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, January 30, 2016

Just good friends

Just as with people, there are extroverts and introverts in the cat world; cats who love company and those who hate it. I introduced some of the “I vant to be alone” cats in the Garbo Cats blog, and more of the devoted couples in the Valentines blog.  Today’s blog introduces some of the front courtyard cats that can often be found together.  They’re not bonded pairs, like Diamond and Garfield, or Adam and May. But they are cats who can often be found sharing a bench or a bed; cats who obviously feel easy in each other’s company.
Little Orange - MW
Little Orange (I don’t know if there was ever a Big Orange) is a friendly boy with a crumpled ear, and the softest coat of fur. On Sundays he anxiously waits for Allison to arrive, and has just started venturing onto her lap. He’s a calm cat, and obviously attracts more skittish friends; he’s a particular favourite of wee Marilee, who is more open to being touched by human hands when she’s cuddling with him. 
Sylvester - anticipating treats! - ML
Sylvester used to be a very shy boy and is gradually coming to realise that nobody will harm him; he has started to join the crowd at the gates, and is a big fan of Temptations (but not of chicken or tuna). He’s not progressed to laps yet, but leg-rubbing is a favourite. This Sylvester is not to be confused with a much larger cat of the same name who used to live in the Moore House (Gericatrics)
Sylvester & Little Orange hanging out together - MW
Spencer - MW
Spencer is another cat who’s still quite shy, though he’s lived with us for some time. He has a hard time when food is being handed out; he doesn’t like to take tidbits from fingers, and when you put a treat down in front of him, someone more determined (usually Jake) often pushes in to get it.
Lancelot sitting on Puffin's favourite perch - BC
His buddy Lancelot is a relative newcomer, and is also shy; he suffers somewhat from Black Cat syndrome in spite of his magnificent coat – he’s sometimes confused with Cooper in the Connor, and since she is a Nasty Cat, I think people are wary of Lancelot.  He tends to hang out in the area just outside the single-wide, which is often missed by visitors, and he’s often found sharing the papasan chair with Spencer.

Lancelot & Spencer - BC
Gilbert - MW
Gilbert is a quiet sweet boy who is one of my own favourites – and of several other volunteers as well. It’s hard to believe that 5-6 years ago he was hiding on a shelf and refusing to come down; now he happily hops up on the laps of the people he loves.
Dirky - MW
Dirky is not as quiet and sweet as Gilbert – in fact, he can be downright pushy with cats like Leland, though he’s not the scrapper he used to be. He suffers from skin cancers on his ear, which occasionally need to be nipped off, so unfortunately he’s no longer as handsome as he was. We still love him, though.  With his human friends, he’s always glad to be offered a lap and a little attention; if that’s not available, a cuddle with Gilbert is quite acceptable!
Gilbert & Dirky - BC

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Moira Langley, Michele Wright

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Zimmer: Battered But Loving

Stephanie spearheads the team seeking to trap stray cats reported to RAPS. Very often these cats will be part of a colony that has found a fairly safe place to live with an access to rodents or other food.  The cow-cats featured recently come to us from a local organic recycling plant – plenty of food sources, but also many predators of which they constantly need to be wary.
Another site where cats have been found is a nearby paper recycling depot where one of the employees, Jeff Zimmerman, was most helpful and supportive of Stephanie’s efforts. She says, “We had a great system going at Urban; Jeff would set the traps, then I would meet him at Ironwood, give him an empty trap & take the one he had rescued. The first day we went, we got one adult and several kittens, and re-set the traps. Jeff called me a little later to report more kittens; I spotted another adult so set the trap, waited, and got her. The two females were TNR (trapped, neutered and released) as they are looked after there, might have had more kittens, and have warm places to hide.”
The last cat they found at this site was a battered looking male. He took a while to find but Jeff was persistent. Once trapped and vetted, he proved to be FIV-positive, and was transferred to the New Aids enclosure – Stephanie decided to call him Zimmer, after his trapper. In his new home he hid in the corner of his cage, and, once released, took himself out of reach of human touch – occasionally I would go in and see this face peering quizzically down at me, but he didn’t want my attention. Jill called him Sad Cat.
Enter our cat-whisperers – Phaedra has the ability to make the most scared cats feel safe with her, and has recently been reporting that “Zimmer is super snuggly”.  I asked her to update me on Zimmer’s progress. She says, “When Zimmer was first trapped he was deemed ferocious but he was really just very scared and untrusting. One member of our wonderful med team spent quite a bit of time with him and said she thought he was originally someone's pet who had been dumped then gone wild. Quite often this type of situation makes it harder for the cat to trust again and it ends up taking longer than a born in the wild feral. I believe a lot of people have worked to gain his trust. Just look at his sad face, who could resist?
“He needs to be approached slowly while verbalizing quietly to reassure him. Tuna helps but isn't essential. Once he warms up to you belly rubs are on the menu. He's a lovely old guy; whoever dumped him initially was a fool to do so. Their loss is our gain and hopefully his. He seems pretty content now as opposed to the hissing frightened fury he was in the cage and the skittish guy who would go as high as possible when he was first released.”
I mentioned that Phaedra has the cat-whispering talent, but she says that from the beginning med-staff Catherine worked her magic on him and was getting the belly rubs in before most people would even go near his cage. I remember watching her work with a very angry Kojak when he first came in to Old Aids – just sitting quietly in his cage with him until he realised he was safe. Phaedra says “I fully blame her for making some of the meanest seeming kitties into love bugs”.  Zimmer’s rapidly heading in the love-bug direction; the sad face may be a relic of a sad past, but he’s now a cat with lots of love to get and to give at the Sanctuary.

Blog by Brigid Coult & Phaedra Hardman
Pictures by Phaedra Hardman, Stephanie Ross & Michele Wright

Saturday, January 16, 2016

King George: Royalty Lives Among Us

Here’s another one of those cats with a name that makes one wonder how the heck that came about.  After all, King George VI died in 1952 and the future King George is only two years old so that can’t be it.  Well, for starters, King George (the cat) was a stray who was trapped in Surrey, near King George Highway about two years ago, so that partly explains his royal title.   But, there’s more to it than that.  Katrina and Wes, the volunteers who trapped and then named this handsome big orange guy, say that “he was the alpha male cat in the neighbourhood, always starting fights with all of the other neighbourhood cats. You can see the edges of his ears - they are all tattered from the many fights he got into. So ‘King George’ was just perfect for him!”
At the same time and location that they trapped King George, Katrina and Wes also trapped a few of his “subjects” – Zebra, Holland and Wesley.  Katrina had been observing the “little kitty gang” of abandoned strays in the neighbourhood for a while before being able to trap them.  Although King George was the bully who started the fights, he was obviously much tamer than the other three.  Katrina was sure he was once someone’s pet who got left behind.
Unfortunately, once trapped, all four of them tested positive for feline AIDS (FIV) so they went to live in the area of the Cat Sanctuary that is reserved for FIV-positive cats.   Quite unexpectedly, Wesley passed away not long after his arrival but King George, Zebra and Holland are thriving.  Zebra and Holland are both still quite shy but beginning to get braver, especially Zebra. 

Somewhat like the royalty he’s named after, King George doesn’t mingle too much with the other cats in his area, not even the members of his old group of friends.   He’s quite comfortable around his human admirers, although his tolerance for us may vary, according to majestic whim.    Sometimes, he’ll climb onto my lap as soon as I sit down and then, on my next visit, he’ll give me an aloof look, turn his back and regally walk away.   Treats, of course, do improve his decision to accept the attentions of the common folk!  
He’s one of those cats who like to have your complete attention – if I turn around to talk to another person or cat while petting him, he’ll give my hand a little smack as if to say “I didn’t give you permission to ignore me!”.  I suppose that we simply have to accept that he’s a superior being!  Of course, many cats have superiority complexes but King George has the title to prove it!  Get to know him and you can claim to have a royal friend.  

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Marianne Moore & Michele Wright

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Favourite corners: the Val Jones cats

The small group of cats who live in the Val Jones area are favourites with a number of the volunteers. I know that I’m not the only one who visits on a regular basis to make a fuss of them.
Jerry - PH
The dominant cat in this area is Jerry. He’s always been something of a hair-trigger personality – for a while there was a semi-joke about whether or not one was member of a “Jerry Victims Support Group”. To be fair, it was not usually that Jerry attacked people, but if you got between Jerry and a cat he disliked, you usually came off the worse for wear!  . Most recently it was gauged that Breezer needed to be transferred out of the VJ and into the Old Aids next door; we are wary of having another dominant personality in this group – Jerry needs to be top cat! For a while he was not in good condition – what appeared to be a reaction to flea meds left him balding and uncomfortable. But his fur has regrown to its usual luxuriant length, and Jerry is enjoying being admired again.
Henrik - MW
In spite of his size, our sweet Henrik is actually quite shy, and no competition for Jerry.  Henrik is the brother of Daniel, out in the front courtyard (what else would you name a pair of red-heads who came in together?) but one of the side-effects of his FeLV is mouth ulcers, and the medication to ease that causes him to put on weight. Since he is also one of the larger cats in the area the effect is pretty startling.
And the side-effect of that is that he can’t groom himself effectively, so that a complete haircut is occasionally necessary.
Chip - CF
Chip is the brother of Dale, in the Double-wide. He’s the nearest thing Jerry has to competition, and tends to be very wary of him; mostly you’ll find Jerry in the left-hand cabin (VJ 1), and Chip in the smaller right-hand one (VJ 2).  Chip is a chicken-lover, and always emerges when there are offerings. He's a friendly boy, and likes human company.
Foxy - MW
This little boy came from the Newcomers area when blood-tests showed that what was obviously latent FeLV had become full-blown. He’s another chick-aholic, and we worry about his health when he’s not ready to chow down on chicken tidbits. Still very shy, you’ll usually find Foxy hiding on one of the lower shelves. He’s not ready to be petted, but humans bearing gifts are tolerated.
Mocha - MW
Cross-eyed Mocha is the last of a family of three cats who came in together. We recently lost her sister Cappuccino – a little torbie who looked nothing like her littermate. Her brother Pekoe (Orange Pekoe, of course) was one of my favourites when I first came to the Sanctuary, and other than colouring, looked very like Mocha – including the stubby tail. His sister is a little wary about being petted, but is very food-motivated.
Suga - PH
Sweet Suga came into the Val Jones about 18 months ago, and immediately settled down with her friends. She’s a snuggler – there’s often a cuddle-puddle in the Val Jones house, and Suga is inevitably part of it.
GusGus - MW
This sweet boy has been part of the VJ family for some time. He’s the brother of pretty grey Hope in the front courtyard, and Domino (now passed), and we cared for both his mother Joanie, and the cat we think was his father, Hudson. GusGus is one of my own sponsor cats, and I try to spend a little time with him whenever I visit. FeLV leaves him very susceptible to feline colds, and I’m always anxious when he’s off his food – it’s usually that he’s become congested and food loses its tastiness for him.  This is always an anxious time for us – with Feline Leukemia, the compromised immune system has a harder time throwing off any infection.
The VJ cuddle-puddle - GusGus, Mocha & Suga - BC
I know I’m not the only volunteer who loves to spend time with these lovely cats. The usual protocols apply – we are careful to wash before and after visits, not because FeLV is infectious, but because we need to protect them from the germs more easily tolerated by other cats.
Come and visit them on a Sunday afternoon, and get to know them better!
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman, Michele Wright

