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