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, May 31, 2018


Our guest blogger this week is Anne Marchetti, who heads up the team of Kitty Comforters.

Duke first appeared at my house during the days I was fostering pregnant cats. At the time, our main floor laundry room was the birthing home to a succession of feline moms, and somehow the scent got out that an unspayed female was on the premises. Feral tomcats came out of the woodwork and congregated in our back yard, hoping to get a chance to meet with our fertile felines.

When our fostering days were over, all the tomcats left – all but one. I had never encouraged their presence by feeding them, but when this shaggy orange fellow remained, I couldn't resist. Our indoor cats didn't appreciate his enduring presence on our patio; he would spend his days peering in at us through the window, or sleeping either on our porch or trampoline.

My husband made him his very own insulated cathouse to keep on the porch, and when we presented it to him, he moved in right away.

I knew he was not neutered and that was something that should be fixed, so I trapped him and had the deed done, along with vaccinations, dental work, de-worming, an identification tattoo, and even a “shave and haircut” to get rid of his matted hair. I then returned him to our patio.

He seemed sociable, joining me in the back yard whenever I did gardening and yardwork, yet he retained his healthy wariness of humans and never got near enough for me to touch him.

Life continued, but eventually I noticed his mouth getting very drooly and knew it was time for another vet check-up.
Drooly Duke - SM
During this exam, he was diagnosed with feline AIDS. I knew I could not bring him home to wander our neighbourhood, possibly infecting other stray felines, so knowing that RAPS' Cat Sanctuary had a dedicated area just for FIV-positive cats, I approached the manager asking if she had room (and was willing) to accept this wild boy to live with her brood. Luckily she did, and I brought my old neighbour to live at the Sanctuary.

Since he needed to be caged for a while before being let loose into his new cat community, I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me to spend some one-on-one time with him in close quarters to help him get used to human contact. He had never allowed me to touch him in the past. With the help of an amazing team of Kitty Comforters, that quickly changed, and he welcomed not only my affections but those of other volunteers who fell for his charms.

When he was eventually released from his cage, he was readily accepted by the other AIDS cats and has since continued to enjoy his new life at the Sanctuary. He still prefers to stay outside, but now it's by his choice and he is kept safe from the dangers of cars and other urban wildlife.

I'm so grateful to RAPS for accepting my old neighbour, and I am so happy to be able to visit with him during my own Kitty Comforting shift. I love watching his obvious contentment and happiness being in the company of other friendly felines, having lots of human visitors, as well having his very own staff to cater to his every need.
Don't we all wish we could live out our own golden years this way!

Blog by Anne Marchetti
Photos by Pauline Chin, Melanie Draper, Anne Marchetti, Selena Marchetti

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Licorice - the loner

Licorice came to us more than a year ago, having been picked up as a stray street cat in Richmond. 
Happiest in the sunshine, on his own....
He arrived about the same time as Digby, though the two were not trapped in the same area. Licorice and Digby are part of the reason that RAPS still needs to operate animal control in the city.  We may no longer have a serious feral cat problem, as we did when Richmond Homeless Cats was created, but we still have a problem with cat owners who choose not to spay or neuter their pets, and allow them to roam, creating the next generation of ferals.  Unfortunately, it’s the cats that pay the price – living feral is a risky business, between dealing with coyotes and raccoons, dodging (or failing to dodge) traffic, scrounging for food – and coping with those many perils usually make an outdoor cat’s life a shorter one.
Both Licorice and Digby were unaltered males when they came to us, with the characteristic blocky muscular build of feral toms.  After neutering they were kept caged for a while to allow some of the smells of a tomcat to dissipate, as well as to get used to the smells of other cats around them.  Both emerged from their cages still full of tomcat-in-charge attitude, and many of the other cats learned to stay out of their way. In the ensuing months, Digby has relaxed into his surroundings. He’s not exactly sociable with other cats, but he enjoys finding places to relax, and he likes human attention.
Licorice's "smoke" colouring leaves him looking a bit tattered...
Licorice, on the other hand, is a troublemaker.  He continues to be something of a loner, both around cats and humans, and the proximity of other cats easily gets him stirred up. Many cats have learned to avoid him, and scuttle past, giving him a wide berth. Disabled Terry is sometimes a victim – probably because of his incontinence and therefore his pee aroma.  There is usually a spray bottle or two of water around the Double-Wide, ready for cat-fight control, and sometimes the nearest waterbowl has to be emptied over the fighters.
On the prowl...
This week, Licorice picked a fight with sweet Ollie, who just happened to be in the wrong place. Ollie's a big guy, but he's a pussycat in all senses.  He extricated himself and fled to the top of the can-storage cupboard, but by that time Licorice was all stirred up and looking for someone else to beat up. Just as in a schoolyard fight, the other cats are drawn to the sound of a disturbance, and onlookers can quickly become victims.  The beginnings of a battle with Leo were swiftly quashed with a couple of bowls of water, and Licorice disappeared into hiding.  Med-staff Leslie shut up the Newcomers area, and popped him into a cage for time-out and cooling down.  We already have several crabby girls living in the Office area, and another couple of battlers (Jasper and Spades) sequestered in the room off the Moore House; it’s difficult to know what’s going to be best for Licorice and for the other cats.  He really needs to be an only cat in a home; at the very least he needs to be part of a barn-cat program, living somewhere where he is able to roam and hunt, but where he will be checked on and supervised to some degree.
Safely on his own...
In the meantime, we’ll be watching him carefully, and keeping a spare cage handy for when life (and the presence of other cats) just gets a bit too much for poor Licorice.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Michele Wright

