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.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Heartbreak Harry

I try to keep the Neko Blog focused on the joys of the Sanctuary – and there are many joys.  But for all of us, staff and volunteers, the hardest part is always when we lose a cat.  I blogged when we lost our beloved Cookie almost two years ago, when we lost beautiful Kojak (with a memorial to our other leukemia cats) and when we lost sweet Daisy last month.  Lee asked me last week to post something about Mindy, and I hesitated, because she wasn’t well known to a lot of people – I ended up posting Lee’s tribute on Mindy’s blog page.
But this week has dealt a blow to many of us with the death of our beloved Harry, and I’m breaking my own rule and offering a cat-obituary.


Harry came to us just over four years ago.  We like to call ourselves Richmond’s best-kept secret – our address is not posted, our entrance is not signed – people wishing to surrender cats take them to the No 5 Road shelter, where it is decided if this is an adoptable cat or one that needs to come to us. Harry’s owners had obviously done their detective homework; he was found in a cage at the door by the morning med staff, and attached to the cage was a note that let us know that Harry had a peeing problem, and that in spite of surgery, the problem continued – to the ruination of their floors.
The Sanctuary exists for cats like Harry. We instantly fell in love with him – and it was mutual. After a short cage-stay to acclimatise him, Harry ventured out and made slaves of us all. 
Sadly, he was either carrying the leukemia virus latently, or picked it up; a blood test let us know that Harry had to be moved into the Old Aids area with the other leukemia cats. 
Leukemia cats are very susceptible to every random germ, and it hits them hard, since their immune systems are down. Not only did Harry catch every upper respiratory infection going, he was also stressed by other more dominant cats in the enclosure. 
It was decided to remove him into the Leukemia room at the back of the single-wide trailer. There he shared with no more than four or five other shy cats, and rapidly settled down.

There are all sorts of jokes about “dogs have owners; cats have staff” and “in ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have never forgotten this”. And there’s a grain of truth in it – many cats will accept our love as long as they please, and then walk away when something else is offered. But Harry was a lover; he gave back love to those who loved him, and he was never happier than when sitting on a lap, and looking lovingly into the eyes of his friend. And everybody was Harry’s friend. Many people made a point of going to the Leukemia room any time they visited, to have Harry-time, and there was no better way to spend an hour.
One thing we always know about our leukemia cats – we lose them too soon. Over four years with us, Harry had fought off a series of infections and renal problems and always pushed through. This time it was too much for that tired body.

Many of us will be holding you in our hearts, Harry, and looking for you when we, too, get to the Rainbow Bridge.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman, June Price, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Analyzing the tabbies

Checking into the genetic modifiers for the dilute cats got me started on analysing some of the other cat colourings we have around the Sanctuary. It’s frequently been noted that we have a number of black cats, and that they’re not always easy to tell apart – but the same is true with some of our many tabbies. A little Googling led me to identify the four main types of tabby markings, and then it was off to the Sanctuary to match cats up. I quickly realised that the markings were most easily seen in the short-haired cats, and that in longer-haired ones, distinct patterns were blurred by ruffled fur.

Most common would probably be the MACKEREL tabby – distinguished mainly by the clear stripe markings on the sides, and almost always by the clear “M” marking on the forehead.  Apparently they’re also called “fishbone tabbies”, though it’s the markings on the side of the mackerel fish that gives the feline patterning its name.  Our clearest mackerel tabbies are probably Whisky and Cloverleaf
A Whiskey stretch - MW
Cloverleaf - MW
But mackerel markings can be seen in some of our other coloured tabbies too. Little Orange`s fur shows lovely stripes.
Little O, snoozing on a hot day - MW
The CLASSIC tabby is also known as a “blotched” or “marbled” pattern – rather than clear stripes, the colours appear in swirls, and sometimes in a bullseye pattern on the side.  I think our most beautiful classic tabby is timid Quinn who hangs out in the back courtyard. He’s often found in Waldie’s hut, but when approached by humans, scuttles away to hide.  He can be tempted by a bit of chicken, if you can do it when Owl’s not watching!
Quinn - `now, which way should I run...`- MW
This handsome boy in the barncat pen shows the clear bullseye.

Pumpkin is a relative newcomer to the back courtyard, but making himself at home. His pale orange shows the markings in the right light.
Pumpkin is gradually becoming tamer - ML
The TICKED tabbies have fur that changes colour along each hair, called an agouti pattern, which gives the effect of a salt-and-pepper mixture. For the most part, the cats with this sort of patterning also show faint remnants of the other patterns as well. In many of them, it's their contrast colour, with black patterns.  
Piper says "This is MY shelf!"
The SPOTTED tabbies are actually a sub-set of the Mackerel or Classic tabbies – the stripes in the original genetic pattern are broken up to form spots.  The clearest examples of this are Lucky, our Bengal, and Emery, who clearly has some Bengal in him.
We can see how in a wild cat this would be protective colouring.
One of many wonderful Lucky pics by Michele..

But this is probably the most common marking, with the remnants of spots or stripes showing through the agouti fur for both long and short-haired tabbies.
Birdie showing his pretty markings - MW

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Princess Diva

This elegant lady came to us more than a year ago when her owners moved out of town.  When she was surrendered, we were told that she had originated as a feral barn-cat, and when adopted, had settled into home life quite happily. However, her adopters then got a dog. This did not go down well with Princess Diva, and she reverted to living outside.
True feral cats may be TNR'd (trapped-neutered-released), but this girl's owners had the sense to realise that they couldn't just go off and leave her to fend for herself. At the same time, as a former feral, she didn't make a very likely candidate for adoption. One of the requests RAPS makes of adopters is that they do not allow their cats outside; coyotes, raccoons, cars and all the other perils of outdoor life usually make for a shorter lifespan, and with the right enrichment (interactive play, seating at different heights, places to hide) an indoor cat will do very well.
But Princess Diva would not fare well at the No 5 Road shelter – too little space, too many cats – and it was decided that she would come to us at the Sanctuary.  She began her stay with us in the Moore House with the "gericatrics", thinking to give her some quieter space, but her cranky roommates upped her own quotient of crankiness.  For a while she was transferred to the Double-Wide in preparation for eventual release into the back courtyard – it was during this period that the lovely photo of her in the 2016 calendar was taken.
Upon release she made her way to the back pens, and has settled there fairly happily. She is the original "cat who walks by herself" - we rarely see her interacting with other cats. It`s not like Timmy or Leland, the front courtyard "garbo cats" who actively dislike other cats – Princess Diva just seems not to notice lesser felines; they're beneath her attention.
With humans, she will occasionally permit a little worshipful petting; in the right mood, a bit of gentle head-rubbing will produce a quiet purr, but she rarely allows further contact, and a warning growl will let you know that the hand has gone too far down the body, before she wanders off again to be about her own business.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Michele Wright

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Dilutes

Over coffee a couple of weeks ago we were talking about cat colourings and especially commenting on our dilute cats. I decided to try and do a little research into what caused the colouring, and perhaps write about it, but quickly decided it was much too big a topic to blog about.  A simple primer on cat genetics can be found here and here
For anyone not familiar with the term dilute as applied to a cat, it just means that the more intense colours found in most feline coats are toned down to a gentler shade. It can apply to almost any colour – grey cat fur is just a dilute form of black, for instance.
The Sanctuary cats we particularly think of as dilutes are the more dramatically patterned ones.  Probably the most handsome of these is Princess Diva who was featured in this year’s calendar, and who I just realised I need to blog about – so watch for her story in upcoming weeks.
Miss August – Princess Diva - MW
Very familiar to visitors in the front courtyard is another diva, our little Latte. Latte looks remarkably like her late mom, Val, except for the colouring. The tabby markings show through clearly, but are softened by Latte’s permanent highlights. This little girl is bossy, and has no hesitation in swatting other cats if she thinks they’re heading for a treat that she believes is hers.
Latte being cute - MW
Another blonde, but with more subtle markings is back courtyard Sadie. Sadie’s brother Kiddie is also pale in colour – an aspect of the dilute gene – but it’s Sadie’s pretty mixture of grey and peach that always attracts attention. Sadie and Kiddie are getting older now, and are less energetic than they used to be; Kiddie spends most of his time lounging on the table at the entrance to the double-wide trailer but Sadie likes people, and can usually be found in the tea-room. Laps are particularly favoured, but even though there’s nothing wrong with her legs, she prefers to haul herself up into the lap, rather than jumping. Our little Sadist has sharp claws that usually need trimming!
Sadie - MW
Nervous Nelly still rarely comes down from the cage-tops where she feels safest; if you can get her to sniff a finger, you’re doing well. Nelly has never found another cat to love as much as she adored our orange-and-white fluffball Mario. Tortoiseshells usually have strong orange and black colouring, but her tortie colouring is muted by the dilute gene.
Nelly - BC
Perhaps the most dramatic of these five is Alyssa – another dilute girl who’s never had her own blog post. Alyssa is long-haired, which seems to be less common among torties, and her dilute colouring shows in dramatic blond highlights. She was also featured in the 2016 calendar and needs her own blog entry.
Miss April:   Alyssa - SG-K

Summer blond highlights, ladies?

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Shoval Gamliel-Kumar and Michele Wright

Saturday, July 2, 2016


A common introduction for visitors to the Sanctuary cats follows entry into the Double-wide trailer. As in most areas, cats who are eager for human contact hang around within reach, but there is always a little crowd up on the top of the cages – anxious for attention, but not quite sure that they want to be too close to hands. Waving paws and cute poses are intended to attract attention – and treats.
 The common culprits, when I first came to RAPS, were this little bunch – Shadrack, Dekka, Minky and Danny. We’ve lost the last two in the intervening years, but Shadrack and Dekka love their treats so much that they’ve lost all their fear of humans and are eager for petting (especially if chicken is offered!)
Shadrack came to the Sanctuary in 2010 with his brother Shakey from a situation at a cement plant where they were trapped and brought to safety. Shakey, as you might guess from the name, had a neurological condition that made him a little unsteady on his paws. One of our volunteers fell in love with him, and adopted him to a home where he would be kept safe. 
Volunteer Chris Stewart, who knew them both, said that Shakey was friendly from the start, but Shadrack was more wary of humans and not ready to be handled. Once his brother had been adopted, he joined the cage-top crowd, where he could mooch just out of arms-reach.
Shadrack & Jingles - photographer unknown
Safety, of course, is moot: when there’s another aggressive cat on the cage-top, sometimes you’re safer on the floor.
Gradually Shadrack became more relaxed, and joined not only the crowd on the floor, but also the crowd out in the gardens.
He’s not an easy cat to photograph – he’s one of those very active boys, constantly on the move – and the common reaction to a camera focus is to investigate it as closely as possible
With me he’s become more and more affectionate; he’s not yet ready to be picked up and cuddled, but the paws come up on my lap, and he kneads and blinks his love.  Chicken is a bonus – he’s another of the chicken-addicts (though not as extreme as Owl!) but even when there are no goodies, he enjoys being fussed over.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey & Michele Wright