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, December 8, 2017

Winterizing the Cats

At least in winter Ninja can see where he's climbing! - MW
Looking at the blog I wrote this time last year, I am reminded that we had been hit by the first of a series of snowfalls – rare for the Lower Mainland. Currently the forecast holds clear, but with so many Sanctuary cats out and about, we have to be thinking, “What if...”.  And we’d rather not discover the answer the hard way!
OJ snuggles behind his Oilers blanket - BC
The simplest things come first – the shelves in each cabin are often draped with a sheet; now we change to something warmer, like a blanket, hoping to give cosy corners in which to hide. Fleecy material is favoured and thinner fabrics are retired to a storage cupboard, to be brought out again in the spring.
Jinx feels the cold - she insists on having
her bed by her own heater - BC
Handyman Doug has been assessing the complex and trying to prioritize the things that need attention. Recent heavy rain has disclosed a few places where roof repair is needed, and where skylights need to be sealed; the forecast of clear weather means that they can be dealt with before more rain can do damage.  Doug took time in the summer to resurface many roof areas round the main courtyard and has put up lighting in the back area that make evening shifts much safer to navigate. There is now a RAPS Cat Sanctuary Winter Defence Fund - donations made directly to RAPS or through CanadaHelps can be designated specifically to it.
Hudson's Pen 5 needs a major clean-up - you
do NOT want to walk on that grass!  - BC
All the cabins have ceramic heaters, controlled by thermostats; safest for the cats, they can put out an amazing amount of heat when needed. The concern has to be for the wiring – few of the cabins are new, and wet West Coast weather doesn’t really help. A recent electrical outage has us without power for the best part of a day; the break was not actually on our property, but it reminded us how dependent we are on power to give us heat and to run the never-ending laundry, and all the wiring should probably be thoroughly checked.
Manager Janet has to take laundry home when it piles up!- JR
There is some serious work to be done in the back – some that can be tackled with volunteer help, and some that has to wait for financial assistance.  Tree roots have been buckling up some of the pavers, and in fact one tree fell last winter, taking a part of a pen wall with it.
Pavers buckled and seating damaged by fallen tree - DW
Pen 3 – the home of our handsome Dell – was put on limited access for two months, because the frame around the gate was damaged, and only staff could go in. It was repaired and cat-proofed to welcome another group of ferals, but we need to do some work on all the back pens to make sure the fencing is in good shape, and that netting covering the feral pens can handle a snowfall without collapsing under the weight.
Pen 5 is open, but the mesh still needs to be repaired - DW
Pen 4 is a feral pen and needs to be meshed over - if we
get a snowfall, this roofing can break - BC
The coming clear weather also means that we can tackle a much-needed clear-up of the grassed areas, which by now are pretty poopy. A few cold mornings give us a chance to rake the surface and dispose of the debris; leaves and dead grass can be removed, and the gardens, which have been cut back, can be  tidied for spring preparation. Many of the feral cats prefer not to stay in the cabins even in the worst weather, and the outdoor kennels and beds need to be cleaned out and well supplied with straw to give some protection from the cold.
Stella investigating an outside kennel - BC
A RAPS Cat Sanctuary Winter Defence Fund has been set up to help with some of the financials involved. But most of all, it needs willing hands coming together to make our cats as warm and comfortable and safe as they can be.
We are especially grateful to supporters like these folks from River Rock Casino, who came by for a Day of Giving, taking on some special projects. If you have a team like this that can give us a day, please contact the Shelter Manager - janet@rapsbc.com - it can make all the difference to us and to the cats!

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Blue - the Loner

Blue joined us a year ago as one of a group of cats from a shelter on the Sunshine Coast.
For a while they were all in Pen 6 together, but the pen is too valuable as a limited space suitable for accepting new cats who need outdoor access, and since these cats were all used to human contact and to being handled – in fact, several of them went to the 5 Road Shelter for adoption – the gate was opened and they were allowed to merge with the rest of the back pens population.
For some cats, this sort of release is not always comfortable, and they prefer to stay around the area they know.  We see this with the Pen 5 cats: Adam and May, Rudolf and Salish and the rest – they could go anywhere, but they prefer to stay on their own turf. For other cats, this sort of release signals Opportunity – and this was the situation with Blue.  He was never a very cat-social cat with the other Pen 6-ers, and an open gate meant that he had unlimited space to explore.
I was brought up reading the Kipling “Just-So Stories”, and always loved the one about the cat. “The wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.”
That’s Blue! He’s a true loner – he doesn’t particularly care for people and certainly not for other cats – all he’s concerned about is finding a comfy bed, and some food when other cats aren’t around.
His favoured cosy-corner is the papasan chair on the Newcomers Deck – especially in cold weather, under the heat lamp, that is a favourite bed for half-a-dozen cat to snuggle together. But when Blue claims it, everyone else backs off and goes to find somewhere else to snuggle.
I don’t think he’s a nasty cat. We have to keep a careful eye on some cats like Digby, who throw their weight around and are known to attack other cats.  But Blue just exudes the “I want to be alone” aura, and without much being said, other cats avoid his space. He will accept attention from humans, though he doesn’t really seek it out; when he’s in the right mood he likes to sit behind me and play with my hair.  But he doesn’t snuggle and he doesn’t usually come looking for petting.
He has everything he wants – comfy beds, a space to wander, food and water as needed – and all without being bugged for attention.  Life is good for Blue!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Michele Wright

Friday, November 24, 2017

Love you.. love you... HATE you...

Many of the cats at the Sanctuary are here for behavioural reasons.  For the most part, that means that they have been surrendered because they pee and poop in the wrong places; the third common behavioural category is aggression.
Smithy warns us off - BC
I’m not including ferals in this category; ferals are by nature fearful, and frequently believe that attack is the best defence. For the most part their “attack” consists of hissing, and trying to look as fearsome as they can. You can’t walk into Pen 8 without a display of teeth from Smithy – but it’s interesting that he hangs around while I scoop the back litter-box, and listens while I talk to him. As long as I don’t make eye contact and don’t make obvious moves towards him, he’s ready to listen (though not to be touched).

When I think of aggressive cats, I’m thinking more of the ones who have been surrendered to us because their aggression has been unmanageable in a home. And it’s interesting that very often those same aggressive cats calm down at the Sanctuary and show little sign of the reason they were surrendered.
A relaxed and happy Eli - MD
Handsome Eli was apparently adopted out twice, and returned because of his behaviour. With us, he appears pretty calm – he’s not always friendly with other cats, but with humans he shows no signs of aggression (other than assertively wanting to get into the med cage!). I think it’s likely that he was mis-handled in some way;  as cat-people know, some cats just don’t like being picked up, or are over-sensitive to petting, and it becomes very important to read their body-language.
Cole - MW
Big black Cole was very aggressive in his home, and when he first came to us, his cage was labelled “med staff only” because he was an angry boy.  Since being released, he has calmly made himself at home in the front courtyard, and solicits attention from people. Like Leland and Tigger, he will occasionally ask to be picked up, and his only fault is that he really wants to be on the other side of every door.
Puffin has great presence - MW
For a good while we’ve had Puffin labelled as a dangerous cat for visitors; he asks for petting and then suddenly changes his mind – probably when the petting over-stimulates him. Though we still warn new visitors, Puffin has his fan-club; he is particularly fond of attention from young women, and absolutely adores Anne’s daughter Selena, who lets him cuddle with no sign of aggression.  Selena’s a very calm person, and Puffin obviously relaxes and feels at ease with her.
Grey Gizmo would rather be exploring - MW
But on the flip side, we have our share of cats who have not settled in like this.  Gray Gizmo persists in being erratically aggressive with both cats and humans; for the most part, he’s The Cat Who Walks By Himself, but occasionally he will allow a little petting. It’s rather like living with some teenagers – a perfectly nice person suddenly has a mood swing, and Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde.  Gizmo is young, so hormones may still be at play.  That’s also true of his lookalike in the SingleWide – gray Jax (Jackie) will sit quietly with Marty for ten minutes of petting, and then suddenly attack.  I suspect that with both Jax and Gizmo, the sensation of petting builds up to the point where it is no longer calming; we all need to be really aware of tensions and twitches.
Deceptively elegant - that's Lumi - MW
Age and hormones are no longer a factor for Lumi – this pretty girl has her mood swings just for the sake of it. For a while she wore a red collar as a warning for people around; she’s a little calmer these days, but we all have to be aware that she may not be in a petting space.
Sophie looking innocent - MW
Tubby Sophie is one of the cats that has come out of Pen 2.  While the pen was closed, Sophie was often the greeter at the gate, and visitors quickly discovered that it was necessary to restrict petting to Sophie’s head, and not touch her back at all.  Now that she’s out and about we’ve found it necessary to put a collar on her to distinguish her from all the other tabbies. She has become even more sensitive about being touched – and yet she’s often the first to leap onto someone’s lap in the tea-room.  And with Sophie, it’s not just claws, it’s also teeth.  The collar alone may not be enough – she may need a warning bell as well!
Cher on guard - BC
The cat who wins the prize for mood swings is pretty Cher in the front courtyard. She is anxious for attention, weaving around legs and quick to jump into laps. With male visitors in particular she is very affectionate – until with no warning, she suddenly swats. The presence of other cats doesn’t help, but anything can set Cher off!

These are all cats that under other circumstances would probably be “euthanised” (a term I object to, in this context). I am so thankful that here at the Sanctuary they are allowed to have their mood swings, just like humans sometimes do, and that, other than the occasional “time out for bad behaviour”, they can just get on with the business of living with a bunch of other cats.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Michele Wright

Friday, November 17, 2017


Merran came in to us last July, the latest in a series of cats trapped by Stephanie at a nearby waste-processing facility.
Shy Merran - DW
Stephanie tells me that there is a resident male, definitely the dominant one, which she calls Tenor; his predecessor, who passed (probably from rat poison) was named Pavarotti. Both cats were predominantly white with black markings, and there are various other Sanctuary cats with that colouring which are probably Pavarotti’s offspring.  When Stephanie first saw Merran there, she thought he was probably a young female, since the cat usually ran to Tenor for protection. The facility is a big area, and Stephanie’s usual pattern is to drive the circuit and see if any cats can be seen, and then to place the traps accordingly. She leaves them in place for an hour or so, and then rechecks.  On this particular day, Merran was in the last trap to be picked up, though Steph and her trapping partner Karen (summer student) hadn’t seen any cats that far.
still suspicious - PH
As a long-haired tabby, Merran’s very unlike most of what we think of as the “cow cats” and Stephanie thinks that there’s not just a resident colony there, but that someone dumps unwanted cats and kittens in the vicinity. It’s a heartbreaking situation, because RAPS will always take in strays, and living in the wild, their lives are usually dangerous and short.
I see you; I don't like you! - DW
Merran didn’t appreciate the fact that he’d come to safety in the Sanctuary, though – in a cage he hissed and cowered, and Leslie tells me he chewed his way through the mesh in short order. He was not happy about being recaptured, because after a second jail-break, he disappeared onto the deck, to wherever he could find cover – behind the couch, hidden behind a drape, crouched between the jugs of litter and the board that tops them.
You can't get me here - KN
And then gradually, gradually, he has started to emerge. He has made his way into the main room of the trailer – usually first thing in the morning or late at night. He prefers it when there’s only one person around, and is still wary, but he is definitely interested in human activity. He has joined the chicken club, hovering hopefully on the fringe when tidbits are being handed out; mostly he waits for something to be tossed his way, but if the pushier cats are not present, he will edge closer and accept a bit from the hand.  He doesn’t seem to interact much with the other cats, though he has been seen snuggling on occasion,
Safe up in the corner - DW
and is quick to back away if challenged, but he no longer constantly looks fearful. The Kitty Comforters are very aware of him, and spend some time checking on him when visiting the SingleWide, and most of us feeding or cleaning in there watch for his presence.
Merran much more relazed - MW
We hope that, with other ferals who have turned the corner and gone on to interact comfortably with us, Merran will be another success story. Gilbert, Bossanova, Pumpkin and many others have been allowed to take their own time to integrate and feel part of the Sanctuary community; welcome to safety, and a home where you are loved, Merran!

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

Friday, November 10, 2017


Traditionally November is a month in which many men grow a moustache as a part of raising funds for issues around men’s health (Movember).  There’s no ‘tache-growing going on around the Sanctuary, but an interesting variety of facial fur markings can be seen.
Digby is one of our relative newcomers, and his moustache marking suits his personality, which is dominant, to say the least!  He’s not afraid to tell other cats where to get off, especially when they encroach into his space.  Digby came in at the same time as Magpie, who has a similar ‘tache, but in reverse – white on black fur. Magpie is a pretty hissy feral, and has not cooperated over having his picture taken.
Smoochie’s little Hitler-moustache belies his gentle nature.  Very timid for a while when he lived in the Leukemia area, he has now a wide variety of human friends. He hangs out with his buddies Bear and Hendrik in the Val Jones area.
Mya - MW
Feline moustaches are not, of course, confined to males. Mya, one of the ferals from the composting facility, has a most impressive Chaplin-type moustache marking. Her late sister, Teagan, was one of the cats with a half-tache, and shy sister Kirstie’s marking covers her entire nose. It’s too erratic to be called a moustache, but she does have a little black chin that might double for a goatee!
Brighton - CP
There’s obviously something genetic here – Brighton and Hillie also came from the same venue. Hillie’s nose is mostly black; Brighton has a much more impressive spread of coloured fur over her upper lip.
Woody - MD
Woody is one of the relative newcomers to New Aids, and like Brighton, his ‘tache has a good spread. Many men who grow their facial hair find that it comes in quite dark; it’s pretty rare to find someone with dark hair and a fair moustache. We do have a few white moustaches in the Sanctuary. Magpie, mentioned above, is a prime example, 
Salish - MW
but so is shy Salish, whose pencil moustache is just visible in her long fur.
Honey Bear - ChrisP
Honey Bear’s ‘tache is as off-balance as he is, with more white on the right side than the left
Comet (MW) & Rocky Slippers (DW)
And these two look almost identical, though as far as we know, they’ve never met. Comet is an assertive lady who dominates the cage-tops in the DoubleWide; Rocky Slippers is a nervous and shy feral boy who hangs out mostly in Pen 1 area and won’t allow anyone to touch him.
This is not taking into account all the cats who have half-taches on one side or the other – Chester, Mischa, and many others
But I think one of my favourites is an implied rather than an explicit moustache – Emily’s dark markings in all her tortie fur always look to me as if she has a little pencil-thin handlebar moustache, though to be sure, it’s stronger on one side than the other!
Emily - PH

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Carol Porteous, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Friday, November 3, 2017

Nothing Stops Terry

Terry came into our care a few months ago, and has walked straight into everyone’s hearts.
This is the second ginger Terry to come our way – Terry (I) was a long-term resident who passed only a few years ago; he was one of those ferals who became half-way tame in his last years.  Terry (II) came to us a couple of months ago as one of many cats who arrived with us because the place he was living couldn’t manage his problems any longer. With some cats, like Ollie, peeing problems occurred because that’s what Ollie wanted to do; with other cats, the peeing is symptomatic of a stress situation at home – a new baby, a barking dog, loud arguments...  Terry’s problem is entirely involuntary: he was hit by a car several years ago. For whatever reason, his injury was not treated properly and his pelvis and legs “healed” in a twisted position that left them entirely stiff. Not surprisingly, he has no control over his bladder and bowels.
I talked to Leslie about him and discovered that Terry is actually an immigrant!  He was picked up  following his accident on a road in some middle eastern country – Leslie wasn’t sure where.  His owner had him for some years, but when she moved, her partner said “Him or me!” She was obviously concerned that surrendering him to a regular shelter would mean he would be put down, and she found a private shelter that was willing to take him on.  The shelter had him well vet-checked and was told that there was nothing to be done now in the way of rehab or corrective surgery. He was much loved there, but living with a cat that has no control is very hard on a home.  So Terry came to us.
For the first while he lived in a cage in the SingleWide.  Immediately he endeared himself to all his visitors, enjoying attention from humans (in his cage) and from cats (sniffing through the mesh).
Terry with visitor - DW
Because of his disability he was set up with a small staircase so he could access the upper level as well as the floor. It’s astonishing to watch him climb – he obviously has developed front-body strength, and effectively he walks on his front paws, using his back legs just to help balance.
The higher, the better! - MD
It was decided that he would probably do better where he had more space to roam; the Single-Wide is limited in area, and though it appeared that the other cats were going to accept him, it would be very difficult for him to get away if another cat took against him.  He was relocated to the Double-Wide, and then released, under a degree of cautious supervision.
Terry exploring with Honey Bear,
who is also disabled - DW
Terry loved being out again. He has no fear of exploring, and can be found roaming the back pens quite happily.
On walkabout - DW
Our concern for the behaviour of other cats was, to some extent, justified. Cats, like people, are not always kind to those who are disabled or different in any way. However, Terry is not afraid of a scrap and is quite ready to defend himself! Unfortunately, two other recent newcomers – Licorice and Digby – seem to have taken him in dislike, and Terry is usually caged at night for his own safety. Currently he’s recovering from an injury inflicted by Licorice;  as a recently-neutered male, the latter is probably reacting to the smell of Terry’s pee, which he perceives as a territorial challenge.
Terry is getting lots of love and attention from the med staff and from the Kitty Comforters – but he’s obviously longing to be out and about the back pens again, or mountaineering his way to the top of the cages.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper, Jenny Reid, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pumpkin Cats for Halloween

Tradition holds that black cats are the symbols for Halloween – but with an abundance of pumpkins around, this Halloween I’d rather think about the Sanctuary's crop of orange cats.
Pumpkins - DW
Pumpkin is obviously a great name for an orange cat – in fact, I’m surprised we have had only two Pumpkins at the Sanctuary – one a feral leukemia cat, now passed, and our current Pumpkin, who was actually named more for his orange eyes than for his pale orange colouring
Pumpkin - MW
This Pumpkin is mostly an inhabitant of the Newcomers area; he’s an excellent example of a semi-feral cat who appreciates humans bearing food, but is not really happy about all the touchy-feely stuff – he will allow a little stroke here and there, and he’s a long way from being the angry feral that came in to us, but he prefers to stay at arm’s length, other than with specially favoured visitors like Moira.
Simba - DW
The intense orange of a good pumpkin is better echoed in the colouring of a cat like Simba. This sweet boy came to us as one of the first from a closing shelter on the Sunshine Coast; since the pen he was in has been opened, Simba has enjoyed the chance to wander and make new friends. 
Simba - MD
He excels at finding laps and making himself comfortable – and as all cat-lovers know, there’s no better therapy than a purring cat in the lap. Apparently he was initially surrendered as a pee-er – probably a protest against not being allowed outside. Here at the Sanctuary he has outside privileges in safety, and lots of friends to love him.
Simba lap-cat - MD
OJ is not only pumpkin-coloured, he’s also pumpkin-shaped! He is one of the few cats in pen 4 (ferals) who will allow touch, and it usually needs to be accompanied by treats. 
We recently opened pen 2, all the inhabitants of whom had come to us last year from the Five Road shelter. Some of that colony have stayed safely in the area they know, but others have enthusiastically ventured out to explore. Parry is one of those cats, happily visiting with volunteers in the tea-room or poking his nose into the double-wide. His orange friend Pavel is much more wary about passing the gate...
Parry - BC
A long-time back courtyard feline pumpkin is Albi, though his solid-orange coat is a darker shade than Parry or Simba. Another semi-feral, Albi will cautiously allow touch, though he’s obviously not that enthusiastic about it. 
Albi - MW
Another pumpkin-shaped orange cat lives in the Single-Wide; Paylan came in with Mom Marisa (now passed).  After several years living with us, a vet-visit informed us that “he” was “she” and the renamed Sarah Paylan can usually be found tucked away on a shelf. She belongs to the school of cat behaviour that calls for as little exertion as possible – hence the shape! We do have several other orange female cats (statistically, 95% of orange cats are male) but most of them are orange and white, and only Blanche and Paylan are predominantly ginger
Sarah Paylan - DW
The front courtyard also has a good collection of orange cats – sweet Gilbert, shy Lucky, brothers Henrik (in the Val Jones area) and Daniel, as well as orange and white Tigger.
Fall in the front courtyard - DW
But a feature on our pumpkin-coloured cats wouldn’t be complete without a look at the not-so-small Little Orange, friend and protector of Merilee, worshipper of Sunday visitor Allison, and one of the softest-furred cats in the Sanctuary.
Little Orange - MW

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright