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, January 25, 2018

Splotch

Pen 8 at the Sanctuary is one of the feral pens – reserved for the cats who need a sense of security in not having their turf invaded too often by humans (and by other cats). Something about its situation made it particularly susceptible to flooding, and a few years ago our wonderful handyman Doug paved the whole area, and dealt with the drainage problem. It’s sometimes known to volunteers as “the concrete pen”, and in the summer we need to make sure there’s plenty of water and shelter – though, Vancouver being what it is, dealing with rain is a more immediate problem.
Pen 8 - BC
The cats who call it home are not a friendly lot, on the whole; Phaedra is probably the best person to coax them into interaction with humans. There is a bunch of tabby and white cats, who hiss and glare; there is long-haired Smithy and a couple of smaller greys; there is a pair of younger black cats who are beginning to be touchable – and there is Splotch.
Splotch - PH
Splotch has been at the Sanctuary since 2011 and part of this pen group for all that time; most of them came from a colony Carol Reichert trapped at a cement plant. His rather battered features and crumpled ear give the impression that life has not always been easy for him.
Smithy & Splotch - MW
He’s not been as aggressive towards humans as Johnny and Smithy, but it’s interesting to note that he’s obviously been a comfort figure in the group – there have often been other cats gathered around him and head-butting him.
Splotch, Johnny, Smithy - MW
So it was distressing for cats and humans alike when it was reported that Splotch had injured himself some way – he seemed to be unable to stand. The med staff whisked him into care, and the vet reported that it was not so much an injury as some sort of vascular blockage, like a stroke. In any other shelter, he would probably have been euthanized, but not at RAPS!  He was put into one of the upper-level cages near the med-cage, and received lots of attention.  Initially he moved very little, and had to be force-fed; as his mobility increased, select visitors were allowed, and it became obvious that the stroke had affected his behaviour. From being a “look at me and I’ll hiss” feral cat, he became a purr machine for a stroking hand, moving forward to the front of the cage for attention when his particular friends came to see him. Sloppy “soup” food transitioned into regular fare, and treats like chicken and tuna were happily accepted.
Splotch in recovery - BC
It was tempting to keep him in the double-wide trailer, or to allow him to become part of the general population. One back paw was inclined to drag or turn over, and we knew that it would need to be watched. But given his role in Pen 8, it was decided to return him there, and see how he managed.
Gigi cuddling with Splotch - BC
The answer was, on the whole, very well!  He claimed an upper-shelf bed, with a carefully constructed path that allowed him to get down by himself. Though many of the ferals use the cabin, the minute the gate opens they scurry to the back of the pen, so we don’t know what the dynamic is among the cats with the returned exile. Visitors usually find him sharing cabin space with the two little blacks, Gigi and Kermit, and we hope that watching him interacting with us will help to accept attention as well – they are certainly willing to accept treats, though not yet allowing themselves to be hand-fed.
Splotch looking for attention - BC
When I clean there on a Friday morning, Splotch’s head pokes out of his bed when he hears my voice. He’s happy to accept petting, and occasionally comes down to see if I have anything special for him. In the right mood, he will allow himself to be picked up and lap-snuggled.  His stroke has obviously affected his memory of how a feral should behave.  It will be interesting to see whether any of the other cats show willing to have human interaction, on his model.

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

Best Buds - Chimo & PawPaw

Chimo & PawPaw - MW
People who are not cat people will tell you that cats are non-social, aloof – “if you want a friend, get a dog”, they will say... Cat-people know that cats are as varied as people – some are introverts, loving their own company, living life on their own terms – but others enjoy being around both people and other cats.  And nowhere do we see that more clearly than at the Cat Sanctuary.
Snuggling together: Babylon & Presley - MW
We have our share of “typical” cats – the ones I call the Garbo Cats (“I vant to be alone...”) - Leland and Timmy in the front courtyard, BlueJingles and Emery in the back.  But we also have the cat-magnets – our dear departed Mario and Salty never went anywhere without their devoted followers, and Daniel in the front courtyard always has the company of Cloverleaf, Jamie or Figaro
Daniel & Cloverleaf - MW
For some cats, the presence of others is a strain, best expressed in a degree of aggression, and we now have have some of those cats, like Mindy and Spades, in a quieter area, where they will feel less challenged.  But for the most part, the majority of the cats get on very well – and in some places, “get on” goes to a whole new level.
Chimo - MW
Chimo came to us with a reputation for aggression.  His back-story will fill you in on his progress from an aggravating cat who had never learned to play nicely, to a mellow boy who rolls over to invite petting (belly-rubs, though welcomed by implication in his posture, are still too risky).  He has established the north-south wing of the back courtyard as his turf, and generally hangs out in what we call “Waldi’s Hut”, sharing space with other quiet cats: Morticia, Dusty, Quinn, and others who don’t usually welcome human attention.
Chimo - BL
PawPaw was one of the first cats to come to us from the closing shelter on the Sunshine Coast, and was part of the group established in Pen 6. Some of those cats have gone on to adoption through the 5 Road City Shelter, others are still with us. PawPaw has remained with us because he is diabetic, and needs monitoring for insulin.
PawPaw - MW
As the group settled into Sanctuary life, the pen was opened, and some of its inhabitants ventured out. Cats like Blue and Simba, full of confidence, claimed their own spaces; others, like Faith and PawPaw, preferred to stay in Pen 6 on familiar turf. But we can’t afford to keep all the pens as open ones, and with a new group coming in from another shelter, we had to evict the inhabitants in order to prepare the pen for the newcomers. Faith finally settled herself in the TeaRoom. PawPaw moved to the other end of the wing and discovered Waldi’s Hut and Chimo.
These two boys are almost always together. They snuggle and head-butt, and they both enjoy visitors (especially those bearing chicken)
Chimo is perhaps the more generally social of the two (and the more food-motivated), but together on their own shelf they will tune out the presence of Morticia and others, and revel in each other’s company.  Obviously deeply bonded now, they welcome attention from volunteers and visitors in a way that reminds me of the cats in Pen 5 – May and Adam, Rudolph and Salish – the cats that we tend to think of as pairs
Life is better when you have a friend!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Boris Lin and Michele Wright

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ho-ho-Horatio!

Another feral turns a corner...
First time for petting - LR
Last spring Horatio arrived in the Sanctuary parking lot – from where, we don’t know. Occasionally we have visiting cats investigating the Sanctuary perimeter – perhaps wondering what all these other cats are doing, seemingly happy behind mesh barriers.  Sited on the edge of blueberry fields as we are, there is probably good hunting of small mammals, and because we leave some crunchies out for the skunks and raccoons (so that they don’t try to come inside the pens), a visiting cat will quickly discover that there is food available if you get there in time.
Ears back! - PH
These cats will sometimes turn out to be wandering residents of neighbouring homes; occasionally they are tame cats that may have been dumped (though we try to encourage people to do formal surrenders at the Shelter on 5 Road). But often they are ferals, probably born on a farm, and used to a hard life to survive.
For several weeks staff and volunteers had noted this ginger cat sneaking around – most often seen early in the morning, or with eyes reflecting the comings and goings of the evening shift. Med staff Leslie got the traps out.  They can’t just be set and left; they need to be monitored fairly frequently so that when a cat is trapped, it doesn’t have to wait long.
Top: first warning reaction in the cage
Bottom: Oh no - my bluff's been called!   -  PH
Finally this orange boy ventured into the trap and was brought inside the Sanctuary.  As is traditional with the cats that find their way to us, he was named for a TV detective (Horatio Caine, CSI Miami). He was put into a cage in the DoubleWide, where he could be checked; he was vet-checked and neutered, and we hoped that would help calm him. But he was scared – he spent all his time cowering behind his drape, and when he was finally released into the general population, he vanished into the back deck area. I use the word vanished deliberately. Other ferals in that area are content to put themselves out of reach where they can watch us with suspicious eyes (Jolene, Yma, Ringo). Horatio made a bee-line for a comfy armchair and hid under it. And soon, under was not enough, and he managed to make his way inside the chair where he could be totally out of sight.
The three back deck "don't touch me" cats: Jolene, Yma, Ringo - BC
For a long time, it was anyone’s guess whether he was still under there, or if he’d managed a jail-break in some way. Evening med staff would occasionally catch a glimpse of orange fur. Leslie, who had trapped him, was most consistently aware of him watching her suspiciously. Through the summer, with open doors, he made his way out into the gardens; cleaning back pens on Fridays, I would occasionally notice a cat that looked a bit like Albi, but smaller. When disturbed in his flowerbed, he would stare with horrified eyes, and then dash away. He took up residence with some of the other ferals at the far end of the gardens, but seemed to be more willing to wander and explore. He obviously recognized Leslie’s voice, because he would occasionally be in the breezeway to check her arrival. I remember walking in one evening to find this talkative little orange cat telling me firmly that I was NOT the right person.
Ready to vanish into his chair - BC
In the colder weather, Horatio returned to his hidey on the back deck, but started being more ready to explore the DoubleWide when there are fewer people around. For the last couple of months he has been following Leslie around, and she has been working with him as often as she can, feeding him little bits of chicken, and getting little touches in from time to time (and her share of swats in return!)  Recently, she had breakthrough – the touches were getting easier, and he lowered his head and asked for head-rubs. Louise was on hand when he finally decided that real petting was going to be OK
The breakthrough - LR
Now he’s starting to share his rubs and wiggles with other people.  He has moved into the DoubleWide, to a bottom shelf where he can watch for Leslie but still be mostly hidden. He is ready to be petted by Kitty Comforters and other volunteers, and he will occasionally venture out for a bit of ankle-rubbing.
Enjoying headrubs - CP
Just like Dazzle, he’s not ready for a lap or for being picked up, but with love and patience from everyone he encounters, he has made enormous progress from the terrified feral who first came into our hands.
A newly confident Horatio!


Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Louise Rupp


Update: February 2018.  Horatio has now decided that he is a lap-cat, with a little encouragement from Leslie and Louise.  Doesn't he look pleased with himself?


Friday, January 5, 2018

T.S. Eliot at the Sanctuary

Ollie - MW
One of my own traditions in the post-Christmas-blob-on-the-couch time is to re-read a couple of old favourites. Among the books I revisited this year was T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” which formed the inspiration for the musical “Cats”.  Re-discovering old friends in that set of poems got me to thinking about the Sanctuary cats, and whether I could find any of them among Mr Eliot’s collection.
Ollie is definitely a Rum-Tum-Tugger. He’s a sweet boy, but (like so many cats) he has his own agenda, and we shrug and work around it.  The double-wide laundry room had, for a while, a set of steps in place for our dear departed Deety to reach his favourite shelf. This sign tells you why the steps are no longer there!
Ollie is happiest up high. He vies with other cats for the favourite place on top of the canned food cupboard in the double-wide, and when that’s unavailable, he worms himself onto a shelf in the Newcomers area.  He quite likes people – but he likes his own company even better.
Ollie investigating a not-quite empty bag! - BC
The Rum-Tum-Tugger is a curious cat
and there isn’t any need for me to spout it.
For he WILL do as he DO do,
and there’s no doing anything about it!
Eva - BC
I have a gumby cat in mind - her name is JennyAnyDots
      her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots
Cats are, of course, known for sleeping large parts of their days away, and Eva is no exception to this... 
    she sits and sits and sits and sits...
and that’s what makes a gumby cat!
She’s actually a pretty people-social cat, and enjoys having a visitor to sit on.  If you smell right, she gets up high on your chest and nuzzles into your hair.
Eva loves to groom Chris - CP
We don’t know much about Eva’s nighttime life in Old Aids, but I can imagine that, like JennyAnyDots, she would become  a bossy-boots and organise the other cats once we’re safely out of the way.
Santos dressed for Christmas - MW
Sweet Santos is a fixture on one of the single-wide chairs (unless he asking to be lifted up for cuddles). Santos and his brother Debo came to us when their owner went into care; they’re both elderly, and not likely adoption prospects. Santos has some health concerns, which for me connects him to Gus the Theatre Cat
His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
   And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Santos is often found sitting with a faraway look in his eyes – it’s not hard to imagine that he might be thinking of his past, and like Gus, remembering when he played the part of Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.
Lucy - MW
  Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones,
          in fact, he’s remarkably fat...
We have any number of handsome tuxedo cats who might model for “Bustopher Jones, the cat about town” - but our most “remarkably fat” one is female.
Fat Lucy is a back courtyard cat, and the sister of front-courtyard Spencer (who is brownish rather than black). But she hardly has Bustopher Jones’s elegance, and except for weight, I would take handsome Tugboat as my model for the TS Eliot cat.
Tugboat - MW
Ninja is one of the sweetest of our black cats, and about as far as it’s possible to be from “a fiend in feline form”. But he has one outstanding characteristic in common with Macavity, in his genius for being “not there” when you want him. He’s a cat that loves to be on the other side of a gate, and hovers anxiously when I need access to feral pens 3 and 4. A quick look around – no Ninja – I open the gate and a black blur streaks past my ankles.
Innocent Ninja - MD
It’s no good chasing after him – though entirely ready to be picked up, he would much prefer to find somewhere inaccessible until he feels forgotten. Then he’ll come and hover round the gate, letting the world know that he was unwillingly trapped in a strange place.
Reefer loves to play - MD
If you’ve seen “Cats” you’ll know that the Jellicle cats come in a variety of coats and colours. But Eliot’s original Jellicle Cats are black and white, and rather small, and tend to be nocturnal in nature, as they wait for the Jellicle Ball. We’ve recently had several new small black cats join the feral corner in the front courtyard – Beetle, Frisky, Reefer, Cyrano – and they all qualify as shy, preferring to appear in the evening rather than through the day.
Shy Figaro - MD
But my model Jellicle has come to us from a Sunshine Coast shelter, and though starting as a classic shy evening cat, is now becoming more social and starting to interact with humans as well as other cats. Figaro should have his own blog entry at some time, but he’s a cat to watch – both in his delight in play with a pingpong ball or an interactive toy, and in his enjoyment in socializing with other cats.
Happy cat-bums - Spirit, Lorelei and Figaro - MW


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