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 27, 2015

In Praise of Older Cats

On New Year’s Eve, we’ll probably sing, or at least hear, Robbie Burns’ poem “Auld Lang Syne”, which begins with “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?”  It may make us think fondly of old friends, and perhaps a grandparent or elderly neighbour who’s enjoying their golden years.    
Moore House residents Marble & Bluebell - MW
There are societies that venerate the wisdom of their senior citizens but sadly this devotion doesn’t always include the family pet.   It can be difficult and expensive to continue to give an older cat the love and care it deserves and, like older humans who’re past their prime, old cats are sometimes turned over to the care of others.   Worse, an old cat may just be abandoned to the streets, where it no longer is able to fend for itself.  Staff and volunteers at RAPS’ Cat Sanctuary are most most likely the last family these old darlings will ever have so we give them as much love and comfort as we possibly can to make up for the trauma of losing “their people” and their familiar surroundings.  We love being able to do this for them!  After all, like many older humans, senior cats have an abundance of personality and character.  If only they could talk and tell us of the adventures they’ve had in some of their previous lives – remember, cats have nine lives and we know the exciting ways in which some cats have used up a few of them. 
Moore House residents Venus & Smokey - MW
Most of our older cats live in the Moore House, known fondly as the GeriCatrics, where a quieter life and less stress suits their occasionally cranky ways.  But many of the cats at RAPS’ Cat Sanctuary have been there a long time and were adults when they first arrived so they’re getting on in years. Siblings Kiddie and Sadie are among the original residents, having arrived as youngsters, so we know that they’re at least sixteen or seventeen years old now. They certainly don’t look it but they have been slowing down a bit these days, no longer tearing around at top speed as they did in their prime.
Sadie & Kiddie - MW
Everyone keeps a special eye on our senior cats for anything that might indicate failing health or discomfort.  For example, they can easily become dehydrated and require regular sub-cutaneous fluid replacement.  Pretty blue-eyed Skye in the Single-Wide is one of these – she gets the restorative fluid and then lots of cuddles and ear rubs.
Skye - MM
Sometimes, during the cold weather,  a cozy sweater will be provided for the skinny cats or ones whose fur is a bit thin.  Here’s old Fitz, in New Aids, relaxing in his preppy sweater.  
Fitz - MM
Mikey, who’s almost entirely blind, is allowed to spend most of his time safely inside the Animal Care Staff room, being spoiled with special food and attention there.  The rest of the time, he happily but slowly walks around the areas that he’s familiar with.
Mikey - MM
For cats who are already senior citizens when they come to us, there’s a whole building set aside just for them: the Moore House.  It’s a quiet area, away from the comings and goings of the larger areas and not open to visitors.  Here, the old darlings can snooze on the softest beds or bask on the sunny deck, where they can watch the action on the nearby bird feeders.  Frail little Noni spends most of her day relaxing in “her” favourite spot in here.
Noni - MM
Despite their sometimes ragged appearance, older cats are able to enjoy life to the fullest at the Cat Sanctuary.   Here, these “auld” friends are cherished, and not forgot.   Happy New Year to all!!

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Marianne Moore & Michele Wright

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Meowy Catmas to Everyone!

Preparation for Christmas runs apace at home for staff and volunteers alike. Occasionally it edges over into the Sanctuary - decorations have appeared in the courtyard and there is a Christmas tree (out of paw-reach) between the gates that lead through to the back.
But for the most part, the cats are supremely indifferent to the human concerns - that is, until Michele turns up with her camera and seasonal props.
Christmas Zoey

Dodger says "Do I HAVE to?"

Santa April isn't too sure about this hat business

Santa Bantam thinks there have to be some good treats coming to make up for this!

Santa Charlie says "Since you asked nicely..."

Then Debbie gets Diamond and Garfield involved...
We are NOT amused...

But I can wear anything and still look handsome!

What they're waiting for, of course, is the turkey treats that their devoted slaves bring them for Christmas.  Almost worth getting dressed up for!

