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, March 29, 2015

The Sound of Mew-sic

Visitors to the Sanctuary are often surprised by how quiet the place is. Other than the occasional plane passing over, and some distant traffic noise, all is very peaceful. Unlike dogs, who are often very vocal, most cat communication lies in body language – both posture and touch.  There are, of course, sounds we would prefer not to hear – the hiccupping noise of an incipient hairball, the occasional spat as Treacle warns someone out of her space, the muttering of grey Leland telling us he’s in one of his bad moods. 
There are one or two particularly noisy cats, chief among which has to be Booster, who perches in the corner of a cage and yells until someone comes to pay attention to her.
Josie waits impatiently for Doug (or any other Josie-fan) to come and pat her bum – whereupon she trills her little Josie-song.

Other cats are noted for more subdued vocals.
Bubba, in Old Aids, talks to his favourite people until he is hugged, as he wishes.
Lucky is pretty quiet for a Bengal – but when he raises his voice, you hear it!
Cisco (on right, with Yoda & Fred) is vocal in his impatience in the tea-room as he waits for someone to pour coffee, and give him a little taste of cream.
Max, in the Val Jones, talks in a whiskey baritone.

On Sundays the vocals are dialed up as afternoon visitors arrive, and cats swarm the gate, saying “Feed me!  I’m starved!”  Wayne appears with his chicken offering, and the clamouring gets desperate. The same phenomenon occurs every evening as the feeds begin – there is always a chorus of already-well-fed but hungry cats.
Back courtyard Owl is particularly vocal when chicken is about,
though in this case it was a small moth he was after!

Pictures of cats with open mouths got me thinking about what they might be singing

O Solo Meow - Dodger
Purrrfidia - Esme

The (would-be) lion sleeps tonight - Achilles
Stray Cat Strut - Birdie
My purr will go on – Little Orange (PH)
(Everything I mew) I mew it for you - Skye
You got a fur-iend  - Skouch
Good vibrations - Arnie
What does YOUR cat sing?
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by (mostly) Michele Wright
with Brigid Coult & Phaedra Hardman

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Volunteer/Cat Relationship - Moira: Kitty Comforter

I discovered the Cat Sanctuary about two years ago when I took a stray cat in to the shelter.  The cat had been yowling piteously outside my house, obviously in some distress.  I gave him food and water, put an ad on Craig’s List, and resisted the urge to let him in the house, where I knew there would be trouble with my own two cats.  By the next day, he had found his way up to my sunny back patio, had stopped yowling, and was grooming himself contentedly on a deck chair.  He looked like he had really been around the block, and his body language said, “Phew – I’ve finally caught a break here.”  How it ripped my heart out to have to take him to the 5 Rd Shelter. 

But I couldn’t get him off my mind.  I tracked him down to the Sanctuary where he had been moved because he had FIV and was not adoptable.  My cat had now become Panther and was settling in in the New Aids building. 
Panther - relaxed and at home in the New Aids building
summer 2013

Panther grieved for a while, but in the fullness of time he settled in, and looked deeply relieved to have found a safe, warm, loving place to spend his old age in.  He obviously remembered me, and whenever I came to visit, he would come up to me with his funny old wobbly legs and smile at me and nuzzle me and look content.  Panther went to the Rainbow Bridge in April of 2014.

But I stayed on.  In myths and fairy tales, the hero is often lured away from their normal daily life into a new challenge or adventure by an animal that they follow into the unknown.  In a sense, this is what Panther did for me.  I like to say that although I brought him to the cat shelter, he also brought me there, and introduced me to a chapter of my life that has been incredibly rewarding and satisfying:  volunteering as a kitty comforter.

One of my favourite things to do is to sit on the couch and see how many cats I can get to sit on me at once.  I think my record is about seven.  This is paradise.

Covered in cats

I also love the pitter patter of little feet on my back.  This is how I made friends with Bella, and also dear, sweet George, who I especially love because he lets me hold him in my arms like a baby.
Bella on my back

George on my back
And being insistently snuggled.  Hannah is especially good at this.

