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, May 31, 2015


It’s not easy to write about a cat who’s rarely sighted and then only fleetingly, as elusive as his name.  However, since Shadow was mentioned in his brother Chateaux’ blog, it’s only fair that his story be told too. 
A good-looking all-grey boy, Shadow (formerly known by the slightly more appropriate name of Ashes), came to the sanctuary about nine months ago.  He and Chateaux had been adopted from another shelter but their new person wasn’t able to deal with the needs of two young semi-feral boys.  They never had the opportunity to become affectionate or even trusting around people, so they were surrendered to RAPS.  Unfortunately, Shadow tested positive for feline AIDS so came directly to the Cat Sanctuary, while Chateaux stayed on at the City Shelter for eight more months before being transferred to the Sanctuary.
Shadow lives in the New Aids area, where he started out in a cage, hissing and spitting at anyone who dared to open the cage door.  If I squished myself into the cage beside him and talked to him quietly for a while, he’d calm down enough to let me put my hand near him and sometimes even allowed a quick whisker rub or two.  Now that he’s no longer caged, he dashes outside whenever a scary human being enters the building.
Phaedra, who knows and loves the New Aids cats better than most of us, says that he has big trust issues – that when he’s caged he will allow himself to be petted, but when he’s not in a cage, the room isn’t large enough for him. The usual sighting of him is a grey streak heading out through the cat door. Once outside, he scoots behind the lattice board leaning up against the wall and peers out suspiciously – though he does seem to be interested in comings and goings, and Phaedra’s pictures of him were taken while he was watching her clean out the rabbit pen. 
Only once did I find him inside the New AIDS building, sitting quietly under one of the big scratching posts, with no escape route towards the cat door.  Much to my surprise, he stayed where he was while I approached him ever so slowly and then he let me give him a quick little ear and cheek rub.  Very nice, until he realized that he could still get away from me by slipping under a nearby chair!  That was enough human contact for him for one day, but very encouraging for me.  
He’s warming up slowly – but on his own time schedule.  Just the other day, when he was sunning himself on the outside tiles and I was handing out treats and catnip, he let me get within a few feet of him so there’s still hope that he’ll become friendly one day.  Would it help if we got his name right, I wonder?

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman & Marianne Moore



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Adoptable – or not? – part 5: Find me a home!

The four blogs earlier in the series have addressed some of the issues that come into play when deciding if a Sanctuary cat might possibly be a candidate for adoption.  Feral cats – no…  Health problem cats -  only with due care, and knowing that you’ll be taking on a financial commitment. Behaviour problems – occasionally, but usually only if that cat will be an “only”. Semi-ferals – usually not; no matter how “tame” they may appear, there’s a wild kitten hidden inside. However, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a semi-feral cat that has missed its socialization window, and a formerly tame cat that has strayed from home and lived wild, so that some of the feral instincts click in. This is where it becomes important to check in with med-staff Leslie, who knows all the cats, having been with the Sanctuary since its beginning.
May and Adam are most often found together,
and if adopted out, would do best as a pair.
Sometimes it’s just a case of where the population is... The No 5 Road Shelter has only so much room for cats, and towards the end of kitten season, when the adoptable kittens come in, sometimes some of the long-term adult cats need to be moved out. These are all cats that were candidates for adoption, and just didn’t “take” for whatever reason. What we call the No 5 Road Pen has several of these cats. Some former residents have already been moved back to the Shelter and been adopted out; others are still waiting for the kittens to go and someone who wants an adult cat to appear. In this pen are also Carreen, Chinook and Hudson...
Ninja would do well in a townhouse where he has room to move
Others are just long-term-residents of the Sanctuary. Ninja is one of many black cats – and yes, cats suffer from the same human reluctance to adopt a black as dogs do. He’s something of a loner; he doesn’t interact much with other cats. But he’s often delighted to be fussed over by a visitor, and to have his plushy soft fur admired.
Hannah loves people and attention – other cats, not so much… (CF)
Hannah came to us from what was something of a hoarding situation. Her former owner came to visit her regularly till she died. Hannah’s best known for her habit of jumping onto shoulders – preferably from behind. She’s a friendly girl who carries her tail straight up in the air.
Ashley - (PH)
Another category of adoptable cat is the older one – one in which the owner may have died or gone into care, but the cat is felt to be too old to be put into the No. 5 Road population.  Ashley came to us when his owner, a RAPS supporter, died suddenly. He’s still caged and settling, but is a friendly boy and a wonderful candidate for homing.
STOP PRESS: Ashley has a new home and is loving being an only-cat again!
Garfield (orange) and Diamond (Tabby) need each other’s company
Diamond and Garfield were also owner-surrenders. Mother and son, they are deeply bonded, and didn’t handle the No 5 Rd Shelter well. With us, they can share a large cage where we can try and control their food intake – what they need is a home where they can get lots of exercise.
Perkins (tabby) & Perry (tabby/white)
We rarely have kittens on-site - most of them go for fostering and then straight to the No 5 Road Shelter for adoption - but occasionally they need more time for socializing than 5 Road can give them. There are currently four half-grown kittens getting steady attention from the Kitty Comforters; Perry and Perkins are shy but ready to be handled and played with; their sisters Della and Peony, not so much, yet.
The majority of adopters from the Sanctuary are actually our wonderful volunteers. They come in faithfully each week to tend their favourites until the point where they can’t bear to leave that favourite behind when they leave – at which point they negotiate with Leslie, and a cat goes back with them – perhaps for palliative or end-of-life care, perhaps to begin a new life.

