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, April 26, 2018


Visitors to the Sanctuary know that one of the favourite places for front courtyard cats, especially in the winter months, is the area just at the top of the steps to the Single-Wide trailer.  At ground-level is a former paddling pool re-purposed as the Sanctuary’s largest litter-box; above it is a semi-closed area that holds a number of cat-beds surrounding a large papasan chair under a heat lamp.
Debbie, Gilbert, Spencer, Petunia and Lancelot
sharing the papasan
For ferals and former ferals who prefer not to be indoors, this is an area in much demand.  Cats in the papasan pile on top of each other to keep warm and cosy on otherwise chilly days. Boxes and beds underneath it offer a range of comfy places to hang out.
Little Debbie is a regular inhabitant of this area. Her distinctive nose-spot makes her easy to identify among the other tabbies, and she is one of the most reluctant to accept human contact. Many of her buddies are not exactly easy with people, but when treats are offered, cats like Petunia are quick to gather round, even though they don’t want to be petted. Unfortunately, Debbie doesn’t even want people to look at her, let alone to get within arm’s reach. Thank goodness for Michele's expert handling of lenses, which allow her to take pictures without looking as if she's looking!
This wariness can lead to problems for a long-haired cat. Debbie is one of those that has fine fur that mats from time to time, and she then has to go through the stressful process of being netted so that one of the med-staff can deal with her coiffure. It’s not surprising that she’s wary of us.
Debbie’s a long-term Sanctuary resident; she pre-dates human Debbie, but unlike her human namesake, she is not friendly and sociable. Some ferals gradually come to accept us, even to allow gentle petting. Marilee is a prime example of a feral who is starting to feel comfortable enough to be touched – when cuddling with Little Orange or Gilbert she is quite prepared for contact, and is now allowing select humans (sometimes even visitors) to pet her when she’s sitting alone.  
Marilee snuggling with Gilbert - MD
Debbie is hardwired for “cats good; humans bad”, and even a glance in her direction can sometime have her scurrying for shelter. This is where the RAPS Sanctuary comes into its own; under other jurisdictions a cat like Debbie wouldn’t have much chance as an untamable cat; with us, she is just one of many ferals that has a safe home here as long as she needs it.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper (last one) and Michele Wright (all the rest)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Meet the Candy Cats

Skittles - MD
In the fall of last year, the Sanctuary had a call from another shelter in the Lower Mainland – they had recieved a group of cats as part of a hoarding situation, and were unable to give them space. All six cats were pretty feral, and most shelters have to focus their work on the cats that may stand a chance of finding an adoptive home. Single ferals can sometimes be accommodated, but a small colony like this is a much harder prospect.  Ferals, of course, are one of the groups that comprise the Sanctuary inhabitants, and so a deal was worked out – we took on their six cats, and they found room for some potentially adoptable dogs from the 5 Road Shelter.
Snickers - MW
Pen 6, which had housed cats who had come from the Sunshine Coast, was cleaned out, and its former inhabitants (including Simba, Paw Paw and Faith) found new places they could call home in the back courtyard.  The new cats were established in the pen, and promptly excavated a hole underneath the cabin, and disappeared out of sight!  Very occasionally they would be spotted, usually in the early evening, but the sight of a human was usually their cue to vanish.  Plates of wet food were licked clean – they infinitely prefer wet food to dry – and it was probably food that was the main incentive for the bravest ones to venture out.
Cadbury - MD
It was decided by the med staff to give them candy names, but for quite some time they were just known collectively as “the candy cats”.  The staff took advantage of a spell of good weather to get them all out from under the cabin, and to shore up the perimeter with sturdy mesh – much to the cats’ disgust. Four of them retreated into the hut, but the largest and the smallest began to make their presence felt.
Skittles - PH
The big boy has established himself as the ambassador.  For quite a while I called him Mr Big, for the candy bar, but that made people think Sex and the City! He was renamed as Skittles and his smaller companion became Sweetheart.  The other four include two agouti or abyssianian tabbies and two classic tabbies, one of whom has a blond ruff like Autumn in the front courtyard.
Butterscotch & Hershey - MD
They have been given the names of Hershey, Butterscotch, Cadbury and Purdy, but they have not really emerged enough to be able to establish their personalities. (They have also recently been joined by a non-candy cat called Wylee, who has been in the office cage waiting for confirmation on a leukemia testing.  It’s now proved negative, and since he’s a shy boy, pen 6 was a good place to put him.)
Skittles - MD
Skittles is very much the dominant cat, and has tons of personality!  He comes to the gate, looking for attention from humans and other cats alike. He rubs against the mesh of the adjoining barn-cats pen, and interacts with them in a friendly way; when courtyard cats come to investigate, he’s investigating right back.  He is a confirmed chickaholic; he now knows that I usually carry a bag of little chicken bits and he is right there demanding treats when I open the gate.  For some time I had to drop the tidbits in front of him or court some annoyed swatting; gradually he has progressed to accepting treats from my fingers, and finally to allowing himself to be touched.  Touching through the mesh of the pen is entirely acceptable; direct touch still has to be done with caution, because that swatty paw is ready. But increasingly, it’s an investigative paw rather than a punishing one, and he is more and more confident that he’s in a safe place.
Skittles showing off for visitors! - MW
He is almost always accompanied by Sweetheart. We don’t know if they’re littermates or BFFs, but she actually proved herself more ready than him to accept human touch.  Kitty-Comforter Mel has spent a good bit of time in the pen with them, and they love to play with wand toys.  Sweetheart was quick to respond to Mel and allowed herself to be petted and handled.  She has white socks on her feet, and her two tabby toes are distinctive.
Snickers - MW
We hope that with the return of warm weather, an open cabin may make it harder for the other cats to hide all the time, and they will learn that they’ve landed in a good place. Till then, Sweetheart and Skittles will have most of the attention from volunteers and visitors – both from those passing by, who will be wooed by Skittles on his favourite perch, and from those who venture in for closer acquaintance.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Feline Sedins are not retiring from the Sanctuary!

