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.

Friday, December 30, 2016


Eli is the second of the cats surrendered recently for “aggression” reasons.  Like Jobie, he was originally acquired by his owners as a purebred Ragdoll, but there appear to have been some tensions at home, because he was brought in to us – the ostensible reason was an allergy of a family member, but there were reports of occasional reactiveness. Being a very handsome boy, it was not long before he was adopted out again, and his new family obviously gave it a good try for more than a year, but Eli was not happy, and acted out with bathroom habits and some growling/swatting – and finally was returned to RAPS.
We’ve all heard the stories of so-called “shelters” where a cat would not be allowed to return, or where, having been returned, would have been put down as a non-adoptable cat. RAPS rejoices in the ability to accept any cat, no matter what the behaviour problem, and to give it a home at the Sanctuary as long as it lives. For years volunteers tiptoed around the late Buster-Baby, whose aggression problems verged on the psychotic, and who had to be locked up while visitors were around; in his aging years, Baby mellowed somewhat, and was more accepting of attention.
So the arrival of Eli was not a concern, and though a warning was posted on his cage door, it wasn’t long before the Kitty Comforters were reporting happy encounters with this beautiful boy. Eventually the cage door was opened, and with the inevitable feline visitors taking over his bed, Eli set out to explore the territory.
Waiting at the med-cage door - BC
It wasn’t long before he discovered that the med cage was the source of many tasty treats. Cats who need meds in their food are sometimes picky – the tuna that was yesterday’s favourite is not interesting today – and a cat who is on the ball can sometimes get some left-overs! Eli has joined the club of door-watchers, hoping that an unwary human may leave the door ajar.
He’s not very cat-social yet, though he tolerates most of them as long as they’re not where he wants to be – he doesn’t display the aggression we see between Gizmo and Chester, for instance. He enjoys human attention, especially if a feather toy is offered, and he’s venturing further afield, exploring into the back courtyard and the tea-room – though he and Jobie haven’t come face-to-face yet, since she prefers the safety of her higher cage area.
Ragdolls have the reputation for being sociable with humans; many like to be handled, frequently going limp when picked up. RAPS gets the ones who didn’t get that memo, and we do our best not to force them to change, but to learn that this is a safe place for them, where their defensive swatting is unnecessary, in the end. We hope that for Eli, as for Jobie and many others, we can truly be a safe place, a Sanctuary.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gizmo the Grey

The Cat Sanctuary has recently welcomed several new cats who are finding their places in the various different areas.
As much as possible, when a cat comes to the 5 Road Shelter, we try to find a new home for it. The staff try to match personalities with potential adopters, and mostly it works – but there are always the exceptions. Several of our cats failed adoption for reasons of aggression and were transferred to the Sanctuary because they were no longer considered adoptable.
Gizmo (known as Gizmo the Grey, so as not to confuse him with the recently departed orange Gizmo in the Moore House) was trapped as a feral. The people who trapped him were willing to keep him, but Gizmo was not a happy camper, and was more than ready to attack, given the least provocation. At the Sanctuary he was caged for a while, and took a very dim view of this, swatting at other cats through the mesh of his enclosure. We were not at all certain of whether he might eventually be relocated to the feral pens at the back, and the Kitty Comforters were very wary when visiting him.
As we usually do in this situation, when release time comes, we try to make it a supervised release – the cage is opened at a time when the med staff are around, so that they can observe, and react if necessary. With Gizmo, attack was the best defence – there was a lot of growling and face-off confrontations with other cats, and on more than one occasion he had to be scooped up and returned to his cage. (Med staff Mollie says he still holds a grudge against her!).  But gradually he settled; he chooses not to interact with other cats, but has become quite an explorer in the back courtyard and in the Double-Wide. 