Hannah - my best snuggler

And having Tugboat hound me for treats.   All I saw was a black blur as he tried to storm up my leg.
Aerial view of Tugboat, storming my leg for treats

And I fell completely, completely in love with Larry, surely the handsomest cat in the whole shelter.  I can’t resist his cheeky little face, that darling little pink bip under his mouth, those wide, innocent eyes, and his funny little bow-legged walk. 
Larry - such a looker. Clearly knows how handsome he is.
Butter wouldn't melt in that mouth
It sounds as if I never do anything serious around the Sanctuary, but I do.  I spend a lot of time in cages with cats who are sick, on the floor coaxing the ones who are shy, helping newcomers adjust emotionally, giving face time to those who need a bit more love, or trying to tame ferals.  I love all of it, even when it means mopping up puke.  Thanks, Panther, for bringing me here, where I’ve met so many wonderful cats and people who have brought me so much joy.

Blog and photos by Moira Langley

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Adoptable? - or not? - Part 3: the Health Problems

Like any human population, our Sanctuary cats run from fit-and-healthy, never-had-a-sick-day-in-my-life cats, to those who constantly seem to reappear in med cages for antibiotics or TLC. Just like humans, they pass their germs from one to another, and the current batch of colds reminds us that humans may have a flu-vaccine, but nobody has solved the problem of the common cold – in either humans or felines.
Because RAPS is a no-kill organization, we do all in our power to keep our cats going as long as they are happy. Kidney disease and  thyroid problems are the most common ongoing conditions in an aging cat population, but any cat that is still interested in life, and especially in food handouts, is treated and kept pain-free as long as possible.
However, anyone taking on one of our aging felines is likely guaranteeing themselves some serious vet bills, and a greater degree of care and attention than many healthy cats need.
Noonie - PH
The more manageable health problems are largely the cats that carry the feline AIDS and feline leukemia virus. Many of these cats are well loved by volunteers – their health issues mean that they need to be separated from the general population, but they don’t mean that the cats can’t be visited and loved, with basic cleanliness precautions for the sake of the cats themselves. Some of these might be technically adoptable, but with warnings and restrictions. For more about FIV cats see HERE
Tanner - MW
Cats with feline AIDS can live full lives, and live together – the AIDS virus is transmitted through biting, and with neutered cats that get on amicably, it’s not an issue. The cats, however, should have no access to outdoors, both for their own protection and for the protection of any other cat they might encounter.
Bella's innocent face disguises bad bathroom habits - MW
If you take a leukemia cat into your home, you’re taking in possible heartache – we never know how long they will live after diagnosis. Some cats, like Bella,  have lived with it for several years; others don’t last long because their immune systems are severely compromised. Because the leukemia virus is transmitted in saliva, they should have absolutely no contact with any leukemia-free cats, and must never be allowed outside.
For more about FeLV cats, see  HERE 
Merlin - MW
Merlin was one of our leukemia cats who got adopted out. A big, seemingly healthy cat, he’s proved himself a bit of a bully with the other cats, but loves human attention. Unfortunately his adopter was not able to manage the security issue, and Merlin made his escape. A leukemia cat on the loose is a danger to other healthy cats, and RAPS staff had to swing into action and go out to trap him, returning him to the safety of his Sanctuary home. 
Whiskas Gideon - MW
Med staff Leslie tells me that we’re willing to adopt fully tame AIDS and leukemia cats (not semi-ferals) to dedicated indoor homes that already have other cats with the disease, or to people with big hearts who have no other cats, and who'd like to take care of such a cat for whatever lifespan he/she may have. They need to have the financial resources to pay for bloodwork and antibiotics when infections occur. A home visit may be necessary in these cases to assess the escape risks; for instance, an apartment is usually going to be safer than a home that opens on to the great outdoors.
But the most important factor (and with any other tame cat that is considered for adoption) is the happiness of the cat in question. If it is comfortable with its fellow-inmates at the Sanctuary, and interacts well with them, it may be best left in place. If it is more of a loner, and obviously prefers human company, then it may well be a candidate for adoption. That’s one reason that many of the adoptions from the Sanctuary in fact go to volunteers – those are the people that spend the most time with the cats in question, and build a bond that can survive what may be a difficult transfer, in a way that no casual visitor can – see last week’s story on how Buster has gone home.
Buster - MW
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman and Michele Wright

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Buster comes home!

Buster was introduced to us by Claire here and here. Any volunteer working in the Moore House will have stories to tell about this unhappy boy.  But that was in the days before Maureen came into his life!

