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, September 29, 2014

From Swatty to Sweetie

The majority of the cats we have at the Sanctuary are ferals, coming to us from having been living wild, or born of a feral mother. The “tame” cats that call the Sanctuary home are usually here because of behaviour problems: pooping or peeing in the wrong places, or occasionally for biting.
The number of ferals surprises visitors, who see the welcoming committee on Sunday afternoon, and can’t believe that these cats aren’t all dying to find their own homes. Our experience, however, is that semi-ferals are easily spooked by a change in surroundings (see Esme’s story). They’re happy to accept pats and treats and occasionally a good cuddle – but the Sanctuary is home and unknown territory is scary stuff!
That being said, there are degrees of feral – and one of the joys of working with the cats comes when a previously scared, angry cat seeks a volunteer out for head-rubs and stroking.
Bossanova was a pretty scary cat when he first came to us. His cage in the double-wide was to be approached with caution; offering food took a certain amount of nerve; angry growls and hissing welcomed any intruder. And then gradually he realised that we weren’t going to harm him; he progressed from allowing scratches with a back-scratcher to pats from a hand, and eventually to head-rubs.  He now hangs out on the single-wide deck, where he recognises the voices of his favourite people and comes looking for attention. He’s still wary, and a stranger will send him back to his high-up corner, but a familiar hand will bring him down the ramp, drooling in delight as his head is rubbed.
Sarah hung out for a long time in the feral area of the front courtyard. A delicate little grey cat, she hovered on the edge, fascinated by action, but not willing to join in. Sarah’s tipping point was that she’s a chickaholic – when chicken was offered, she wanted in on the action, and increasing exposure to humans handing it out has convinced her that we’re not so bad – she’s become brave enough to be a lap-cat on occasion.
Claire also reported on ginger Gilbert who was first coaxed by Ann into becoming much more sociable and is now positively assertive when food is being offered.  He stands his ground with some of the pushier cats, and will occasionally come for a cuddle for the people he counts as friends when things are quiet.
Orlean is one of our little ginger females in the double-wide. Claire’s blogs have noted her progress from a scared and hissing feral to an attention seeker that enjoys (with the right person) being carried over the shoulder, and who, like Josie, seeks bottom-slapping attention with great delight.
In the back courtyard, sweet Georgina, who used to run away from everyone now waits in the mornings to get petted by Phaedra – and is coming to accept that other people may have gentle hands as well. 
OJ - "What have you got for me?!"
OJ, in one of the feral pens at the back, now comes towards the gate to greet a visitor instead of hiding and swatting.
And our greatest success-story, in the pen opposite, is our beloved Dell, who was once impossible to handle and now waits anxiously at the gate for his friends to pay attention to him.
There are still many ferals in the RAPS Sanctuary population – and some of them may never accept that the humans only want to help them. But it is one of the great joys of working here, to gain the trust – even if for only a few moments – of a formerly scared and suspicious cat.
Blogger: Brigid Coult
Photos: Michele Wright

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jerry - update

The front courtyard has been dominated for several years by this tabby-and-white bundle of fluff.
Ruler of all he surveys
Jerry is one of those cats that is pointed out to visitors not just for his beauty (and he is very beautiful) but because you really need to know where Jerry is at all times.
Jerry - with a little photo-bombing by Dino
Mostly he’s happy simply to lounge around and be admired – but when Jerry’s on the prowl, you have to be super-aware.  He will suddenly decide that another cat has invaded his personal space, and attack – and woe betide the human that gets in his way (the cats can usually look after themselves).
I may look like I'm sleeping, but I'm watching you...

Jerry has had a lifetime history of allergic reactions (when we got him, we had to treat the skin on his tail and hind end, and he had many subsequent flea allergies). Because his immune system is compromised by leukemia, he recently had a hypersensitivity to a parasite treatment applied to the back of his neck. Veterinarians call it "necro-ulcerative dermatitis," and it was confirmed by a skin biopsy. Jerry suffered major fur loss and developed hot, itchy skin and ulcerated sores that wouldn't heal because of his scratching. For some time he looked miserable – as if he were becoming a Sphynx cat. In deference to his feelings we won’t post a picture of him at his worst, but it was looking something like this:

The condition was eventually healed with steroids and antibiotics, plus little vests that were sewn by our wonderful volunteer, Cheryl, which protected Jerry's skin from his scratching. For some time he had to wear both the vest and a soft collar, to protect him from himself.

How long do I have to wear this thing?
Thankfully, Jerry is recovering well. He's out and about, indulging in his favourite pastime of drinking water raccoon-style - he stirs it up with his paws and then licks it off.
His fur is growing back – not yet as luxuriant as it once was, but it’s looking promising – and he’s feeling well enough to be back to protecting his personal space once more.

Admire me - but don't touch...

Blogger: Brigid Coult (with input from Leslie Landa)
Photos: Michele Wright & Debbie Wolanski

Monday, September 15, 2014

Paws to Admire

Have you ever noticed how really exquisite cats’ feet are?  I’ll come clean:  I have a huge foot fetish – or maybe it’s more accurate to call it a paw fetish.  But I’m mesmerized by the beauty of the feline foot.  As I write this, I’m trying to put my finger on exactly why.
Mostly, I think, I’m in love with the shape – often there’s such an elegant length of graceful leg, ending in a lovely big blob of furry roundness – the leg like a dancer’s, the paw like a powder puff.
Jingles just “happened” to have her foot out as I went by – probably knows about my paw fetish and is taunting me

Dancer’s legs.  Note – two background cats trying to get their paws in the picture

Sometimes just the powder puff itself is enthralling. 
Check out Gina’s feet, maybe the poofiest EVER.  Could she possibly have blow-dried them??

 Perhaps Gina has been inspiring the other cats, as someone else is clearly trying to compete with her for the poofiest feet.

Sometimes what I love is the angle of their paws, the way their hind feet jut out from those lovely round haunches at a cheeky side-ways angle.  Did you ever see such exquisitely poofy caramel perfection??
One of the cats in Old Aids – maybe Chip?

Sometimes a cat’s paws stick out enticingly from under a furry flap of tummy, like those of an Emperor penguin protecting its egg.  I also love the way the paws are so often white on an otherwise non-white cat, as if nature had taken a moment to highlight this exquisite detail.
Ben aka McGyver, new guy in the Moore Trailer.  “Love me, love my feet.”

It’s clear (at least to me) that the cats know how beautiful their feet are, and often display themselves to advantage.
Mr. Pink’s Toes
Unknown cat’s bottom I mean foot

And last but not least, there is sweet sweet Cookie, who knows that paws can be useful too.  When I’m sitting on the stairs giving out treats, he’ll sit behind me and use his paw to tap me on the shoulder every time he wants another one.  I don’t have a picture of his feet, but here he is learning to take selfies.  Clever boy, that Cookie.

Blogger: Moira Langley
Photos: Moira Langley and Michele Wright

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Volunteer/Cat Relationship: Julian and Dell

When I take visitors round on a Sunday, I always stop at the back feral pen and introduce them to Dell. He’s been featured here a few times, but he’s worth re-introducing as one of our greatest successes. Briefly, he came in as a fierce attack cat, and eventually ended up doing a 180-degree turn to become a lap-cat.

A large part of that turn-around has come from Dell’s chance to reconcile all his bad experiences in a safe place – he now knows his space, he has his cat-buddies like Gregory.  But a greater part has come from the patience of some of our volunteers – both the regular cleaners and feeders, and the Kitty-Comforters, who make a point of spending time with seemingly timid or isolated cats. And we all have our favourites – many of us take time with a special cat each week; not a cat we could ever take home, but one that needs us nevertheless.

Julian is one of those volunteers. He’s regularly at the Sanctuary to feed and scoop in the single-wide, but he always finds time to head to the back pens and spend some special time with Dell. It’s thanks to Julian, and other volunteers like him, that Dell has become a lap-cat, loving attention.
Julian first came to visit at the Sanctuary almost six years ago. Brought by a friend, he knew from that first day that he was in a very special place, and that he would have some kind of future there. A dedicated cat-guy, he and his wife Michele (who takes so many of our wonderful photos) already have three cats of their own: a nine-year-old tortoiseshell named Misty and two almost six year old tabbies called Sadie and Max (who are brother and sister). 
But having cats at home doesn’t stop Julian and Michele from giving regular devoted time to the Cat Sanctuary. Every week they turn up to do the Friday evening feeds for the cats of the Single-Wide - as Julian says, Michele puts it in one end (feeds) and Julian takes it from the other end (scoops).

Another of Julian’s favourites is in the single-wide – a little grey girl called Simone, who loves to be carried around against a shoulder like a baby. Simone is actually a semi-feral, but in the security of an area she knows well, she loves to cuddle.

And no visit is complete without a stop in the front courtyard to have a little time with Julian’s buddy Bobby. Many cats will roll over and expose their stomachs – and then when you touch, they grab!  Bobby is known to his fans as ‘Belly-Rub Bobby” because he loves to have his stomach rubbed – and he can always count on Julian to deliver the best belly-rubs!
Blogger: Brigid Coult
Photos: Michele Wright

Monday, September 1, 2014


Largely thanks to the work of RAPS, Richmond has less of a feral cat problem than many other municipalities across the country. For years we have been doing a TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program, ensuring that cat colonies do not grow. Sometimes cats cannot be released again because of development in their territory, but there are still many “wild” areas where cats can be found.
feeding site - photo, Kevin Wolanski
Several RAPS volunteers  look after cat feeding sites in such areas,  putting out fresh food and water for the cats living there.   They keep a close watch on these feral and stray cats, noting if any of them require any special care or if a newcomer has arrived in their midst.  
photo, Michele Wright
Imagine their surprise when, on one of these regular visits to a feeding site, they saw a beautiful  Siamese cat resting nearby in her cat bed!   Who knows what brought her owners to the decision to dump her there but her guardian angel must have been watching over her that day!  Fortunately, the volunteer who looks after the feeding site found her before a dog, a raccoon or someone who doesn’t like cats did -  the little waif  turned out to be 17 years old and quite deaf!  She wouldn’t have been able to hear danger approaching and might have met a horrible end.  Instead, she was scooped up by the horrified volunteer, checked out and brought to the safety of the Moore trailer at RAPS’ cat sanctuary, where she now rejoices in the name of “Jamaica”.
photo, Michele Wright
Apart from being elderly, deaf and a just a bit frail, she’s a healthy little thing and is ever so friendly. Like most Siamese cats, she can be pretty chatty but so far her only complaint is when her tail is touched – she doesn’t seem to like that very much.   She’s still very wary of the other cats so is being introduced to a few of them gradually. 
photo, Marianne Moore
She’s sure to have some interesting encounters with some of the other “divas” in the Moore trailer but she’ll have a cage to herself as long as it takes for her to accept her new surroundings and roommates. 
Guest blogger: Marianne Moore