Back in 2006, RAPS founder Carol Reichert trapped two handsome ginger boys under an east Richmond shed, and brought them to the Sanctuary.  And what else can you do with a pair like this other than name them for the Canucks' most famous redheads!
Daniel and Henrik (feline version) were a pretty feral pair, and joined the rest of the front courtyard crowd of cats who prefer to steer clear of humans. The majority of those cats hang out in what’s known as the old Rabbit Area, where the shelves are all covered, giving lots of secure hiding spaces for the wary inhabitants.
Henrik hiding
In the years around their arrival the Sanctuary was particularly busy;  there was a big influx of cats who were displaced by construction around the city, and more and more places where feral cats had been hiding out were either no longer available to them, or the human caretakers felt that cats would be safer elsewhere.  Photos from round 2006-2008 make it clear that we were swamped with feline residents, and it was very easy for cats like these two to vanish into anonymity.
By the beginning of the second decade the tide was turning, prompted mainly by an ageing population. Cats who had arrived in the early years of the Sanctuary as mature adults were beginning to fail, and many were lost to the inevitable onset of kidney disease, cancer and other conditions.  Sad as this was, it meant that many cats who had previously managed to stay invisible were now being tracked, both for their health and for possible socializing. A blood test during a vet check showed that Henrik had tested positive for feline leukemia.
This was the period in which the Val Jones corner of the courtyard was cordoned off and attached to the Old Aids area, housing the leukemia cats. Henrik was settled there, and made himself at home with friends like Esme, Mocha, Savannah and GusGus.  All have now passed, but Henrik is still in good condition – the virus has affected his immune system in the form of mouth ulcers, and they can be treated with medication, though that in turn causes him to put on weight (and he is NOT a small cat!)
Daniel & Cloverleaf
Classic Daniel cuddle-puddle
His brother Daniel has continued living with the other ferals.  He is more sociable than Henrik, and usually has a buddy or two (or three) following him around, head-butting and snuggling happily.  Cloverleaf is usually the favoured friend, but Sarah, Jamie, or newcomer Figaro also like to be in on the action, either out in the courtyard or in the Hill House.  In the last while Daniel has also become more sociable with people;  Henrik continues shy, though he will accept attention when offered – especially when treats are part of the package.
Daniel & Sarah
Our two ginger brothers are beloved inhabitants of the front area of the Sanctuary; Henrik’s life is a little quieter these days, but Daniel shows no sign of retiring from action.

Blog by Brigid Coult
All photos by Michele Wright
October 2018: Sadly, we lost Daniel to acute anaemia quite suddenly. His friends - human and feline - miss him!

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Kramer first came to my attention as an unexpected cat in Pen 5.
Popping out of the cat-tree by the door: "Surprise! it's me!" - PH
The Pen 5 cats are a well-established colony.  Most of them came from No 5 Road Shelter five or six years ago at a time when there were so many kittens that another home had to be found for the adult cats who were not being adopted.  In the ensuing years, some of those cats made their way back to 5 Road and eventually to new homes, and we are left with some pretty steady relationship bondings:  Adam and May, Rudolph and Salish, Willow and Careen, Capilano and Walker, shy Hudson and big Chinook, who is another buddy of Walker’s.  Other cats come and go as visitors – it’s an open pen – but those ten are the steady cabin inhabitants.
How to stop a human for attention - MW
More and more frequently when I cleaned in there on Friday morning, I encountered a long-haired shabby-tabby.  Initially shy, he could usually be found in a bed on one of the lower shelves.  He didn’t seem to be particularly pals with any of the others – but he obviously enjoyed being in the cabin with them. I hunted round, and found someone who identified him as Kramer – and in subsequent weeks, spent some time getting to know him.
Kramer when he first came to us - MW
I had a sneaking suspicion that he was one of the cats that had been trapped in the parking lot, having found his way to us. As such, he should have been given a detective name, but I couldn’t think of a Kramer in that category – the only possible one I could suggest was Nero Wolfe’s bete noir, Inspector Cramer.  Med staff Catherine put me right – yes, he was technically a detective cat, but it was found out that he had come from a neighbouring household where he was allowed to wander, and it was decided that he was much safer with us.  Kramer was their name for him, and I think more suited to him than the Sanctuary name of Poirot, which was initially bestowed on him.  The fictional Poirot is noted for his excessive neatness and for his magnificent mustache; our feline friend is decidedly raggedy, and there’s no sign of  a ’tache.
Enjoying a spring day - MW
Pen life suits our Kramer – he has the illusion of freedom, but all the security that goes with living at the Sanctuary; he gets regular meals, feline and human company, and a little grooming when he allows it. He’s one of the unfortunate cats that mats easily, and sometimes a little shave job is necessary, which, in its partial form, contributes to the slightly raggedy appearance.
Flirting with the camera - MW
I called Michele in to get some photos of him for this blog, and he played up to her with great enjoyment, putting paws up to look close-up into the camera lens, and posing around the pen furniture. With people he trusts, he’s the complete cuddle-cat, and more than ready to sit and be fussed over.  Definitely a cat you should get to know!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman & Michele Wright