Taking on a Sanctuary cat, then, is a two-part process – first, you go through the formal adoption approval paperwork at the No 5 Road Shelter. With Sanctuary cats there is always the concern that they are going to an indoors-only life - these are not cats that are safe with outside access.  Then, you talk with Leslie about the possible adoption candidates, and about what you can offer them. And perhaps, if all goes well, they will find their new Sanctuary with you.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman and Michele Wright

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wherefore art thou, Romeow?

At the back of the single-wide trailer is a small room, used as the Sanctuary office, but known to all as the Leukemia Room. Most of our feline Leukemia cats now live in what’s called the Old Aids / Val Jones complex, and there’s usually a little juggling around to get the best combination of cats that will get along together: who can cope with bossy Merlin? who can stand up to aggressive Jerry?

But the Leukemia Room is home to just a few very quiet cats, who benefit from the calm space, and also from the removal from all the feline cold germs that get passed around. They get no casual Sunday visitors, though on other days there are always volunteers who will go in and spend time with them.  Smoochie has lived there for some time; he was joined by our lovely Harry and most recently by big fluffy Bear. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of shy Marlowe.
Smoochie - Harry - Bear (MW)
Marlowe (MW)
The single-wide trailer has no access to the courtyard for the cats – these are all essentially indoor cats, though on the east side there’s an extensive covered deck where cats can get their fresh air and a little separation from the activity inside. And the Leukemia Room, too, has its little deck, with a double-locked entrance from the main deck.
Volunteers know that working with leukemia cats means careful hand-washing before and after – but Leukemia Room volunteers also know that working here means watching carefully for a small black cat, who paces the floor outside the doors of both entrances.

Harvest (DW)
Harvest  is usually a pretty easy-going guy who gets on well with the other cats – especially his buddy Babylon. But he REALLY wants in to the Leukemia Room, and we think that the attraction is Marlowe, who lives on the other side of the door. And the two can never be together; she’s leukemia-positive, and leukemia cats can transmit the virus through their saliva. For his own safety, Harvest must stay out. Every now and then he tries to do a jail-break in the wrong direction; he has actually managed it once, and had to be quarantined until his blood-tests showed him to be leukemia-free.
Harvest & Marlowe (DW)
That was the simple beginning to a thwarted love-story I was going to call Romeow and Julicat.  But it’s not as simple as that,
I had finished my Single-wide shift last week, and was sitting in the outside area of the Leukemia room, cuddling with Harry – who, as volunteers know, is a very single-minded cuddler!  Marlowe emerged from her bed on the shelf and sat glaring at me; Marlowe is not a cuddler, and doesn’t see why anyone else should be.
Marlowe (DW)
There was a flurry of activity from the deck beyond the door, where a plate of food was being served, and then a little black cat detached itself from the crowd and came over to the door.  Marlowe perked up; eyeing me cautiously, she descended the ramp to the door, and the two cats had a rubbing-and-posing conversation for about five minutes.

Harry was miffed – my attention was clearly divided, and he went off to do something else. I took a chance and slipped through the door, hoping to get some pictures from the other side.
At this point it became obvious that it wasn’t Harvest that was weaving and flirting and saying “I want to be in there” – Harvest has a white spot on his front, and this was an all-black cat. I got some pictures and went to find med-staff Leslie, who knows all the cats. Who was this, taking Harvest’s place in Marlowe’s heart?
It turns out that the alternate black cat is Clyde, the sister of our beautiful Bonnie Boy (check his link for the story of their names).

So does Marlowe swing both ways? Is she just a sucker for any black cat? (though she’s not particularly interested in either Smoochie or Bear). Is she the feline equivalent of a sailor with a date in every port? – she has a flirt at each door…   It’s certainly not the simple love-story I’d envisaged.

Whatever lies behind it, black cats pace at both the Leukemia Room entrances, and volunteers entering have to keep a wary eye open for a shadow trying to slide through on their heels.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wilcox Wolanski & Michele Wright

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom-cat – love you!

The Sanctuary is home to a wide array of cats, most of whom are spayed and neutered as soon as they come to us.  But occasionally it’s too late, and Mom and kittens arrive together.  For some of the moms, motherhood is no big deal, and once the kittens are taken off for adoption, that’s it. For others, the role of mom-cat continues even at the Sanctuary.
Autumn's kittens (& Autumn, on extreme left);   Autumn today
Autumn arrived a couple of years ago with six half-grown kittens. Mom and offspring were placed in adjoining cages, and staff and volunteers rallied to socialize them. The kittens eventually went off to the No 5 Road Shelter for adoption – Treat was adopted by volunteer Carol, and Waffle’s adopter visited us recently, but poor Pancake was never adopted and is now back with us.  Mama Autumn was NOT interested in being tamed, but a couple of years have taught her that humans aren’t all that scary, and now she comes to us for attention.

Hiro (tabby) with Sophie (tortie)
Sophie and her son Hiro are established single-wide inhabitants. When Claire first wrote about them, Sophie was still very wary of human contact, but like Autumn, she’s mellowed. She can often be found lounging on one of the shelves on the right side – and without Hiro clinging to her, as he used to do in the early days.  However, they can still be found cuddling
Marissa (photo PH) and Paylan
Another single-wide mom-and-son pair is Marissa and Paylan. Marissa’s an up-top girl, though she usually likes to hang out where she can see the action. She’s also one of our chronically congested cats, and has to be caged every once in a while for medication. Chubby Paylan isn’t a mama’s boy, but is still quite shy of human contact.
Diamond (tabby) and Garfield (orange)
The mother-son pair we all love and would REALLY like to find a home for are Diamond and Garfield. They came to us as owner-surrender – their owner was really distressed about losing them, but her new housing wouldn’t allow them to stay. They lived for a while at the No 5 Road Shelter, but it wasn’t comfortable for them; they’re both BIG cats and couldn’t share a cage, and in fact Garfield was reduced to lying in his litterbox so that he could reach through and touch his mom. They’re a deeply bonded pair, and so we brought them to the Sanctuary where they could share a big enclosure, and still have room to move. Garfield has been having some treatment for his eyes, and both have relaxed to the point where they don’t have to be touching all the time. They are adoptable, but only if they can go as a pair – they need to be in a home where their diet can be supervised and they can be encouraged to get some exercise.
Joanie (left) & Val (right)
Mother’s Day, of course, may also be a time when some of us remember the mothers we’ve lost. This past year two mom-cats stand out for me: shy Joanie in the back courtyard was the mother of GusGus  (in the Val Jones pen) and soft sweet Hope, in the front courtyard. We don’t know what happened to Joanie, who was found one morning – probably of a heart attack.  And many of us are still mourning the loss of our darling one-eyed Val from the front courtyard – mother of Silverfox (Foxy), Latte and Paulo (and of Fury and Savannah, now gone). Right to the end, Val was boss-mom, batting her kids out of the way if they were reaching for a tidbit she wanted.
Memories and appreciation and love – that’s what Mother’s Day is about – for cats and humans!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman and Michele Wright

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Chateaux: What’s with that name?

Chat (pronounced “shat”) is the French word for cat, so that might go a little way to explaining Chateaux’s odd name.  But chateau (pronounced “sha-toe”) is the French word for an elegant manor house and chateaux (pronounced the same way)  is more than one elegant manor house, so what kind of name is Chateaux for a cat? 
Here’s the story: 
Two brothers, Shadow (black) and Ashes (grey), were adopted from another shelter as young cats about a year or two ago.  The lively pair weren’t very tame at the time and then didn’t enjoy the love and attention that could have allowed them to become affectionate companions to their guardian.   After just six months in what was supposed to be their forever home, they were surrendered to RAPS.   Sadly, Ashes tested positive for feline AIDS so was transferred immediately to RAPS’ Cat Sanctuary.  Shadow stayed on at the City Shelter but never did become tame enough to be considered adoptable so, after eight months there, he too was transferred to the Cat Sanctuary.  Somewhere along the way, there was a mix-up in the names of the two cats – Ashes came to the Cat Sanctuary with the name Shadow and Shadow was known as Ashes to the staff at the City Shelter. 
When Ashes (the black cat formerly known as Shadow) came to the Cat Sanctuary recently and the name switch-a-roo was discovered,  everyone there was used to calling the grey cat (formerly known as Ashes) Shadow.  Are you confused yet?  So as not to have more than one cat named Shadow at the Cat Sanctuary, the “real” Shadow was re-named Chateaux.  When said with an elegant French accent, it sounds pretty much like Shadow, n’est ce pas?  
So, now that the name thing is sorted out, what’s Chateaux like?  Well, he’s certainly elegant with his glossy black coat and beautiful green-gold eyes, but he’s not a lovable little kitty.  No, not at all!  Hardly surprising, considering that the Sanctuary is the fourth place where he’s lived in his short four years or so of life.  He’s quick to hiss and throw an angry paw at anyone who tries to pet him, but will stare quietly and give an almost friendly blink or two if just spoken to gently from a respectable distance.  He seems very interested in the goings-on outside his cage and will sit just inside the cage door observing the activity but scoots behind the protective drape and glare out if someone enters his cage. 
We have high hopes that, with lots of gentle attention and love, Chateaux will turn into a nice, happy cat who will enjoy being petted and maybe someday he’ll find his own forever home in someone’s chateau.  Then, maybe he can get his own name back!     

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Debbie Wilcox Wolanski