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Favourite corners: The Val Jones area

Most volunteers working at the Sanctuary come in on the same day each week and work in the same area. “Work” is important – whether cleaning or feeding – but there are very few of us who don’t also take time for cat-cuddling. Sometimes that occurs when scooping a box; people at floor-level are ideal sitting-places, after all. Sometimes it’s while changing bedding; shifting a cat so you can shake bedding out always leaves one feeling a little guilty for disturbing sleeping felines, and a little pause for petting is always in order. And many of us develop close relationships with “our” cats.
Paolo & Latte - MW
For the staff, for those of us who come in more frequently, and for the Kitty Comforters, the scope is greater. I do a lot of fill-in shifts, and I enjoy sometimes being in the back pens, or in Old Aids, feeding in Single-wide or Double-wide – and getting to know a wider variety of cats.  There are some areas I rarely get to work in, and when writing about a cat in those areas, I usually turn to one of the staff (mostly Phaedra) for the “inside” on their ways. But no matter where I work, there are favourite areas and cats I will return to visit, just for the pleasure of their company.
Sweet Val-cat - photo by one of our Rotaract volunteers
Fury was the one black cat in Val's litter
The south-east corner of the front courtyard is known as the Val Jones area. I turned to Board member Geri Tiller for information about Val, who was a good friend of hers.
Geri says:
“Val Jones was an executive with the Fraser Port Authority, and called Carol Reichert at RAPS  because there were feral cats around the South Fraser Port Authority land and one in particular, an orange male who had an abscess on his head. Carol asked me if I would try to trap him and that's where it all started. Valerie had been feeding cats for a while and had converted a storage shed so the cats would be safe and have a shelter from the cold weather.
Val and I met under the Arthur Laing bridge several early mornings and we would set the traps together.  Sometimes we were lucky and over a two month period we managed to trap 15 cats including 5 kittens. From that group of cats came Foxy (Silverfox), Savannah, Paulo, Fury, Latte, Valerie, and others. I named Val-cat after her – though at the time of her capture she was of the most ornery, cantankerous felines I'd ever run into.  Valerie (human) particularly loved one cat which we could not catch but since she was there feeding it we felt it was ok. She would come and visit the Sanctuary on Sunday afternoons and bring treats.”
Savannah & Silverfox (Foxy) - MW
Valerie Jones was affected by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and was taken from us much too young.  Geri attended her memorial, and spoke publicly about Val’s love for the cats – Val’s family came to visit the shelter the very next day. Subsequently they heard of various Sanctuary projects and decided that they wanted to donate the funds for the construction of what became known as the Val Jones area.  This bequest to the Sanctuary allowed us to build two cabins in the corner, and the area was named for her. Once it was completed they came once again to see the shelter and the homes that had been constructed in her memory.

Val Jones huts - Christmas 2015 - BC
Two years ago the adjacent enclosure known as Old Aids (which actually houses cats with feline leukemia) was becoming more crowded, and we fenced the Val Jones area off from the main courtyard to allow us to extend space for new leukemia-positive cats to come in. Sadly, pretty Savannah tested leukemia-positive, and took up residence in this corner that she already knew.
We have since lost Val-cat and three of her youngsters to cancer; but that peaceful little corner continues to shelter a sweet group of cats who will be introduced next week
Looking into VJ 1 - BC

Blog by Brigid Coult, with thanks to Geri Tiller
Pictures by Brigid Coult, Michele Wright