, but no Chester, not then or the next day.  She worried that he may have become trapped in the empty house next door and contacted the agent, who didn’t seem very concerned until Sharon  suggested that a cat pooping or even dying inside the empty house wouldn’t improve its appeal to potential buyers.  That got her inside the house but, even after an extensive search, she couldn’t find Chester.  By this time, it had been three days since she last saw him. She persuaded the agent to leave an upstairs window in the house open just in case he had been hiding too well inside.  Sharon’s persistence paid off – she kept a close eye on that window and, when she had just about given up ever seeing him again, Chester popped out of it and onto the roof of the house! He was so weak, he wobbled with every step. His rescuer, in happy tears,  climbed up onto the balcony with his food dish and he managed to get to it.  It took less than a minute for the food to disappear.  She ran home for more and by the time she came out of her home, he was waiting on her back porch for seconds!  A few days later, she was able to capture him and get him to RAPS City Shelter.  
Soon after his arrival there, after some necessary medical interventions, Chester developed a very bad cold, wouldn’t eat and was losing weight.  Despite his severely weakened state, no one could get near him without leather gauntlets. He must have been so angry and frightened by everything that had happened to him.   Fortunately, the medications he was on began to take effect and he regained his health.

However, by this time, he’d established a reputation as aggressive and therefore unadoptable so off to the Sanctuary he went.  After just a few weeks there, Chester has shown himself to be quite lovable although, not surprisingly, a little wary of people he doesn’t know.  He prefers to hang out on top of the cages in the double-wide trailer or in the back courtyard and enjoys a good ear rub and cuddle if someone takes the time to make contact with him and gain his trust.   He was especially happy to see Sharon, his guardian angel, when she visited recently for a happy reunion.  Let’s hope our Chester finally gets to live happily ever after and doesn’t have to use up any more of his nine lives! 
Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Michele Wright and Marianne Moore

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pauline: The Invisible Cat

I’ve never actually seen Pauline – at least, not all of her. 
The awkward picture is part of the point.  She’s a petite black and white cat who spends most of her time in a little cardboard turkey-bacon box in a hard-to-reach corner of the Moore Trailer, and rarely comes out when people are around.

She’s been a hard one to get to know.  When she first arrived at the Sanctuary, she was just an invisible presence behind a protective drape, apparently frightened, and quite withdrawn.  At first, while she was in an enclosure, it was a little easier to interact with her, but she was extremely shy and very reluctant to let anyone touch her.  She would either hiss, or sit passively, huddled in a corner, unresponsive and refusing eye contact.  When she was let out of the cage, she found herself a secure hidey-hole and pretty much went to ground.  Apparently, she comes out at night for food, etc, but she’s been leading quite a solitary existence ever since.

We know very little of her story.  Apparently feral, or at least semi-feral, she was found in a warehouse in Surrey in the spring of 2013.  Some of her teeth were worn down to nubs (as you can see in the picture).  She had been spayed and tattooed at some point, but of course we don’t know by whom.  She is estimated to be about 11 years old.
Because she is so easy to forget about, the kitty comforters have recently been making an extra effort to draw her out and this is no easy feat.  To reach her, you have to lie down on the floor with a 2X4 in your ribs, support your head on one elbow, and reach around an awkward corner with the other hand to reach inside her box. This means your head is practically in her litter box (LOL).

She can be quite hissy, but seems to like treats, and has gradually come to tolerate a little bit of stroking.  She does not quite have the “horrified-feral stare,” but her body language is usually an un-encouraging blank wall.  She doesn’t actively shy away from a cautious hand, but neither does she do much leaning in to a stroke, or much chin-proffering or head-butting.  

