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 30, 2016

Sylar - update

Sylar continues as a work-in-progress. From the time Claire first featured him on the blog  he established himself as a pretty hissy feral boy.  But as with many ferals, the hissiness is teamed with a fascination for humans and their doings.
Just warning us off...
Sylar made the back courtyard his “beat” – usually on the deck of the Newcomers, or out in the area below.  Leslie routinely looked out for him, and he would hear her voice and come to investigate. Occasionally he would allow himself to be petted, and then would need to learn all over again that petting was not too scary.  Leslie pointed him out to me a while ago, but I never managed to get further than one-sided conversations and the odd scratch – touching was out!
this is the typical view of Sylar...
Then back in February we noticed that he had contracted the cat cold that goes the rounds. Like most colds, there’s not a lot you can do (warm baths and drinking lots of OJ are obviously not for cats!), and we don’t need to be treating a cold virus with antibiotics. But really snotty colds can also indicate a bacterial component, so Sylar was netted and caged in the double-wide for treatment and TLC. 
Unfortunately I have no photos from this period – he was in one of the less well-lit cages, and my camera has several dark blurry images from attempts to snap him. He hung out behind his drape, making warning angry noises when anyone entered his cage. But a lot of it turned out to be bluff – once I ignored the hissing and braved an outstretched hand, head-rubs and purring ensued, and then his bottom would go up and he’d try to roll over on his shelf with ecstatic wiggles.
Shall I stay, or shall I hide round the back?...
One of the things we love about the Sanctuary is that cats are not caged for any longer than they have to be. All too soon, Sylar was released, and vanished back into the back courtyard, and I have to begin over again. He’s become more consistent in the company he keeps and where he hangs out; he seems to be good friends with shy Quinn, and visits him around Waldie’s House, and he can often be found behind the cat-bed shelves on the west side of the courtyard.
Sylar hanging out with Quinn
He knows my voice, but is not yet ready to accept petting from me; if I sit on the floor of the courtyard he will circle around me at a radius that began at about 6-foot, but is slowly diminishing. He will occasionally accept a tidbit, but is not really food-motivated – and if food is produced, the producer is mobbed by the ravenous horde led by Owl, and Sylar backs off. So for now, it’s just patience and repetition.  He’s become one of my sponsor cats, and though I hope that’s a long-term relationship, I also hope it won’t take too long to get better acquainted.
I'm pretty cute, even if I am hissy...

Blog by Brigid Coult
Pictures by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ms Houdini - Amber

Pretty little grey Amber has come a long way from the terrified newcomer in June 2011 to the slightly more confident little shadow Claire wrote about in December 2012.
Amber’s still not exactly sociable, either with people or with cats. She will allow herself to be petted, and if you’re one of her favoured humans, she will wriggle in ecstasy when the scratches hit the right place. But mostly people are aware of Amber as she shoots past – “Gotta go! Things to do!”  Mostly she divides her time between the double-wide and the gate at the far end of the back garden. There is often a little row of cats sitting there and looking out at the field, and the movements of small birds and perhaps mice – I call it cat TV. But Amber doesn’t watch in company – mostly she prefers to be alone, and if another cat comes along, she will vanish into the bushes.
Last year we noticed that Amber was disappearing for longer periods at a time, and then someone reported a small grey cat outside the Sanctuary. Because she was also seen in the double-wide, it took a while before we realised that she had found an escape route, and was going walkabout, returning for meals and sleeping. The Sanctuary is sited on farmland, and the area around is home to raccoons and coyotes, so we felt that this was a Bad Idea!  Finally Amber was spotted doing an athletic bit of climbing to a minute gap in the fencing, and as soon as we knew she had returned and was safely inside, the hole was closed and the general perimeter was rechecked.

Amber’s general patterns didn’t change – you got the feeling she shrugged and said “Whatever…”.  We’ve occasionally found evidence of places where raccoons have got in and feasted on kibble (washing their paws in the water-bowls), but there was no evidence it was anywhere Amber could access.
Then last weekend Debbie and I were sitting on the back courtyard benches by the tree, when a little grey blur darted up the tree, looked down and laughed at us, and then picked her way along a slender branch and on to the top of the adjacent pen.
She sauntered along the seam between the two pens, obviously fascinating the cats inside, and proceeded to the north-east corner, where she sat and contemplated the universe.
There was some anxiety. She’d obviously just eaten, so likely wouldn’t be easy to trap – but med-staff Mollie went to find one and set it out in the back field. Perhaps Amber saw the trap and changed her mind, because she sauntered her way back to the tree, and returned the way she’d escaped without any further persuasion – at which point our maintenance guy, Doug, got out his ladder and his tools and cut that branch off!  It looks like that tree will need a bit more pruning – but we think that escape route is closed for now. She made several trips up the tree the following day, obviously hoping that her branch had magically appeared again, and finally gave up and sulked!
I wonder where she will make her next escape!
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Morticia, the cat formerly known as “Maggie”

Morticia aka Maggie - MW
A new cat who arrives at the Cat Sanctuary is never simply released into the general population – that would be too stressful for everyone!  Instead, they start out inside a big private cage with a protective drape to hide behind if they wish and they’re allowed time alone to adjust to their new surroundings gradually.  This gives us and the other cats an opportunity to observe them and vice versa for a while without stressing out the newcomer.  Once released from their cage, cats who’ve had experience with people and with other cats soon begin to socialize but feral cats usually do something quite different – they either refuse to come out of the safety of their cage or they get as far away from us as they possibly can, either shrinking into a corner on top of the highest shelves or laying low in a hidden spot in a distant location outside.   Some of them, like Morticia, stay well out of sight like this for a long time, years even! 
Morticia - hiding out in Waldie's House - MM
When this tiny feral black and white cat, along with her four kittens, was trapped at a feeding site and brought to the Cat Sanctuary in 2008, she was first named “Maggie”.  However, because of her colouring and less than friendly (to say the least!) personality, she was soon re-named “Morticia”.  Her kittens, Donna, Twyla, Rocky and Star,  grew up and settled into various parts of the Sanctuary.  All except Star, who went to the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago, are still there but, like their Mom, they haven’t warmed up to people.  However, unlike their Mom, they’ve at least been visible most of the time!

Rocky Slippers, Morticia's son - DW
Morticia was seldom seen but, perhaps feeling the need for a warmer place to hang out, she’s recently taken up residence in Waldie’s House, one of the buildings in the back courtyard.  
Once she made her presence known to us, a few brave volunteers took up the challenge of making friends with this cute but hissy/spitty/swatty little cat with the funny checker-board face. 
Morticia - MM
The greatest success so far has been had by Selena, the daughter of Kitty Comforter Anne.  Both Selena and her sister Ava take after their mother in being talented “cat whisperers”.  Their patience and gentle approach have resulted in several feral and semi-feral cats becoming more accepting of a human touch.  Selena has not only been able to get close to Morticia without being swatted but has even been able to pet her several times! 
Selena coaxing Morticia - MM
We’re not quite ready to re-name Morticia as “Maggie” but it’s wonderful to see that she’s undergoing a personality change at long last. 
Morticia deciding to pose - BC
Hopeful that Morticia’s new attitude would extend to me, I reached out to her recently but was quite firmly rejected with a hiss and a swat.  Oh, well!  I’m going to keep trying.  As long as she lets one person pet her, that’s a big step in the right direction.  Way to go, Selena!    Way to go, Morticia! 
Morticia - MW
Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Brigid Coult, Marianne Moore, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Albi - update

Claire introduced us to Albi nearly three years ago when he was still in the early stages of settling down with us. Initially shy and a bit nervous, he established himself as a member of the Newcomers area – sometimes cosied up inside on one of the shelves or in an open cage, but more often out on the deck.
Albi was named for the husband of one of our staff, and initially she wondered if it was a good match - he was edgy and nervous, unlike his more mellow human counterpart. But interactions with passing volunteers and staff became less and less stressful for him, and now he actually seeks out human attention.
Almost always, he indulges in a behaviour that you usually only see in a really relaxed cat – he flops over to expose his belly. He will allow a little gentle tummy-rub, but I think it’s less about seeking belly-rubs and more about saying “I’m vulnerable”
He’s a little stand-offish with other cats – certainly with the pushy ones like Sid and Owl. I’ve found him exchanging head-bonks with a few quieter cats, and his territory has expanded beyond the Newcomers area and into the rest of the back courtyard.
He reminds me a bit of orange Gilbert in the front courtyard – initially very shy, and now soliciting attention and petting.  It’s wonderful to see!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Long-time volunteer Stephanie is no longer able to give the time she once committed to working hours at the Sanctuary, but those hours (and more) are still devoted to rescuing cats. Armed with a car full of traps, tasty bait food and other cat-appealing things, she waits patiently at various sites, hoping that a stray cat reported to RAPS may venture into her trap and come to experience the love shown to so many of our Sanctuary cats.
Most of her sites are away from human homes: recycling centres, warehouses and the like, as well as the occasional lost cat reported to us. Comet was different. Comet was spotted last December near a Richmond veterinary office, with houses all around. It was on a main road, so there was some concern for her safety, especially as it was suspected that she was pregnant. Regular traps were ignored (or occupied by the occasional raccoon), but gradually hunger got the better of her and the tuna plate was moved further and further into the trap.
Comet at trap - SR
Finally – success! – as a very annoyed little cat ventured too close and the trap door was sprung.  Yes, indeed, she was pregnant – and so was packed off into the hands of Kati, one of our most experienced foster-moms.
Carol & Stephanie have Comet safe at last
Comet was a real spitfire.  Cleaning her cage was a tough job, and she managed to bite Kati through thick gloves. Kati was already caring for Parker (also trapped by Stephanie) who calmly gave birth to a litter of seven kittens just before Christmas.
Comet's "roomie" Parker with her kittens - KD
On New Year’s Eve Comet’s labour started and it became apparent that there were problems. With her second kitten stuck in the birth canal, a C-section was called for, and the third and fourth were safely delivered. Comet was not a happy mom, and refused to nurse any but the first natural-born kitten; the second had died at birthing, and Kati was left to save the two remaining mites.
Once the two littles were well on the way, Kati decided she might as well feed all three, and Comet was brought to the Sanctuary. The kittens continued in foster, and then went for adoption.
Uno & Uri               Uno, now Mortimer (Morty) at 3 months
In her Sanctuary cage, Comet had a grudge against the world. She hated the people who came to feed her; she hated the cats who passed by – even though she couldn’t see them.  For a while, we thought we might have another Jingles on our hands.
Comet behind her drape - PH
But our med staff are the best, and gradually she got used to human contact – though for a while it was contact via a back-scratcher instead of a hand.  Then the cage door was opened and Comet was allowed (under supervision) to venture out, and to deal with the occasional feline visitor. Gradually she blossomed – she started accepting petting from volunteers, and even allowed herself to be picked up.
Allowing herself to be held by Lenaia! - PH
She’s not yet very sociable with other cats, but she’s made great strides from the angry feline who arrived in December.

We think it’s likely she was someone’s cat, and either escaped or was dumped – the fact that she was found near the veterinary office is, after all, a little suspicious.  She, and all her kittens, would certainly have died if Stephanie hadn’t been so determined to rescue her, and if Kati hadn’t had the knowledge and experience to get her through birthing. Instead of which, three handsome kittens have good homes, and Comet has a place where she will be loved and cared for.  Way to go, ladies!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Kati Degraaf, Phaedra Hardman, Stephanie Ross, Michele Wright