I remember the first time we saw Buster!  It was our first visit to the cat sanctuary and my sisters and I had parked our car next to the Moore House.  Once out of the car we saw him, a glorious white mass of fur rubbing up against the mesh wall of the patio.  Chris reached in to pat him and woosh…out came a claw and the warning ‘stay away from the big white guy’ was born!
Buster - PH
Easier said than done: I found myself feeling sorry for Buster more and more as the weeks, then months went by.  We always finished up our volunteer hours (yes, we immediately wanted to become volunteers after visiting the sanctuary) in the Moore house and I tried to befriend Buster in different ways.  But to no avail.  It was even noticed by others that he hated the sound of my voice, which would be LOUD, and displayed this by leaving when I would show up.  If I sat on the patio – he went in.  If I sat on the couch inside the trailer – he would go out on the patio.  
Buster - PH
When I first decided to share the idea that had been floating around in my head of taking Buster home, no matter what audience I had, the response was always the same …”Are you insane?!”  I was convinced it would be impossible for Buster to keep up with his fa├žade of despising cats AND humans forever therefore; on Christmas Eve it was my pleasure to be able to pick the big boy up…he was after all part of the master plan.  Thanks to Leslie not worrying about losing digits or having parts of her face rendered unrecognizable within minutes, we managed to net him and get him in a kennel.   And it wasn’t until the unveiling in his new home did Buster decide life could be good!  He came out purring and has not stopped for two months
Apparently I get a larger garden planted just for me in the spring!
His very first night in his new home was spent by my head on a pillow.  He has now since moved down to the end of the bed because I think my snoring bothers him…I’m trying to keep it down. 
Just resting my eyes..... zzzzzz...
Buster is a lovely, loving boy. 
Must be hugged regularly
I did not expect him to turn around so quickly.  He follows me around like a puppy dog and is perfectly trained…he does not sharpen his claws on the furniture and keeps his potty area clean.  I now have him on a grain free diet to help with his weight and we do a lot of playing on my deck with his pom-pom ball and a laser light at night.
One of many sunrises together on the catio!
Lovely... now where's my beef pate?
 He will be looking and feeling better soon as he no longer has to eat to forget! Buster would also like his bio to include that he is afraid of lady bugs, TV and the wind.  He enjoys baroque chamber music and is learning sign language. 
My mommy says the King of Venice rules the body pillow tonight
- Bellissimo!

Esconced in purple velvet...

Fun times are ahead for Buster & Maureen!

Blog by Maureen Lahaise
Photos by Phaedra Hardman and Maureen Lahaise

Monday, March 2, 2015

Blanche - another orange female cat

Like Brady, who arrived last year around the same time, Blanche is another of that very unusual species of cat - an all-orange female. 
Blanche was surrendered by her owners whose patience was stressed to the limit by her howling to be let out, starting at 4:30 in the morning and continuing throughout the day.  The only time she didn’t deafen them with her cries was when she was allowed outside.  There was obviously nothing physically wrong with Blanche because she was happy and active (and silent!) when she was outside but her owners weren’t in a position to allow her out as much as she wanted.  Their local SPCA indicated that, if Blanche were surrendered to them, she would be considered “unadoptable” and probably …..  well, you know what.   Her family loved Blanche and weren’t willing to allow any such sad ending for this sweet little cat.   Fortunately, they discovered RAPS and Blanche now has a forever home at the cat sanctuary, where she can be outside just as much as she desires.   But that’s not how things started out for Blanche.
photo by Michele Wright
When Blanche first arrived, she was put into one of the large walk-in cages assigned to new cats until they get used to their new environment and the strange faces (human and furry) around them.  Although there was barely a “peep” heard from her during the daytime, one of the early morning Animal Care Staff was witness to the 4:30 howling that Blanche’s owners had put up with for so long.  Once her cage door was opened and Blanche could have come out,  all the other curious cats wanted to get in and get up close and personal with the newcomer.   Their presence was definitely not welcomed by Blanche,  who hissed to chase them away and then retreated to the back of the cage if any intruder got past her.  Not a happy start!  But, determined Blanche eventually began to venture out from her cage - into the main areas, into the laundry room, on to the porch (hissing at any cats who got in her way)  and then finally one happy day - outside  into the back courtyard!    That’s where I found her the other day, out in the sunshine, enjoying the garden and exploring in one of the back pens.
She seemed very content out there and happy to have some petting from me but still not quite willing to share any of her space,  not even the great outdoors, with those other cats. 
Does she still howl at 4:30 a.m.?  I’m not sure, but if she wants to get outside now, she can do so at any time of the day or night.  And as for all those other cats around? Well, there’s lots of room out there for everyone,  as the rest of them have found out, and she will too.   Another happy ending for a cat with “issues”, and one more unusual orange female cat for us to admire and love!     
Blog and photos by Marianne Moore