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.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Another Happy-Ever-After

Claire introduced us last year to handsome Larkin, who came in to the Sanctuary in April 2014 as a very scared boy, and gradually gained in confidence as he discovered nothing but love from staff and volunteers.  Larkin was one of the cats who would probably have struggled at the 5 Road Shelter, but who was able to take his time at the Sanctuary to acclimatize and discover that there was nothing to fear.  He captured the heart of volunteer Bev who spent regular time visiting with him until he looked forward to her visits.
at the sanctuary - MW
Bev writes:
Larkin came home with me on Oct. 29/14 after some encouragement from Leslie who knew that I had lost a cat in July and was looking for another.  She loved little Larkin and convinced me that I would too.  I had a 15 year old cat I adopted from RAPS in January of 2000 and was concerned about how they would get along.  Seamus has arthritis and moves slowly and stiffly but is generally a pretty nice guy so I hoped it would work.
Larkin remained in hiding for about two weeks after he arrived, but I noticed that he came out during the night to sleep in MY chair – and, of course, he was eating and drinking.  After two weeks he appeared during the day and we haven’t looked back.  Patience can often be necessary when a shelter cat is adopted – they need to come out in their own sweet time.  

Larkin seemed a rather sedate name for such a little force of nature – he literally gallops around, doing high-jumps over the bed when I wake up in the morning (knowing feeding time is near).  He became Scooter and he almost immediately decided he loved Seamus and Seamus, much to his own surprise I think, was quite taken with the little guy. 
Scooter (top) with Seamus - BJ
 They walk around side by side, head-butting and touching noses.  It’s very sweet and makes us all very happy. 
loves his feather toys! - BJ
Scooter will now allow me to pick him up and will sit on my lap for brief periods.  He loves to be petted – ears, chin and tummy rubs are expected - and he actually asks for attention.  He is also spoiled with special wet food twice a day (small amounts only, of course) and he has a good appetite and has probably grown a little.  When Leslie came to visit him, he hid on her – guess he didn’t want her to take him back to “the farm”. 
happy at home - BJ
Now that he’s more comfortable and settled, we’re hoping she’ll come back for another visit.  He is adorable and the three of us want thank Leslie for her “match-making” skills!

Blog by Bev Johnston
Photos by Bev Johnston & Michele Wright

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Different Slant on the Sanctuary

As you walk around the Sanctuary you will notice several cats that carry their heads with a slight tilt to one side. In most cases, this is an aftermath of vestibular disease. It may come on very quickly. It affects the cat’s inner ear, making the cat suddenly become uncoordinated – frequently staggering or falling, sometimes walking in circles. The eyes dart back and forth (nystagmus). Occasionally the condition may be caused by a tumour, or by an ear infection, but in many cases it’s idiopathic, meaning “we don’t know!”
There’s little to be done other than keeping the cat in a safe place so that it can’t fall. An antibiotic can help rule out a standard ear infection, and an anti-nauseant will make it easier for the cat to eat – the sensation must be like living with sea-sickness. In most of our big cages the mid-level shelf is taken out so that the cat doesn’t attempt to jump and then fall, and the floor is well covered with bedding. The latter may have to be changed frequently, because an uncoordinated cat sometimes finds it hard to use the litter box.
Yoda - ML
A frequent greeter at the gate to the back courtyard is Yoda. His go-round with vestibular disease was some time ago, but the head tilt is still apparent. It doesn’t stop him being one of the most attention-seeking of the cats. With his favourite human friends, he likes to climb up and put his paws around your neck, butting his head into your hair. My Friday mornings begin with cleaning the volunteers’ Tea-Room, and Yoda is always there for a morning greeting.
Kenya - MW
Also hanging around the Tea-Room is a small black cat, instantly recognizable by the head-tilt. We have a number of black cats, and it’s not always easy to tell them apart, but you never have problems identifying Kenya.  She’s still very shy, but in the last year or so has become more accepting of attention, and ready to interact with a few humans.
Tibet - DW
Rarely in the Tea-Room, but often in the courtyard just outside is Tibet, with his beautiful  brown-black markings. Tibet was very wary of humans before his encounter with vestibular disease, choosing to approach only a few; weeks of cage-time and human attention have turned him into a boy who loves to be petted, frequently jumping up on the table to get really close.
Babylon - MW
Interestingly, the king of head-tilt – Babylon, in the single-wide – came into the Sanctuary with the group of cats that included Tibet. There doesn’t seem to be any resemblance between them, but one wonders if there might not be a genetic quirk in common. Babylon remains very tilty-headed, for the most part, but it seems to be a habit more than anything – he can straighten himself up, and he can also turn his head around rather like an owl. Like Tibet, the human attention he received as part of his care has turned him from being a shy boy into an attention-seeker.
Paulo - MW
Paulo, in the front courtyard, is in a different category. One of the family of our little one-eyed Val, he had a go-round with vestibular disease a while ago, and emerged with a bit of a tilt, but otherwise all right. More recently he had a more serious episode that may just have compounded what had gone before, or that may have been a mild stroke. He had a long period of cage-care, and though he’s been out for some time, he still staggers, and is pretty uncoordinated. But he loves attention and his brother Silverfox has been seen taking care of him from time to time – sideways stagger and all, Paulo is very much part of the front courtyard crowd.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Moira Langley, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Adoptable? or not? - Part 4: the semi-ferals

In an earlier “Adoptable? – or not?” blog, we were reminded that most of the cats at the Sanctuary are here for life – because it is just that: a sanctuary. We all know that there are too many cats out there, and that there are municipalities in which they would get brought in and “euthanized” immediately if not deemed adoptable. Because of the vision and determination of Carol Reichert and the Board of RAPS, a no-kill shelter and sanctuary are a blessing for the city of Richmond, and for the animals they serve. Feral cats, cats with feline AIDS or leukemia, cats with behaviour problems – all get to live out their lives in well-tended and well-loved peace.