Phaedra caught him climbing the tree during the past week's snow! 
He reminds me of little grey Amber (now gone) – he’s a climber, and shy, though he’s getting better with humans. Just as we found with Watson and Chimo, the initial aggression gave way to a more sociable personality. All three of them had more than a touch of teenage brattishness about them, and all three are maturing into really nice cats (Watson has now been adopted, and Chimo is very much a back yard greeter.)
Gizmo making off with an entire bag of treats from a visitor - ML
It is interesting that our dark grey cats (almost Russian blue) are all stand-offish or aggressive. We all know Leland in the front courtyard, but Petunia, also part of that group, is a real “don’t touch me!” girl, though she is ready to accept treats. In the Newcomers, grey Chester is another for whom attack is the best defence (with other cats, at least), and his room-mate Willi is the nervous sort. And Sylar, in the back courtyard, won’t allow a human near him, though when he was caged for treatment, he was ready to accept petting.
Gizmo is becoming more willing to interact with people, and to accept a caress without returning it with a swat. He may never get to the stage of being ready for adoption – but someone who is feral-savvy and has no other competing cats might be able to give him a home. As with all our semi-ferals, for an adoption to work, there needs to be a strong bond between human and cat, and a knowledge, on the human’s part, of the reading of feline body-language – not to mention a lot of patience!  Gizmo’s not there yet, but he’s learning...

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Moira Langley and Michele Wright

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kitties, It's Cold Outside

The snowfall of last week was reinforced by a blast of arctic cold, and along with the rest of the Lower Mainland, the Sanctuary has been at sub-zero temperatures.  The vast majority of the cats have decided that they really prefer the indoor life-style, and every bed - especially the ones under the heat lamps - has been claimed.
Front courtyard snugglers - Debbie, Petunia (back) Gilbert (front) & Spencer - DW
Fabio & Lucky are somewhere in the pile!
That, of course, makes for some difficulties for the volunteers – cats take exception to being moved off a comfy spot just because some human wants to shake a blanket out, or to change it for a clean cover. And the production of clean bedding is made possible only by careful use of the washer/dryer, because the system is easily overloaded – both by cats and by electrical needs. Having either the washer or the dryer running, of course, is much in demand; the warmth and the vibrations make the appliance top a preferred sleeping space.
One variant of the Dryer Gang: Diablo, Bantam & Simone - MW
Out in the back pens, the cats are also preferring to cuddle together and not venture out. Cleaning pen 1 yesterday, I found twelve of them watching me anxiously; most are semi-feral at best and would normally be backing away, but comfort came first, and they waited patiently while I replaced an ice-filled water-bowl from outside their door with one full of warm water, adding a splash of warm to the inside water-bowl as well.
A wary group of ferals - BC
In pen 5 May and Adam were eager to greet me (though that was in part because of treats in pockets), but Chinook, Willow and Salish also joined in the love-fest, enjoying the chance for some interaction since they’d not had the chance to get out.
From top: Salish, Willow & Adam - waiting hopefully - BC
There are, of course, always the cats who want to do their own thing. Our little grey Gizmo (not to be confused with orange Gizmo in the Moore House) is definitely a cat who walks by himself.  Now that he’s out of a cage, he’s interacting much better with humans, but other cats are still not his favourite thing.
Gizmo the Grey - BC
The cats in the feral pen would prefer not to be inside if they can avoid it; when I go in first thing in the morning to scoop their box and refresh food and water, they hurry out of their house. Cold toes are infinitely preferable to dealing with (horrors!) a human!
Smithy says "Don't look at me!" - MW
The decorations have started going up in the front courtyard; the carolers will be visiting on Monday at lunchtime, and cats are finding their patches of sunshine to make the fur coats compensate for the chill.
Jake's attention is caught by a possible food hand-out - BC
Bobby would prefer that he not actually touch the snow - BC
Some actually seem to enjoy it; semi-feral Autumn must have some Maine Coon in her little body, because her fur has grown in thick and luxuriant (especially her ruff) and I found her today rolling ecstatically in the snow.
Autumn actually loves the cold  - BC
The end is (theoretically) in sight, though;  more snow is forecast on Sunday, followed by warmer temperatures and a return to our usual Wet Coast weather. Pretty as the snow has been, it’ll be good to return to unfrozen water-bowls and functioning sinks again!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sanctuary under Snow

For an area known fondly as the Wet Coast, it’s not often that moisture and arctic cold combine to give Metro-Vancouver a dose of snow – but it looks as if this may be one of those winters. The rest of Canada laughs, of course, but Vancouverites are alternately excited and exasperated by snow days.
We are known as the largest cat sanctuary in the country, but that is made possible by our usually temperate weather – imagine trying to care for cats outdoors in other parts of Canada! But when the snow hits, a whole lot of issues arise.
Volunteers go missing – not willingly, but traffic problems, erratic public transport and nervous drivers inevitably means that those of us who can make it are frequently doing more that one area, or filling in for someone else. Our first snow was last Monday, and when I arrived to sub for someone doing the morning cleaning at the Moore House, it was to an untouched driveway and parking lot – the med-staff that morning had arrived early enough that their tracks were already covered.
The tracks that were obvious, of course, were the little paw-prints on the steps, probably created by cats who sleep on the porch, but prefer not to use the wood-chip litter-box provided, heading across the courtyard to one of the other boxes
Friday saw the next dump of snow, and once again we were short-handed. Handy-man Doug had cleared paths between buildings and already they were becoming covered again.
A few cats braved the cold to see what was going on.

My Friday morning assignment is the back pens. Luckily morning snow was light, but the ceramic heaters in each cabin ensured that the majority of cats decided that this was a day for sleeping in. Even the ferals, who usually make a dash for the cat-door, preferred to remain where they were and hiss at me from the security of a box.
Occasional cats could be seen venturing out, but the majority of those who found their way outside preferred to do so from a position of shelter - or at least, a dry bottom!

and heat lamps, wherever they could be found, were the preferred site for a cuddle-puddle.
By the time of the evening shift, it was clear that we would be short-handed, and I returned to do the evening feeds in the single-wide trailer. Doug was working with the snow shovel to give better access in the back courtyard and the sanctuary under snow and light was quite beautiful
Beauty unappreciated by the cats - they were all tucked away in bed!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Debbie Wolanski

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cats' Eyes

Just as a cat’s coat pattern and colour is dictated by genetics (see here and here) so also is eye colour. Most kittens are born with blue eyes, and as they mature, the melanocytes also mature to give the eyes the adult colour.
Autumn - MW

Jake - MW
The majority of our Sanctuary cats have eyes that are in the yellowish end of the spectrum. Depending on where the cat hangs out, the colour may be very obvious, or overshadowed by an enlarged pupil – many of the indoor cats with less natural light may appear to have dark eyes that are actually mostly pupil showing, with a thin rim of coloured iris.
Mad Max - MW
Marmalade - MW
With some, the colour is very vivid – especially when the yellow eyes belong to a black cat.
Colin - MW
but our beautiful Dell has wonderful eyes too!
Dell - MW
The more melanocytes, the more intense the colour. Pumpkin was named less for his fur colour and more for his eyes.
Pumpkin - MW
Orange Hannah’s eyes are also very intense in certain lights.
Orange Hannah - MW
With some cats there is patterning of the iris. This may be true heterochromia, in which a cat may have two different coloured eyes (usually one blue and one another colour) or colours within the iris that may make the eyes appear different colours. When Sara Lee and Sara Lou came in together, the only way to tell them apart was Sara Lee’s darker-coloured right eye in contrast to her left one, which is blue/green. However if you look closely, you’ll see that the basic colour is the same; it’s the brown patterning that makes the eye look brown.
Sara Lee - MW
Freckles is another cat with patterned eyes – named for the speckles around her nose, it’s a name that also suits her eyes.
Freckle - MW
Luigi is one of our many black cats, but easier to identify when you can see the markings in his right iris.
Luigi - PH
With some of the cats the yellow shades over to green that can appear quite intense in certain lights.
 Sophie - MW
Krissy - DW
Lucky - MW
Blue eyes are characteristic of certain pure-breeds, and the only cats of that description that we get at the sanctuary are with us because of bathroom habits.  Both Bluebell and Jobie have the right eye colour that says they were probably bred for pedigree – but neither is a cat that you would really want in your home!
Bluebell - MW
Jobie - MW
But we love them anyway!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright