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, March 31, 2017

The Volunteer-Cat Relationship - Alice

It’s a while since we’ve had a volunteer feature on the Neko Blog, and I asked Alice to tell us something about herself and the cats she loves.
with Kit-Kat & Blaze... - BC
She has been coming to the Sanctuary almost two years now – she started in July of 2015 and took over my Friday shift in the Old Aids, when I moved to work in the back pens. She heard about it from her sister, whose friend had volunteered here, and she came to it from the perspective of a non-pet family member.  She says “My family isn't big on pets - we had one unsuccessful try with a dog when I was very young (the dog was much too rambunctious for three-year old me) and after that, we only had a few lukewarm attempts at goldfish as I was growing up. But I definitely hope to get a cat when I settle down on my own.”
coaxing Tara - with Shelley involved  -  BC
Her Friday mornings in the Old AIDS/Val Jones area extend to most of the day spent at the Sanctuary, and she has recently picked up the Wednesday night feeding shift in the Double-Wide, as well as spending much of Sunday afternoons with the cats.

Like a lot of our volunteers, she’s reserved when talking about herself, but when asked about her favourite cats, the floodgates are opened!  She says:
I have quite a few special cats that I always look for - it's why my days at the Sanctuary always run so long! To start, the leukemia cats have a special place in my heart - they're the first cats that I ever got to know at the sanctuary and the ones that I know the best.
Merlin - MW
 I always make sure to get in some one-on-one time with each of them every week, be it for some grooming or just cuddling and treats. The group in Old AIDS also gets some special chicken time just before I leave for the day. (Shh, don't tell the Val Jones cats!)
Puffin the King - PH
I'm also a steadfast member of the Puffin fan club - he's not a bad cat, really! Despite his reputation, he's really a sweetheart. I think it's just that sometimes he gets in a Mood (ie. stressed out/on edge from the other cats) and he needs his space when that happens. I usually know to let him be if the tail doesn't come up or if I don't hear the purr when I offer him my hand for sniffing. But when he is in a good mood, he's a very affectionate boy - he loves to come sit on my lap and butt his forehead gently against my chest.
Zimmer - MW
Another cat that I always make sure to visit is Zimmer in New AIDS. I fell head over heels for his irresistible 'sad cat' face back when he was first introduced on the blog. Of course, the attraction wasn't mutual at all, and I spent half a year or so trying desperately to woo him. I'd even given in and bought a can of tuna and was prepared to use it as a bribe before he finally, miraculously, decided one day that I wasn't so bad after all. (He ended up getting the tuna anyway, of course.) All that time and effort was definitely worth it though, because he is the sweetest boy - he loves head rubs and he'll let you know it with the loveliest purr.
Diamond - MW
Another special cat is Diamond in the Single-Wide. I first fell in love with her together with Garfield and I would often spend time cuddling with them as they both snuggled together in the same bed on the Single-Wide counter. In the wake of losing Garfield late last year, and finding out about Diamond's own health issues, I've since made sure to dedicate extra time and love to her. I usually visit her in the evenings for a bit of a brush and a cuddle - she's one of those cats that will curl up and doze in my arms when I lay down with her (and she doesn't even mind when Simone wriggles in to get in on the snuggling action!)
Paylan (KS) & Bossanova (MW)
While I'm in the Single-Wide, I also pay a visit to Sarah Paylan and Bossanova, for a bit of grooming. They're both a little (a lot) on the chunky side, so it started out as a way to make sure that they didn't start developing matts in those harder-to-reach spots, but they both enjoy it so much that it's become a treat all on its own. What's actually quite funny is that both of them react in similar ways when getting combed in the bum area: Bossanova does his characteristic frantic licking of the floor, and Paylan begins to lick anything that's within reach, which is often my wrist! 
Riley - PH
And last but definitely not least, my day is never complete without a visit to Riley in the Connor. I can't remember when it was that I first noticed him, but I do remember being immediately intrigued by his big-boned self. Of course, he was so shy that he'd only ever let me admire him from afar. Fortunately for me (although not so much for him), he had a rather long stint in a cage for his chronic congestion problems last November and I got the perfect chance to bond with him. By the end of it, I'd thought that we had built the start of something beautiful, but when he was let out, he promptly forgot who I was and would ignore all my attempts to visit with him! Luckily, he was easier to win over the second time around and he now recognizes my voice when I call his name and will come down from the cage-tops to say hello.

Alice wishes, of course, for long and healthy lives for all of the cats, and also hopes that RAPS and the Sanctuary can continue to grow and flourish and provide a safe haven for them and many more cats in the future.

Blog by Brigid Coult & Alice Lai
Photos: Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Katie Scragg, Michele Wright

Friday, March 24, 2017

Loving the Leukemia Cats

You came to see me?  -  Dexter - MW
Many of our volunteers come arrive faithfully each week to do a shift – often in the same area each time. And in the course of those regular shifts, they get to know some cats really well.  A few of us enjoy the opportunity to dive into different areas off-schedule and get to know less familiar cats, or ones we’ve not seen for a while.
Happy - MW
Last week I covered a shift in the Old Aids area with the leukemia cats.  Old Aids is like coming home for me; I have fond memories of time there with Bella and Bubba, Panther and Jasper – cats who were dearly loved, and have now passed. I remember when the main room was pretty battered, the floor not in great condition, so that the cat-pee smells were impossible to eradicate totally. After one of Doug’s miracle refurbishing sessions, it became much easier to keep it clean, and you will often find volunteers cuddled up in the comfy armchair with a lapful of cats.
Where's dinner? - DW
When you visit an area on a regular basis, you get a different view of it than the one you perceive with less frequent visits.  I was given a very vocal greeting at the door, as usual, by Dexter – letting me know in no uncertain terms that dinner was overdue and he was starving!  The first surprise of the evening was Frodo, though – also anxiously waiting, but as soon as I sat down, he wanted up in my lap. Frodo has been one of the shadow cats for so long – usually hovering on a cage-top or out in the open area. More recently he’s been known to make quick escapes through the door and into the porch area, and he quite enjoys human company. But this is the first time I’ve known him demand cuddles in that way.
Frodo - PH
Much to Dexter’s annoyance, cuddle time came first. Happy was already in the chair, and shifted so I could sit with her. For so long she’s been a very wary little feral, but as she ages, contact with humans is less feared. Eva came up to join us, sitting behind me on the arm of the chair and offering kisses.  Her worried face belies a cat that has settled well with us; she’s not really keen on the other cats, but she tolerates them, and loves petting from volunteers.
Chair snuggles: Eva, Happy, Zanda & Merlin - BC
Zanda woke from his nap and bustled over to join us.  He’s always been a friendly boy and willing to snuggle with his pals; it’s a little worrying to see that he’s a bit more unsteady on his feet now. Merlin perched on the other chair arm and head-butted, wanting attention.
I'm so BOOORED waiting for dinner! - DW
The Dexter-demands were getting louder, so I warmed the cans, scooped the boxes and doled out food – with Dexter helping himself from every plate.  A quick visit next door to the Val Jones cats for the essentials, a few treats and a check that all was well, and then I returned to the main room for some more quality-time.  Shadow/Chateaux appeared for a quick feed, but he’s still very wary around people, though he has his feline cuddle-buddies. I checked the outside area to find Martini and Ooly in their usual hiding places;  Martini just looks down with disdain and rarely responds; Ooly was cosily established under the heat lamp, but later came into the main room for some food and company. She’s interested in humans, but doesn’t really want contact.
Martini hides in the shadows;
Ooly enjoys the warmth  - BC
More armchair time, more cuddles, and chicken tidbits on offer. Bibi is quick to emerge when there’s chicken; she can usually be found high up on a shelf or hiding behind the armchair, but treats take priority and she loses all wariness, ready to put her paws up on a knee to get the best bits.  Not a lap-cat yet, but who knows...
Bibsy - PH
It’s very easy, faced with the number of cats in other areas, to forget about some of these closed-off cats. They are kept separate partly for their own sakes – their immune systems are compromised, which is why it’s so important that we wash before entering their area – and partly for the other cats – feline leukemia is easily transmitted in saliva.  But they are a lovely group, and appreciate visitors who offer attention and cuddling – the favourite thing for so many cats.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Santos & Debo

Debo - MW
Santos and Debo are siblings who came to live at the Sanctuary in November last year, when their owner moved to an assisted living facility and couldn’t take her beloved tabbies with her.  The chances of finding a forever home for these two fifteen-year boys were pretty slim but if that doesn’t happen, they’ve found one with us. 
Debo - DW
Santos and Debo started out together in a large cage in the Moore House but it soon became clear that being roommates wasn’t necessarily what either of them wanted.  They also seemed to be too “young at heart” to require the quiet environment that the older cats in that building prefer. So, they got their own private bachelor pads - Santos in the first available cage in Hill House and Debo in the single-wide trailer. Cats usually progress from a cage in Hill House into the front courtyard but that area is home to a few “bully-boy” cats like Leland and Puffin so probably wouldn’t have been a happy place for an older boy like Santos. Besides, he occasionally has a slight tremor so Animal Care Staff wanted to be able to keep a closer eye on him. 
Santos - MW
When he was ready, Santos was released into the same trailer as Debo.  Although there wasn’t a happy sibling reunion, both are quite content there. Debo quickly claimed one of the comfy chairs as his own and Santos insists on hanging around just inside the door to ensure that he gets immediate attention from anyone who enters.   If that doesn’t work, he’ll gently but insistently paw at the visitor’s leg to get it. 
Santos & Debo - close, but not TOO close! - MM
Although Santos came to us with a reputation for sometimes scratching or biting without warning, he’s been well-behaved here after a brief period of settling in. In fact, both Santos and Debo are very affectionate boys and both are determined to be lap cats, especially Debo.  Sit down anywhere near him and he’s on your lap!  Debo is generally more laid-back and out-going than Santos, but Santos has mellowed quickly and has gained plenty fans among staff, volunteers and visitors. Although neither can be called grumpy anymore, Brigid has compared them to Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in “Grumpy Old Men” – can’t tell them apart.    
Debo - MW
Fortunately, Santos’ tremor doesn’t seem to be related to any serious health issues but he’s presently recovering from a bad cold so is a bit unsteady on his feet. That bit of wobble just adds to his appeal and, of course, successfully enforces his wish to be picked up and cuddled.    
Santos on lap - MM
When I visited him recently, he was so busy squirming happily on my lap or head-butting my hands that it was almost impossible to get a non-blurred photo of him.  I had to hold him close and take a photo with my camera held in front of both of us like a couple of selfie-taking teenagers. You can see how handsome he is! Debo was much more cooperative, posing like a true professional!  
Why don't you sit down and cuddle me? - MM
When you’re at the Sanctuary, ask one of the volunteers to introduce you to Santos and Debo in the Single-Wide trailer, and, if you’ve been thinking of sponsoring one or two of the resident cats, please consider these two.   Sponsorship forms are available at the Sanctuary or on the RAPS website at  http://www.rapsbc.com/sponsorship/

Blog by Marianne Moore
Photos by Marianne Moore, Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Brace of Bengals

the regal Bengal look... - MW
Most of the Sanctuary cats are “moggies” - the English descriptor for a cat of indeterminate breed. Short-haired, long-haired, tabby, black, orange, white, and any number of combinations – we have them! Cats of specific breeds are usually in demand, and when they come to a shelter, they often get adopted quickly. That is, unless there’s a problem of some sort – and that problem is usually pee-ing!
Zulu - BD
Currently we have two Bengals living with us. I missed meeting their predecessor Zulu, who was known for his penetrating voice – especially when food was concerned.
Lucky - MW
Lucky came to us about three years ago, and has settled well.  He’s an established personality in the back courtyard – until recently he lived mainly in Waldi’s hut, opposite the tea-room, but he can most often be found now in the tea-room itself or in the double-wide laundry room. And the attraction of those two places? That’s where the sinks are – and the possibility of someone turning on a tap! Lucky adores running water – either running fast, in which case he drinks from the stream – or running in a trickle, in which case he sticks his head under the water and lets it get him really wet.  It seems to be a common passion of many Bengals, and may be part of the reason that they are also known for their bad bathroom habits.
The view's better up here...   PH
Lucky’s a friendly boy; like Hannah, he will sometimes appear on an unsuspecting shoulder, though the favoured shoulders have come to expect him.  He’s a favourite of Michele’s, and she has many lovely pictures of him.
Wonderful eyes - MW

A good stretch...  MW

He was joined at the Sanctuary last fall by Dandelion.
Dandelion - MW
Once again, the peeing problems were just too much for Dandelion’s owners – and their final decision (which they struggled with for some time) was confirmed by his determined bullying of their smaller female cat. Bengals tend to be sleek and muscular; Dandelion is the most overweight Bengal we’ve ever seen.
Dandelion - PH
For the first part of his stay with us he was caged, as all our new cats are. His owners had told us he was fussy about his food, but he calmly ate everything that was offered. We decided that along with other overweight cats, his health would be best approached by encouraging more exercise, rather than caging him and limiting his food.  However, since release, he has found a few corners to claim and is usually found sleeping peacefully, ignoring the other cats around him.
Wake me when it's springtime...  BC
We hope that when the warmer weather comes, Dandelion will join Lucky in roaming the back courtyard, and perhaps regain a trimmer outline!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Barbara Doduk Phadra Hardman, & Michele Wright

Friday, March 3, 2017

Kitty Cuddles

Nose-bumps - MW
What constitutes a cat kiss? Cats show affection for each other by “bunting” (rubbing cheeks and exchanging scents), by head-bumps, by exchanging slow eye-blinks and by mutual grooming. And when a cat shares any of those behaviours with a favoured human, you’re being marked as an honorary cat.
People who profess themselves to be dog people rather than cat people will tell you that cats are aloof, and that to enjoy affection you need to get a dog.  It’s certainly true that many dogs are very focused on their own humans, and that many cats are more reserved – as the saying goes: Dogs come when they’re called; Cats take a message and get back to you.  But cat lovers know that the surface reserve can hide deep affection, and that once a cat has given its trust, you become a vital part of its life.
Debo loves Jocelyn - MW
At the Sanctuary the cats meet a great variety of people: there might be as many as 150 volunteers through in a week between the morning cleaning shift and the afternoon feeding one, and the Kitty Comforters,plus the Sunday visitors.  In quieter areas, like the Moore House, there are fewer humans around; in the double-wide or the front courtyard there’s always someone coming or going.
With all that activity, building a relationship of trust with a Sanctuary cat takes time and patience and consistency. Some of them are always wary; with others it’s primarily cupboard love that produces the attention.  But many of us have “our” cats who come for attention and who relax in our arms.
Jody always looks worried - BC
Sweet Jody would probably not be on everyone’s list. Jody is/was one of the tea-room bathroom cats; the late Baby, Piper and Jody used to share the three shelves there, hating each other, and each laying claim to their own space. Since we lost Baby, Piper has migrated out to the tea-room and Jody has mostly moved into the double-wide laundry room, where she jealously guards her bed from other cats, and looks pleadingly at passing humans. She doesn’t want to move, but she does love being petted, and she responds with little kissy licks, coaxing the caressing hand to stay just a little longer.
Eva - PH
Visitors to Old Aids (actually the home of most of our leukemia cats) may overlook Eva, a tubby tabby who often tucks herself away. Eva has her favourite humans, though, and once she trusts, she snuggles in, putting her paws on your shoulder and giving little licks to the nearest bits of exposed skin or hair.
a Michele and Emery selfie!
Sometimes the cats that don’t get on with other cats do better in a bigger area. Emery usually seems to have the ability to blinker out the felines around him, getting upset only when someone moves into his immediate space.  He’s definitely a human-centred cat, though – Emery’s favourites know the heart-warming experience of an Emery-hug, and a cold nose snuggled into the neck! It’s too bad that this sweet boy expresses his stress by peeing in corners...
a rare moment of contentment for Leland - MW
Leland is another cat who doesn't do well at the Sanctuary. He is most often found pacing the front courtyard near the gate - the objective being to get between the gates separating front and back so that he can be spared the contact with all the other cats. Unfortunately for him, that's a no-cats-land area. He expresses his displeasure freely in a series of grumbles, he wants human attention, but in a limited way, and when things get too much for him, he picks a fight with another alpha cat.  But Leland has his sweet moments. In the right mood, a snuggle with a human is just what he loves best - especially when his best friend Debbie offers to cuddle him like a baby. That face tells you that for a moment, all is well in Leland's world.
Alice and Blanche have a tender moment - MW
When Blanche first came to us, she longed to be outside, and was usually found somewhere in the back courtyard. In the last while she has developed some physical problems that limit her mobility, but she has discovered that living on one of the double-wide shelves carries the bonus of accessibility to her favourite humans.

There’s nothing like a set of kitty-kisses to make all feel right in the world!

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