From all at the Cat Sanctuary:

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Debbie Wolanski and Michele Wright

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A new look at some favourites

Ann, one of our Kitty Comforters, visits regularly on a Sunday afternoon with her two daughters, Ava and Selena. Both girls have a magic touch with cats.   Imagine my delight when some new pictures arrived in my inbox – Selena has a magic touch with a pencil too!

Deety - DW
Selena says:
“I can only come on Sundays because I work during the week but I wish I could come to the sanctuary more often. It's my favourite place to be besides my own home!! My absolute favourite cat there is Puffin, he's perfect and beautiful and I love him...and my other favourite is Dirky. I sponsor both of them!
Puffin - CC
 Other friends I love are Daisy, Yoda, Darwin, Renee, Peppercorn, and Dell!
Daisy - MW
I have two cats at home, Zoe and Oreo, and they are both great!! I've wanted to draw some of the cats for a while now but I wanted to practice a bit since I don't draw animals often. :)
Paolo - MW
The 6 cats that I drew are all favourites of my family!”
Belinda - MW
When these pictures started going the rounds there was instant interest in matching image with original – and it was surprisingly easy!  Selena’s pictures are so full of the personality of her models.
Bubba - MM
We’ll look forward to seeing what else will come from her talented fingers!

Blog by Brigid Coult & Selena Marchetti
Pictures by Selena Marchetti and Candy Chen, Marianne Moore, Debbie Wolinski & Michele Wright

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Black cat syndrome - or not?

One of my favourite jobs around the Sanctuary is taking new Sunday visitors around and introducing them to some of my favourite cats.  Frankly, I’m sometimes better with cat names than I am with people names, but I often hear comments about “how do you remember all those cats?”. A big part of it for me was this blog – Claire began volunteering at the Sanctuary shortly before I did, and she made a project of blogging about three cats a week. I was a regular Neko blog reader, and an increasingly frequent volunteer, and the two habits introduced me to many feline friends.
Belinda - MW
But one thing that people find surprising is the ability to identify the many black cats. There is a thing called “black dog syndrome” which describes the way big black dogs are often passed over for adoption at shelters. To some extent that’s also true for black cats – people don't see past the black fur to the personality;  and then there’s the superstition angle (though in some cultures, black cats are actually lucky!).  But it certainly explains why we have a fair number of black cats around the Sanctuary.
Bear - MW
To a certain extent, where the cat is may tell you who it is.  Big furry Bear lives in the small Leukemia area, and he’s the only black cat there, so it’s easy to pick him out.  Belinda (photo above) is a regular member of the dryer cuddle-puddle in the Single-Wide.
Mikey - MW
Mikey is our only blind cat; he came to us with some degree of sight, but an infection left him without vision. He has taken the med-cage as his sanctuary, but regularly makes his way out into the back pens where he can curl up and ignore the other cats.
Deety - MW
Deety can hardly be missed by visitors to the double-wide; he has his own place on the shelf next to the refrigerator. For some years he rarely moved from it, but threatening arthritis made Catherine start him on an exercise program (taking him to the far end of the Sanctuary and making him walk back), and he can now be found out and about quite often (though he still needs to be lifted back to his perch.
Skouch - MW
Sid - BC
It’s in the back courtyard that our biggest concentration of black cats tends to gather, and one has to be observant of quirks in facial structure or fur quality to be able to tell them apart.  Skinny Skouch is an easy cat to ID, and so is tubby Sid, trundling between visits to his friend Pancake on the double-wide deck and life in the open air.  Sweet Kilmer, with his somewhat bewildered air, is identifiable as our black Manx; Kenya has recovered from vestibular disease, but has a permanent head-tilt. 
Kilmer - PH
Kenya - MW

But there are several cats who take careful examination to make sure you have the right name.  Colin, Luigi, Mistletoe, CIL (named for the paint facility where he was found), Poosie, Ninja – all look fairly similar at first sight, and need careful checking. But once you’ve identified the cat, all the little quirks of behaviour start showing themselves, and the personalities blossom.  
Colin - PH
Colin is a feeding-time boy, a leg-rubber and a prancer when cans are being opened. Look for the lynx-tips on his ears. Friendly CIL has the same broad face as wary Mistletoe, but you can feel the difference in their coats.
Luigi - MW
Luigi sports one white whisker, and a little coloured marking in his right iris. Poosie has amazing dark pupils to her eyes, rather like Deety – and an intense dislike of other cats. Sweet Ninja is also a cat who walks by himself, but in a nice way; he has the softest coat and the most luxuriant tail for a short-haired cat – and true to his name, he loves rapid movement and can sometimes be found sprinting up the back courtyard to the tree.
Ninja - PH
Ninja - MW
It’s sad when potential adopters at a shelter can’t look past the “black cat” label to discover the shades of personality that we are able to enjoy here at the Sanctuary.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman & Michele Wright


Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Trio of Cow Cats

Feral cats come to us in a number of ways. Most frequently someone will report a cat or several cats hanging around, and one of our staff or volunteers will go out and set traps. Occasionally it turns out that the stray does indeed have a home, but often it is a cat that has lived wild for some time.
a part of the complex where a large colony of cats live
One colony of cats that is well-established (at least, to the cats’ satisfaction) is at a nearby composting plant. The staff there had noticed regular patterns of feline comings and goings, and were able to recognise some of the cats. Stephanie, one of our volunteers, has made it a personal mission to identify and trap as many cats there as she can, knowing that this is not the safest of sites for them – coyotes, hawks, eagles and other predators hang around.
Juvenile bald eagle looking for lunch - PH
Any fully adult feral cat may simply be spayed/neutered and returned to the area to take its chance, but when we know of female cats having litters of kittens, trapping them and trying to socialize them becomes a priority.
older cat, too wary to be trapped - PH
Stephanie has observed that many of the cats around the site are black and white, in a variety of patterns (sometimes called "cow cats" from their pattern similarities to Holstein cows), and she has identified the older males who have probably sired most of the kittens. Peony and Della were from a spring trapping at a nearby site, and in May Stephanie managed to trap three black and white girls.  Phaedra was with her when Mya was trapped, and chose the name; Teagan and Kirstie were names chosen by Stephanie for the other two. The three are likely siblings.
The newly trapped Mya  - PH
Phaedra says that Mya was the wildest kitten she'd ever encountered - she made the trap rock and bounce all over the place. For the first part of her stay she was angry and unapproachable, and Phaedra feared that she might never tame up - but then Leslie made breakthrough, much to Phaedra's delight. 
Kirsty kitten takes a dim view of being at the Sanctuary - PH
Kirsty was fostered for a while and then came to join her sisters.  There was a lot of initial hissing, but it proved to be mostly bluff.  Teagan bonded with another kitten, Yorkie, who was very handleable, and she took her cues from her buddy.
Teagan ready to run - PH
When we have really small kittens, they are fostered out for maximum handling, and then go straight to No 5 Road for adoption. But with half-grown kittens, there’s no way of knowing if they will tame, and the med staff at the Sanctuary have taken to a two-step pattern. In the Moore House, where most of the senior cats live, is a separate room with its own patio; we’ve been keeping the kittens there, apart from the general population, but where they can have some of the Kitty Comforters working with them.
For some time we would look into the Kitten Patio and find black-and-white bodies crammed into corners or having climbed up over the windows; being socialised was NOT in their agenda. But gentle determination and regular visits have worked their magic, and the no-longer-kittens were recently transferred to stage two: a transfer to the single-wide trailer.
Mya & Kirstie enjoying their new home - BC
There they are together in one of the large, walk-in cages, and are discovering that humans are to be welcomed; all three happily accept petting, and even belly-rubs (not welcomed by every cat!).
Mya now totally relaxed - MW
Teagan enjoying a stretch - MW
Like Perry and Perkins and Della and Peony, they will soon be released into the general population of the single-wide. They will probably not go to No 5 Rd for adoption; cats from such a feral background are likely not to be great adoption prospects, though if they develop a close relationship with a volunteer, sometimes exceptions are made.  In any case, any potential adopter would need to be very experienced in dealing with a semi-feral cat.
Kirstie wants MORE play - MW
Big thanks to Stephanie and her team for rescuing these sweeties (and many more!).  Quoting Phaedra: "These girls have been a joint effort of love by volunteers, kitty comforters and staff. I'm delighted at how happy they seem and proud to be a part of a team that can work magic like this."