The fourth category, that of “semi-feral” is a hard one to define, though. Experts tell us that there is a window in the life of a kitten during which it is usually possible to socialize them and get them used to human handling, and if you don’t hit that window correctly, the kitten won’t tame. For that reason, during “kitten season”, the litters that come in, go to volunteers for home fostering and intensive hands-on care.

Foster-mom Kati's V-litter - all now safely adopted out
Even within a group there will sometimes be one who never really tames, and who, rather than going to Number 5 Road for possible adoption, will end up coming directly to the Sanctuary to join the other ferals.
Sandy & Pebble - MW
Sandy and Pebble came to us at the age of about 6 months. Staff and volunteers spent considerable time with them, but to no avail – they continued their feral behaviour and are much happier out in the back pens.

My own little girl, Kissa, is technically a feral – she came to me (privately, not through a shelter) as a very young mum with four kittens; the kittens all got adopted out, and I was left with this skittish teenager on my hands. She has to be nearly 15 now, and with me she’s very affectionate; but when anyone else comes in the house she goes into hiding. It takes a special person with a lot of patience to get to know her.
Kissa - BC
That patience applies to many of the Sanctuary semi-ferals.
Gilbert - MW
Gilbert is a prime example of that – from being a terrified feral hiding on a shelf, he now allows himself to be a lap-cat (with a little help from tasty treats!). But our experience with Esme and Jenny has taught us that a semi-feral reverts very quickly when in unfamiliar territory. If there is a strong bond with the adopter (most frequently a volunteer who interacts with the cat on a regular basis), the hurdle may be overcome, but for the most part we’re reluctant to remove a scared cat from an area it knows, and from a community of cats with which it is familiar.
Lana & Salty - MW
And in some cases, the cat in question is a valuable member of the community. When we lost our dearly beloved Mario to cancer, it was not just the volunteers and staff who grieved, but also Mario’s “harem” of boyfriends and girlfriends. It was Salty that stepped into the breach and took on something of Mario’s mantle as the comforter and the cuddler; brought in as a feral kitten, Salty belongs on the double-wide couch with his snugglers.
The couch cuddlers - with Salty at centre
There are many other cats like this. They accept human attention (especially where food is concerned), they seem to be tame – but when under stress, they revert to the wild things they were when they arrived. The stories about Jenny and Esme are warnings for us all, that being comfortable in their environment is vital for these cats, and an adoption can be more traumatic that we know – and even tragic, if a former-feral takes the opportunity to escape.
However, let’s differentiate between former ferals and strays – with the latter there is hope. 
(See the last in the Adoptable? or not? series - upcoming....)

Blogger: Brigid Coult
Photos: Brigid Coult, Kati Degraaf, Michele Wright

Monday, April 6, 2015

Winky and Sparkle

Some cats that have been surrendered from loving homes adjust quickly to life at the sanctuary, while others really seem to struggle with the dramatic downturn in their lives.  Sparkle and Winky represent one of each possibility.  Their owner had to move to a care home last year and couldn’t take her beloved cats with her.
Winky & Sparkle - MW
Sparkle and Winky were both mature cats (13 and 12 years old, respectively), which usually means that a move away from their familiar surroundings and special person is particularly stressful for them.  
Winky - MW
Winky adjusted quite well, especially after a good grooming session to get rid of some “tangles”. She is another of those unusual  all-orange females with maybe some Manx in her family tree, given her stubby tail.  She seemed quite relaxed and even happy at the Sanctuary almost right from the start. 
Winky - MM
Unfortunately, it was a different story for Sparkle.
Sparkle - MW
Although very friendly and accepting of whatever attention came her way, Sparkle remained withdrawn and seemed depressed for some time.  Fortunately,  once staff and volunteers, including the kitty comforters, noticed her mood and began to single her out for special loving attention, Sparkle started to look a bit more cheerful. She began to explore her new surroundings, mingle with the other cats and she discovered the comfy chairs on the sunny deck of the Moore trailer. 
Sparkle - PH
Then, something really wonderful happened to Sparkle to make up for her past loss – she went to a new home with volunteer Katie and her family!  Sparkle became instant best friends with the family’s 18-year old calico cat, Maggie - a huge surprise since Maggie has never been known as a “cat enthusiast”, despite being a cat herself.  The two of them spend a lot of time hanging out on the bed in their own little calico-cat-club.  Sparkle has turned out to be a very social and outspoken cat who loves to greet her new family and their guests at the front door and tell them all about her day.
Sparkle - KS

She even joins in the cooking, meowing away while pawing at legs for pats and wakes up her new family every morning by pawing at hands, legs or hair – perhaps her way of returning the favour of being petted so much herself these days? 
Winky - PH
Winky spent only a little effort wondering where her pal Sparkle went but then continued to cruise along placidly at the Cat Sanctuary, still “pleasantly plump” and seemingly content with life in the Moore trailer. She’s very affectionate and loves being fussed over and brushed.   She  hasn’t been fortunate enough yet to find her own forever home but Katie visits her often to let her know that her cat buddy Sparkle is loved and well taken care of. 

Blog by Marianne Moore & Kathleen Scraggs
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Marianne Moore, Kathleen Scraggs & Michele Wright
UPDATE - May 2014 - Winky has gone to her own home. Happy days, sweet girl!