So I struggle with the question of how much to persevere.  When am I actually helping her feel more trusting around people, and when am I invading her safe place and trespassing on her boundaries?  She has made some progress, though, since being at the Sanctuary. I’m told that Catherine can cuddle her.  And one day, Marianne finally got her to purr.  Marianne sent me the following e-mail :  “I spent a little time with [Pauline] today, rubbing her chin and ears, and she started purring.  I could hear and feel it!  She’s quite the cutie.”  Not long after that, Pauline purred for me too.  It was just the tiniest little rumble, and I felt it with my hand before I heard it with my ear.  But there it was, a shy and barely audible sign that connection with her is possible. 
Proof that Pauline does come out of her box occasionally. 
Of course she went right back in after this picture was taken)

I was hoping this would be a story with a super-feel-good ending, but since then, Pauline has mostly retreated again (at least with me).  She still spends most of her time in the turkey bacon box.  Sometimes she is less wary, sometimes more.  Once, she sat with her head poking out of the box watching me carefully, so she could hide behind the scratching post before I approached.  Another time, I swear I saw her roll her eyes when I came in.  Other times she sits quietly while I talk to her, stroke her, and give her treats, but her body language still gives away little of who she is.

So, as of now, Pauline remains semi-feral, shy, a bit of an enigma.  I know she may or may not ever tame up.  But even if she doesn’t, I look forward to discovering more about who she is.  And I hope that over time she will come to feel relaxed and confident enough to come out of her box, to feel safe and loved, and to have the fullest life she can have. 

Blogger:  Moira Langley
Photos:  Phaedra and Michele

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Five from Five Road: 1 - Lucky

Cats who are unlikely to be adopted from RAPS’ City Shelter on Number 5 Road are sometimes transferred to RAPS’ Cat Sanctuary. Two possible reasons for a cat being considered unadoptable are bad litter box habits or bad attitude.  Fortunately for such cats,  neither of those issues is a problem at the  Sanctuary, where a loving home is available for cats who, for whatever reason, have run out of other options.   With plenty of space there for them to enjoy, plus patience and love from staff, volunteers and visitors alike, some cats have been known to overcome the behaviour that made them unadoptable! 
This is the first of a series of stories about five cats who were recently transferred to the Cat Sanctuary from the Richmond City Shelter, where they were considered unadoptable. 

Lucky, a purebred 8-year old  Bengal, has litter box “issues” so his chances of being adopted were not good, despite his handsome appearance and cheerful nature.   He spent his first few weeks at the sanctuary in a large, walk-in cage while he got used to us and vice-versa.  His good looks alone were enough to get him some attention at first and, when he turned out to be such a nice boy, he won everyone over. 

Many Cat Sanctuary volunteers will remember Zulu, another Bengal who lived at the Sanctuary for several years.  Lucky is just as exotic-looking as Zulu but not nearly as vocal!

Almost as  soon as Lucky was allowed to venture out of his cage, he decided that being outside was just too good an opportunity to pass up.  He’s still exploring the back courtyard but, at least for the time being, seems to have chosen the first pen on the right as the best place to be. 

I tracked him down there recently and we had a very pleasant visit.  Although he was much too interested in everything around him to settle down on my lap for more than a few seconds, he was happy to climb up onto my shoulder where he could get a good view of what was going on in the pen behind me.  There’s still just so much for him to see and do in his new home and he seems very happy to discover it all!  
Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Michele Wright

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Volunteer/Cat relationship – Allison and the Front Courtyard Cats

I hope to make a regular feature of some of the volunteers who spend time with the cats – we met Julian in September. When I asked Allison about being part of the series she was at first daunted, and then sat down and wrote pages about her favourite cats. We decided that it was perhaps a little too much, so she decided that what she would do would be to write a poem.
cat-cuddling is fun - but work comes first!
Allison is a regular volunteer at the weekend; she makes spotless water dishes in the front courtyard her particular concern, and she’s a wonderful guide for Sunday afternoon visitors. She has no cats at home – and a non-cat-loving husband – but happily cat-sits for her friends at any possible opportunity.
Allison has a particularly close relationship with Little Orange, in the front courtyard - on a Sunday he waits anxiously for her, and follows her around as she does her chores. Some of it is cupboard love - he's a big fan of the dried chicken titbits she brings - but most of it is that he just loves her.
with Little Orange

Calista became a special buddy when Allison spent time working in what we call the Yellow Door area, where many of the front courtyard ferals hang out. Allison put hours into working with a shy boy called Marmalade, and in the process, attracted his girlfriend Calista, also a feral. We lost Marmalade a while ago, but Calista has joined the greeting crowd, and also looks for Allison on a Sunday.
 with Calista - MW

The Old Aids rooms also get visited, and a particular favourite there is Kojak. He is also a chickaholic, and his addiction has helped him to become braver and braver in approaching visitors
with Kojak - MW

In Allison's own words:
Hi, my name is Allison and I have been coming to the sanctuary for over 3 years now, having become a volunteer about 2 years ago.  And yes, I have a special place in my heart for my friend Cathy, a volunteer who introduced me to RAPS!
I absolutely love the sanctuary and all that it represents: the cats, staff, volunteers and all of our visitors.  It’s an amazing gathering of cats and people which is different every Sunday. 

Boxed cats - MW

I am a gal from Richmond who grew up with loving cats,
So when Cathy told me about the sanctuary it was her back that I gave a pat,
Each Sunday when I go I can hardly wait,
To arrive at the sanctuary and open the gate,
The love that the cats show to me,
Makes it worthwhile getting down on one knee,
I do have to tell you I have some favorites too,
Like Little Orange, Calista and Kojak to name a few,
So come to the sanctuary where you will have fun,
We have warm dry places to sit and watch the cats run!

Non-running basket of cats - MW

Hope you can come and visit us, and remember, every Sunday is different…….meow!
Blog: Brigid Coult
Photos: Michele Wright & Brigid Coult

Monday, November 10, 2014

It takes a village

Not all kittens who come to RAPS are instantly ready to embrace the idea of going to a loving human home. Some were born to feral or semi-feral mothers and need to be given a bit of time to get used to being around people.

These three kittens, Ulysses, Ulrich and Umbria (having been assigned "U" in the RAPS alphabet naming cycle),  were trapped at the beginning of the month and are currently being fostered in the home of volunteer Ann until they're comfortable enough around humans that they can go to the No. 5 Rd. shelter for adoption. They're old enough to be without their semi-feral mom, who was trapped, neutered, and released back to the property she'd been living on, as the owners were happy to have her around.

photo by Vincent Chan
Ann's adult foster cat Henderson quickly became a self-appointed parental figure for the babies, washing them as much and as often as they could stand. His laid-back presence when human visitors are around seems to have been helpful in reinforcing that we're nothing to be afraid of.

photo by Vincent Chan
photo by Michele Wright
To make sure the kittens are as well socialized with humans as possible, Ann has recruited various friends to come and spend time with them. She recognizes that even if the kittens become totally comfortable with her, this in itself won't necessarily translate to them being comfortable with people in general. So she's been opening her home not just to this foster litter, but to several visits a week by friends who come to help get the kittens used to lots of different faces and voices.

photo by Claire Fossey
photo by Michele Wright
photo by Vincent Chan
Fortunately for us recruits, an invitation to visit the home of a friend and play with kittens is hardly a tough sell! And it's great to see how the kittens progress from visit to visit, each time a week older and a week bolder.

photo by Michele Wright
photo by Michele Wright

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Tales - Bitsy

Katie volunteers at the Cat Sanctuary - she has adopted BITSY, featured here, and SPARKLE (more to come).
Most of the Sanctuary cats are considered unadoptable, and we are very wary of letting a seemingly tame semi-feral leave familiar territory (see Esme's story). But volunteers can build strong bonds with cats, and sometimes it produces a happy ending...