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman & Michele Wright

Saturday, November 21, 2015

“…to pee, or not to pee; that is the question…”

Visitors to the Sanctuary are always reminded that most of our cats are non-adoptable because they may be feral, semi-feral, have health problems or behaviour problems. And most of the latter cats have usually been surrendered to us because of “inappropriate urination”.  But there are various reasons for that situation. In some cats, it’s their way of saying “I’m really stressed”. What that stress may be will vary. Perhaps the people next door have got a dog barking at all hours.  Perhaps there’s a new baby in the home. Perhaps there’s a new boyfriend or too many loud arguments.  The cat lets the owner know that it’s not happy by doing its business in the middle of the bed, or wherever – and next thing it knows, it’s being surrendered to us.
Leland - MW
We don’t know why Leland was left at the vet, but we do know that the kindly vet-tech who took him to her home hadn’t allowed for his degree of stress, or for a well cat-marked apartment. Poor Leland is still stressed, living with us, but he does have some people to love, and we just mop up after him as needed.
Nina - MW
Some of our older cats don’t handle stress very well; Nina has just come to us, rescued from being put down after things changed in her home.  It’s quite possible that when things are calmer for her, she might make an adoption prospect to the right person; she has shown no signs of peeing in her bed.
Tugboat - ML
For people who have multiple cats, having one or more cats acting out by peeing is common. Sadly, it’s all too often human-generated by there being too few litter-boxes, or boxes that aren’t cleaned often enough. Sometimes one cat will ambush another and create a situation in which the subordinate cat associates fear with the litter-box and decides it’s better to go elsewhere. We have had cats brought to us from hoarding situations, or just from multi-cat homes because of this problem. These are all what I would call the situational pee-ers. And there is very little doubt that most often the original problem-solving needs to start with the human – whether it’s an emotional, physical or medical problem – because there’s very little the cat can do…  But just occasionally someone will fall in love with that cat, and take them home to be a one-and-only, and the cat behaves perfectly – as was the case with a lovely Siamese called Tristan a few years back. 
Harry - PH
 We have our share of cats that have the best reasons for being with us.  Harry was left at our gate with a note that let us know that he’d had surgical treatment, but still ruined two floors! 
SweetPea - MW
Our darling SweetPea has no control over her sphincter muscles and leaves a little trail of drips (and the occasional “egg”) for us to clean. Noonie (in the Moore House) and Brady (in Old Aids) are both fragile cats and when weakened, it’s easier for them just to pee than to get up and find a litter box to use.
Jake - MW
And then there are the incorrigible pee-ers – Jake, in the front courtyard, who is everybody’s friend and loves to be carried; Jake wasn't surrendered for peeing, but has taken to it with great enthusiasm -
Elliot - MW
and Elliot, who likes nothing better than to find a lap and be fussed over – in both cases we have to warn visitors not to put anything down because it will immediately be marked! In fact, occasionally Jake likes to mark his favourite people! 
Lucky - MW
Our elegant Bengal, Lucky, probably has a pedigree and cost his purchaser quite a lot;  but once he started peeing around the home, the pedigree doesn’t count! Handsome Tugboat, cuddly Yoda, noisy Booster, elderly Bluebell – they’ve all just got into the habit of “going” wherever they are, rather than finding one of the many litter-boxes around.  It’s hard to know if it’s a habit that could ever be broken, or if it’s so ingrained now that even the most loving private home can’t deal with it.  So instead they have a loving home with us – and we smile and mop up after them!
Leland knows he is loved

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Moira Langley & Michele Wright