RAPS is short for Richmond Animal Protection Society, a registered charity and operator of a sanctuary which houses and cares for more than 400 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, August 18, 2017

The Cats love our Students!

Tiffany, Lauren & Karen - BC
During the summer months many of our regular volunteers are away on holiday, and managing to keep the shift board filled is often a hard task. It couldn’t be done without the assistance of our students, made possible by a government grant, for which we are most grateful. This year we were fortunate enough to have three of them at the Cat Sanctuary. Lauren, Tiffany and Karen filled in for missing volunteers as cleaners and feeders, and tackled projects that we’re normally too busy to deal with – painting the benches in the back courtyard, pulling out cages and scrubbing walls, cleaning grout between paving stones, and giving cat-trees a much-needed brush-up.
Lauren scrubbing scoops - BC
LAUREN is a long-term Sanctuary worker. Her dad found out about us when Lauren was just 11, and wanted to work with animals.  Normally volunteers have to wait till they’re 16 to do a shift, but we always make an exception for parent-child teams, and Dave and Lauren have been feeding the front courtyard cats on Sunday afternoons for nine years now.
Eva - MW
Lauren has been exploring possibilities in study and is doing wildlife and fisheries management in the fall. She says this summer’s made her really used to dirty work (which she tackles with great gusto!)
She has one cat – Kiya – at home, and at the Sanctuary, her favourite is Eva in Old Aids, who she describes as sweet and cuddly (also round, and looking like a meatloaf!)
Karen cleaning the cat-tree -
a horrid job, but it has to be done! - BC
KAREN says: I first visited the sanctuary when I was 6 years old, soon after moving into a new house. My new neighbor Stephanie Ross had introduced herself and invited me to visit the Cat Sanctuary and after that first visit, I was enthralled by cats. Unfortunately, the rest of my family is allergic to cats, so I had to wait until I was old enough to volunteer by myself, then I spent a summer volunteering at the 5 rd shelter. At the end of that summer, I convinced my family to adopt two kittens from the same litter at the shelter. Apparently I am very purrrrsuasive. Those kittens are now 3.5 years old and are two of the greatest joys in my life. I also help Stephanie rescue feral cats.
Fussing cats in the back courtyard - BC
In September, I'll be entering my 3rd year of Applied Animal Biology at UBC, while hopefully still coming to the sanctuary to lend a hand. Working at the sanctuary this summer has taught me that there are over 400 different cats with over 400 different personalities at the sanctuary and each one directly benefits from the hard work the staff and volunteers do each day.
Spirit - MW
It's difficult to choose one cat as my favourite, but I would have to choose Spirit. He's a shy but slightly mischievous boy, but once he gets to know you, he becomes very chatty and friendly. The first time I met him, I thought he had escaped his cage, but once I opened the cage door, I saw his blanket move slightly - he had burrowed under his blanket and was sleeping soundly.
Tiffany working at the litterbox "bath"  - BC
TIFFANY says:  I started as a volunteer at the cat shelter about five years ago in the Single-wide and Leukemia room. I heard about it online and was excited to check it out since I don't have cats of my own. My favourite kitties back then were Belinda, Shilo, and Butterbean. Over the next four years, I've been working as a summer student at the shelter - I couldn't get enough of the cats and kept coming back.
Pets for Tyson - BC
I'm headed to my fourth year at UBC in the fall and will graduate with a Behavioural Neurosciences major and Applied Animal Biology minor. I'm also contemplating applying for veterinary school in Saskatchewan afterwards! This summer has taught me that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Working two jobs has definitely taught me how to manage my working hours and off-time.
Chimo - Tiffany's photo
The cat I keep near and dear to my heart is Chimo (our orange little tabby with the pig tail, often in Waldie's hut). I met him when he was a little rascal when he arrived at the shelter. When I learnt he wasn't making friends - he's a little socially awkward - I spent more and more time with him and eventually fell in love with his antics. He loves belly rubs (if you're slow and careful) and playtime so please give him some love if you can. :)
Thanks for getting to know me, and many thanks to Brigid for allowing a feature of us summer students here."
Snuggles with Chimo, Romeo and Matt - BC
We are so lucky to have had these three wonderful young women working at the Sanctuary this summer!  Cats, volunteers and staff alike offer thanks to them for their energy, enthusiasm and empathy.

Blog compiled by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Friday, August 11, 2017

Reluctant Lions

Bear in full fur - MW
With the summer heat also comes a regular phenomenon at the Cat Sanctuary – lots of hair! Volunteers  regularly spend extra time with a variety of brushes and combs in hand, grooming blissful and grumpy cats alike. Some of them seem to be able to attend to themselves fairly well (bar the odd hairball); others definitely need human assistance. Our summer students (see future blog) are cleaning all the nooks and crannies where cat-hair accumulates; we could probably compile another dozen cats from the fur that comes off each week. Long-haired, short-haired, they’re all shedding like crazy.
Dell's fine hair mats easily - MW
But there are always a few cats for whom grooming is a problem. We have our share of tubby cats who don’t do so well at cleaning themselves because the rear end is so hard to reach – a little shave job around the tail area is usually enough to prevent messy backsides.  Often these are short-haired cats who otherwise have no difficulty in grooming.  However, there are several long-haired cats whose fine fur always seems to mat, and for whom being combed is a real problem.
For anyone who wondered if Bear was big or just fluffy... - DW
The first one this summer to get the traditional lion cut was Bear. Formerly an inhabitant of the Leukemia Room at the back of the Single-Wide, Bear and his buddy Smoochy have become inhabitants of the Val Jones pen (extended now, for Bear, to the Old Aids area). Bear is not always the most approachable cat, and certainly not an easy one to keep groomed; by late spring it was obvious that his mats were giving problems, and he was finally whisked off to the vet for a full lion-cut.  It was obviously something of a surprise to everyone to discover that this enormous ball of fluff was actually a scrawny little body underneath.  We offered him a sweater, which was not appreciated! When the summer heat finally arrived, Bear must have been one of the few who really approved.
He’s now grown out a couple of months of fuzz and is looking quite good!
One of the back-courtyard regulars, Matt doesn’t appreciate being groomed in the regular way, with the inevitable result that he’s a mess by early summer. Last year he got away with just having the worst clumps taken off; this year our lumpy fuzzball got the full treatment, and is now going by the nickname of De-Matt!
"Do you have chicken? Or shall I go back to bed?  -  BC
He’s obviously a bit embarrassed about it all;  he’s found himself a comfy bed to retreat to, and emerges only when he thinks it’s worth showing his face.
Former Pen 6, now Moore House resident Sophia is a constant grooming problem.  She came to us from a closing shelter on the Sunshine Coast, and a volunteer there told us that she was always grumpy for them too – until she got her haircut.  Then she would be sweetness and light, soliciting petting and being very affectionate – for about three weeks, before she reverted to her “Don’t touch me!” mode.
Pet me, please! - BC
Sophia’s just had her summer lion-cut, and as predicted, she can’t get enough attention. The challenge for us will be to keep her enjoying being handled, and to prevent the mats recurring in the first place.
Undressed, but still handsome!  - BC
Handsome Dell in pen 3 is another with long fine fur that mats.  Two years ago we gave him a lion cut, and then managed to keep him groomed so that it wasn’t necessary last summer.  But during the winter months a fallen tree meant limited access to his pen, and his regular grooming partners couldn’t keep him brushed out, so that by the time the summer came, it was obvious that Dell would need attention. Leslie and I managed to get the worst mats off in a cuddle session, but it was not an elegant look!  So when Dell had to go in for a dental (five teeth out!) they took the opportunity of having him sedated and gave him the full lion cut.  Currently he’s in a cage while his mouth heals, so by the time he returns to his own pen, he should have a little protective fuzz.
Come in and pet me - I'm bored!  - DW
There are one or two others with clumps of fur that may need a bit of attention – though we hope not the full works – but for the time being, we’re all busy with combs, furminators, grooming gloves and the like, to keep ahead of the summer mats.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolinski, Michele Wright

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jinx times two

front Jinx - MW / back Jinx - BC
Marianne recently introduced us to Jinx in the front courtyard, in the course of a blog called The Silent Meow.  Jinx has become a familiar figure to us – comfortable with her space, not interacting greatly with the other cats, but not aggressive with them, either. There’s a little heartache for some of us when we see her, because her colouring is so much like that of our beloved Paulo, who we lost last year. Paulo’s meow was anything but silent, however, and our little girl is much more gentle in how she requests our attention.
Another Jinx joined us more recently and is living in the DoubleWide. This one was one of a pair of Bengals who came to us as pee-ers – sadly, a failing of Bengals. Jinx, with her companion Jersey, took a dislike to their owner’s fiancĂ©e, and when peeing on belongings became peeing on the person, they were surrendered to us with great sadness.  Unfortunately Jersey’s reported sensitive stomach turned out to be cancerous, and he was not with us very long.
11-year-old Jinx was obviously hit hard by the loss – first losing her home and coming to the Sanctuary, and then losing her buddy. She was already a small cat, and lost further weight, worrying us all. Kitty Comforters made a point of visiting with her;  she wasn’t much of a lap-cat, but would sit in her bed and listen to visitors, though she didn’t always want to interact with them. Volunteers cleaning her cage needed to be careful, because she was anxious to get out and explore.
As with all new cats, she was kept caged for about six weeks, to give her time to assimilate the new smells and the human and feline visitors. Once her cage was opened, other cats promptly moved in. She wasn’t very happy about that, but shifted her base of operations to an adjacent cage.  She has been discovered to be a chick-aholic;  offerings of chicken-breast are greeted with great eagerness, and she has no hesitation about pushing other larger cats aside if she thinks they have a choice morsel. Providers of tidbits need to guard their fingers; she has sharp teeth, and doesn’t distinguish between chicken and the hand that offers it. And she’s very vocal about her appreciation, greeting each mouthful with loud Nom-nom-noms...
Since emerging from her cage, she’s put on a bit of weight, and is looking good. We’ve been pleased to see her out and about a bit more; she’s discovered the cage-tops and the runways that connect them, and has started to explore her way into the back courtyard.  She’s an amusing contrast to our other Bengal, Dandelion, who is twice her size, and as sedentary as she is active. In true Bengal style, she is not very social with other cats; with humans, if food is not on offer, she will occasionally sit beside an offered lap, but not on it.  If there's food, all bets are off!
Nom nom nom...    BC
Losing a home is tough for any cat – and you can’t tell them it was all their own fault. All we can do is offer her an alternative home, and as much love as she will allow us to give.

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Feline Refugees

Jimmy & Boots - BC
To anyone aware of the media, anxiety about the fires in the Interior of BC is no news. Even for those of us not directly impacted by the flames there is concern about friends and family members, and, at RAPS, about the situation at other rescues. The news tells us what shouldn’t surprise us – that people are wonderful in stepping forward to help refugees, both human and animal, and to give temporary shelter to those in need.
Boots wants company - MW
So far only two of those refugees have actually come to us at the Cat Sanctuary. One of the things we have to bear in mind when we accept temporary residents is that we don’t know what they have been vaccinated against, or how their immune systems may deal with other cats – so they have to remain safely caged while they’re here. And we actually don’t have that many cages, especially if we want to keep them in a quiet low-traffic area. So, large as the Sanctuary is, there is limited space for feline visitors.
Jimmy prefers to hide on the top shelf of his cage,
where he can keep an eye on the world - BC
Our two refugees are safely tucked away in the Moore House with the senior cats; both are pretty senior as well.  Boots is a snowshoe Siamese. At some stage in his life he has probably been a feral in a TNR program, since both ears have been clipped. Typically Siamese-vocal, he loves to have attention, and the Kitty Comforters are always ready to wash their hands and climb into his cage with him. Like Romeo, he appears to be a bit arthritic, and his movement is restricted, though when the door is open he is anxious to jump down and investigate. He’d love to explore a bit more, but for immunity reasons, it won’t be allowed. I’ve folded myself into his cage on several occasions, and he’s been eager to come and lap-sit.
Boots being a lap-cat - BC
Jimmy, in the adjacent cage, is more wary, less ready to come for pets. Both his ears are crumpled, which is often seen in cats who have suffered from ear-mites, and it's likely that he, like Boots, has come from a feral background in which that condition is more common. He has been suffering with a haematoma ear which has required treatment, and, like many cats, he objects to medical attention! Perhaps I remind him of someone he doesn't like, because with me he remains huddled on his high shelf, and shrinks from contact.  Anne Marchetti heads up the Kitty Comforters, and says
I have found Jimmy to be quite affectionate and demonstrative. He really isn't as withdrawn as he'd lead you to believe; he just needs you to make the first move. The second I begin petting him, he leans into my hand, rolls onto his side, and kneads the air with his paws. He'll stand up, rub against the side of his cage, and flop down again for more petting. He really seems to enjoy our visits, despite occasionally flashing me a wary, watchful look. 
Anne is a cat whisperer!

"I don't really think I want you any closer...."  - MW
When Boots and Jimmy’s owner is able to return home, our visitors will go home as well. We’ll miss them, but we’re glad to have been able to be a part of keeping them safe, and we hope that their little stay in the Lower Mainland has made them some new friends.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult and Michele Wright

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tiny Cats

Silky - MD
Visitors to the Sanctuary often notice one of the small cats like Little Mama in the Single-wide trailer or Tricia in the Double-wide trailer and assume that they’re kittens.  It’s true that they do look like kittens but both of these cats are fully-grown and, in fact, quite mature.  There are a few other small ones around, like Sara Lee, Gizmo, and newly-arrived Bengal Jinx but none of them are kittens either.  So why are these adult cats still kitten-size?
Sara Lee - MM
In the case of the females, like Little Mama, Tricia, and Sara Lee, there’s a simple but somewhat sad explanation for their being so petite.  They all had litters of kittens when they weren’t much more than kittens themselves.  As any human female who’s been pregnant can testify, pregnancy takes a lot out of the body!  Humans are generally aware of the nutritional care required during pregnancy and are able to supplement those elements and calories that the growing baby takes from them.  Sadly, homeless female kittens don’t have that luxury. Cats can become pregnant when they’re as young as four to six months old.
Tricia - MM
At that age, their own bodies have certainly not fully developed and having a litter will most likely result in them never attaining full size.  For a young feral cat, their intake of nutritional food is erratic at best, and almost certainly insufficient to support a litter of growing kittens in utero.  They often have small litters of only two or three kittens, have difficulty giving birth, and may lose some or all of their tiny offspring shortly after birth.  Then they have to feed the voracious little babies, again at the expense of their own nutritional needs.
Little Mama - MM
Little Mama, Tricia and Sara Lee were all young and pregnant when trapped, which most likely explains their petite dimensions.  As a cat from a Bengal breeder, Jinx was unlikely to have been a teenage mom, but, despite being eleven years old, she still looks like a kitten.
Jinx - DW
There are, of course, other possible reasons besides early pregnancy for a cat being on the small side. Gizmo, known as “Gizmo the Grey”, is not nearly as large as the average adult cat but, since he’s a male, early pregnancy doesn’t explain his size.  He’s a feisty young ex-stray so probably didn’t get enough food to help his little body grow to a normal size.
Gizmo - MW
There are several other diminutive female cats at the Sanctuary, such as Jax (Jacky) in the Single-wide and Marilee in the front courtyard, but the reasons they’re small aren’t always known.
Tiny Merilee likes to snuggle with Little Orange
- who is not as small as his name implies!  - MM
Like humans, cats do just come in different sizes as a result of genetics and/or nutrition.   The “runt” of a litter or one who was ill or poorly nourished as a kitten has a decreased likelihood of reaching normal mature cat size.  Or, a small cat may simply be a member of a small breed or have parents of a small breed.  As they become elderly, cats who were normal sized or even large in their salad days lose muscle mass and begin to look as if they’re much younger.  Cheetah and Taboo in the front courtyard, and Booster in the Double-wide are all examples of cats who, as humans also do, have become smaller since they became "senior citizen cats".
Cheetah sunning his old bones - MW
So, when you visit the Sanctuary and see cats that are smaller than the others, it’s not because they’re kittens.  They’re fully grown but for some reason don’t look it.  But they do look especially cute!  

Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Melanie Draper, Marianne Moore, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Solar-charging kitties

At this time of the year, it’s not unusual to walk into the Sanctuary and see sprawled bodies all around!
Lazy afternoon in the back courtyard - DW
With the exception of cats who are caged for medical attention, or because they have just arrived with us, all our cats have pretty free rein to go wherever they want. The Single-Wide cats don’t actually get out into the courtyard, but at least they have access to light and air on the back deck, and space by windows on the front. Similarly with the leukemia cats in Old Aids – their courtyard is shaded, but depending on the time of day, patches of sunshine are available.
Miche in the SW window - MW
Humans rely on sunlight for Vitamin D and their health; cats get all they need through their food, and sunshine isn’t a necessary factor. Because they are obligate carnivores and dependent on protein, their bodies process food differently from omnivores.Their natural body temperature is warmer than a human’s and their metabolism tends to run higher. As predators, they are made for bursts of activity, followed by quiet.
Stella sunbathing - MW
If a cat can run on solar, it will. When they sleep, there is a drop in their basal metabolism that is part of shutting down the body for the sleep process. If they can offset that drop with external application of warmth – whether from a heater or from a bout of sunbathing – they can conserve energy.
Salty - MW
On the hottest days, the ambient temperature may be sufficient, and the bodies will be sprawled in shade. But we all know the cats that will wake up every 30 minutes or so and follow the patch of sunlight to its next location.
Timmy - MW
We do need to be aware of sensitive skin – especially ears; white cats, in particular, can get sunburned ears, and we have had several white cats who have developed skin cancers on their ears, needing careful supervision and treatment.
Mona - BC
Age, of course, comes into it.  The younger the cat (as with humans), the more likely it will be active despite the temperature.  Most of our Sanctuary cats are older (rather like we older humans who look after them!) and they prefer to conserve their energy for important things like mooching for treats!
Bobby knows how to relax - DA

soaking up sun’s rays
absorbing its energy, cats
are solar powered   

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Brigid Coult, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pen 2 cats - 3: Orange Is The New Black?

In the first blog introducing the Pen 2 cats we met the two blacks – Kevin and Palma – and the two tuxedos – Booty and Tubby. Last week’s introduction was to the tabbies: Calvin, Chase, Sophie, Celeste and Zivko.   All the cats in this week’s group have the gene that gives rise to orange colouring in one format or another. The majority of orange cats are male – statistically only about 5% are female – but it is the orange gene that can give a female cat either tortoiseshell colouring (black and orange) or calico colouring (white and orange – generally with some black). And torties and calicos are always female.

I have noted in other blogs that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between one black cat and another. That can also be true of the coloured cats – sometimes the identity is clear; sometimes it’s only subtle markings or behaviour that distinguishes one cat from another.
Parry - MW
There are three orange males in Pen 2.  The most friendly and outgoing of the three is Parry, who loves to have human attention, and is always eager to be fussed over. The pale tail-tip is a giveaway of his identity.  Also friendly, but preferably at ground level, is peachy-orange Taffy; he was caged for a while for health reasons, and the Kitty Comforters obviously made him feel happier about human contact.
Taffy - AM
The third orange boy is Pavel – with no white tail-tip, and much more shy than Parry, he will often be found snuggling with someone on an upper shelf in the hut, or hiding out in the undergrowth at the back of the pen.
Pavel & Paula - DA
All the other coloured cats are female.  Paula is classic calico; white fur with strong orange and black markings. She is pretty shy, preferring to hide out with Pavel in the hut, or just out of reach. She will accept treats as long as you don't get too close!
Paula - PH
Minnow is another calico, with much paler colouring; she is outgoing and friendly, and clearly pretty dominant in the colony.
Minnow - MW
The remaining two cats are dilute torties – the strong colouring of regular torties like KitKat, Blaze and Toes in the front courtyard takes on a much more subtle shade in Barbie and Salina. Barbie's colour-markings are clearer than her buddy's, and she is pettable, especially if treats are on offer; Salina is much more muted in colour, and she can be clearly distinguished by a little white dot on her nose; she is much more skittish and wary about interaction with humans.
Barbie - AM
Salina - BC
Sanctuary Manager Janet Reid tells me that we will probably be opening up Pen 2 sometime in the near future. If these ones follow the pattern of other cats from opened pens, we will probably find that the majority will continue to make Pen 2 their base, even as the braver ones start exploring the full range of the back courtyard.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Derya Aydede, Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Angelina Mak & Michele Wright