* * *


Her first day in her new home

I'm sure a few people may remember Bitsy from last year. Carol had trapped her out at a cement factory and she ended up in a med cage in the Connor in July 2013.  Originally she was brought in with another cat who went to Number Five Road shelter and was adopted.  Bitsy was thought to be feral. After a couple months and lots of love from the staff and volunteers at the Sanctuary she proved to be tame but quite timid.
In September of last year we lost our sweet 17 year old O’Malley and by late October while volunteering in the single wide on my Monday night shift I let Leslie know that we felt ready to bring a new cat into our family. She introduced me to Bits.
The very first time we met

A little thing, with a round body and short little legs, my boyfriend came to meet her and we brought her home just a week or so later.
They recommend taking at least a full two weeks to fully introduce a new cat into a home with other cats and I would definitely recommend that after our failure to do so.  We kept her in her own room for the first six days, trying to split our time between Bitsy and our two other cats, 9 year old Stinky and 17 year old Maggie.  We had the best intentions but eventually Stinky’s curiosity led to an early introduction.
Please forgive the blurry phone picture, she never does this when the good camera is out and it’s too cute not to share

Bitsy and Stinky got along great from the start but it’s been more challenging for Maggie.  It took a few months but they really seemed to learn to co-exist once Bitsy stopped trying to knock Maggie off of her spots on the bed and couch.
"I tolerate you"
Bitsy is doing great.  She has been such a wonderful addition to our family.  We figured out early on that she isn’t really able to jump; she would slowly climb all the way up onto the bed at night and do an odd little half climb/half jump-fall to get back down.  A little search on the internet showed that she was likely an English Shorthair and they are known for not jumping due to their short legs and round bodies (learn something new every day) so we bought her some cat stairs (bottom right of the above photo) and she just loves to hang out on the bed now.
She is talkative, and very playful.  She keeps about 5 toys around her at all times.  We call them her entourage.

Bitsy and her entourage, the white mouse is her favorite toy in the world sometimes she brings it onto the bed

She also loves her wet food.  She knows exactly what time dinner is and she is always sure to remind us.
It took a couple months for her to feel comfortable with us but once she trusted us a bit we were delighted to find out she absolutely loves tummy rubs.  My boyfriend also found a tickle spot on her back; she will kiss your nose or forehead if you get the back scratches just right

We are just smitten with her. 
Blog intro by Brigid Coult
Blog and pictures by Katie Scragg

Monday, October 27, 2014

RAPS Sanctuary Calendar 2015

It’s that time of year again, and we’re just about to launch the Calendar. It’s an important part of our fundraising at the Sanctuary, and it’s very satisfactory to be able to do it with something we love so much! 
We miss Claire Fossey’s camera, and her hand in the blog; her life has become very busy, and allows less time for continuing the astonishing project she began with the Neko files. But Michele Wright has stepped up to the plate and most of this year’s photos come from her hand and her photographer’s eye.
Here are some of the photos that didn’t make the final cut – it was a hard choice, but we think you’ll like the ones that were selected when you see the finished version.
We had first talked about trying to match cats to seasons. In the end, we only had one snowy picture, and our focus ended up being much more on cat-colour rather than on time or place. But this is Claire’s winter view of Cagney.

Lincoln has to be one of the most photogenic cats in the Sanctuary. He was Mr October in the 2014 calendar, and we decided that we needed to feature someone else this year. But what a beautiful boy he is.

We all liked this picture – the problem was that we couldn’t decide which of many black cats it was!

Adam is one of the cats that came to us from No 5 Rd, passed over in a season that had too many kittens and not enough space at the Shelter.  He and his pretty girlfriend May are often found together.

If you ever arrive at the Sanctuary in a bad mood, Bella puts a smile back on your face. This funny girl is a FIV-positive cat, but continues in good health.

This beautiful picture was one of a series of black-and-white studies Michele made. We loved it, but it felt out-of-sequence with all the other colour pictures.

We wanted a tricolour cat and this one of Sweet Pea was just beaten out by another. Sweet Pea’s many friends will have no problem hearing her little trill (and remembering avoiding her dirty bottom!)

Jenny is a single-wide cat, and a cuddle-bug – she has the most beautiful eyes!

Amber is, as always, poised for escape!

Like Lincoln, it’s almost impossible not to get a good photo of Princess – such a pretty girl!

The Calendar will be available from the Sanctuary, from volunteers, at the No.5 Rd Shelter and at the Thrift Store on Granville. It makes a great Christmas (or pre-Christmas) gift for cat-loving friends and family.
We hope you'll enjoy it!