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Slightly Less Grumpy Cat

When I first blogged about Jobie eighteen months ago, she had been relocated to the Tea-Room from her original space in the Double-Wide, and was finding life a bit less stressful (meaning, fewer other cats in her face!)  Though the winter months she hung around, generally at the top of the stairs; we had to give up leaving cat beds there, since she would refuse to leave the area, and just poo and pee where she pleased.  At coffee breaks she would occasionally venture onto someone’s knee, but she didn’t really want to be petted much – just admired! - and Grumpy Cat was very much present in her personality.
With the following spring and summer, her confidence increased.  She relocated next to the back gate to New Aids, where she would scurry to the top of the highest cat-tree and oversee everything. Occasionally she would venture into the courtyard and explore a bit, but there was always too much feline competition for her, and she felt safer in her aerie. As the weather got colder, she needed to re-think her strategy; alone but cold was not a good option. 
She popped up in a variety of different locations before settling on the Newcomers deck, across from the Tea-Room. To stay really warm, she would need to share a heat-lamp with other cats, or pop through the cat door into Newcomers, and neither was a really satisfactory prospect. One of the med staff set up a well-padded covered bed, labelling it as Jobie’s, and miraculously, the other cats seemed to get the idea, because it was largely left for her possession.
Her confidence seemed to increase, and more frequently she was found in a bed in the breezeway where she could attract human attention, and demand a bit of fussing. The cranky girl of a year before was no longer quite so cranky, and though it is still necessary to read her body language carefully, petting Jobie, and occasionally grooming her has become pleasurable for both Jobie and her fans.  With the right person, her paws come up to your shoulder and she likes to bunt against your face – something we were all really wary about at one stage.
I don’t think Jobie will ever be anyone’s idea of the ideal cat to adopt; she’s too easily stressed and her bathroom habits won’t ever make her a favourite.  But she’s found a home at the Sanctuary and seems to feel much more comfortable with us. And though she still doesn’t much like the other cats, she seems to be able to tune them out, and get on with living her life in her own way.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Debbie Wolanski & Michele Wright

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sunday Sanctuary Changes

Friendly Jake is always one of the first greeters - MW
Richmond Homeless Cats was founded in 1989 by Carol Reichert to address the needs of Richmond’s feral cat population. The Sanctuary came into existence when it became obvious that there were many cats who were never going to find a home – whether because they were feral, they had behaviour problems, or health issues. For years we were Richmond’s best kept secret – but gradually the word got out, and cat-lovers all over wanted to see what we were about.
The barn cats in pen 7 are shy semi-ferals  - MW
As a private organization we were able to set parameters around visiting, and Sunday afternoons became the favoured time – after the busy-ness of the morning cleaning was done, and before the evening feeding/scooping routines began. More and more people discovered us, and the number of visitors grew to a point at which we had concerns both for cats and for humans – the cats, because many of them were not used to unfamiliar people around them, and many of them would go into hiding to avoid attention – and the people, because inevitably there were scratches from cats who chose not to cooperate with handling, and it became very hard for the few volunteers on duty to monitor all the areas.
The back gardens - with no humans! - PH
We are, to some extent, the victim of our own success. The trouble is that many visitors have limited experience with ferals and semi-ferals, and look on the Sanctuary visit experience as if it were a petting zoo. The experience of  having more than a hundred visitors through on a not particularly nice day in early spring led us to consider what the situation was likely to be by the summer – and reluctantly, but for the safety of cats and humans alike, we’ve had to put some restrictions in place.
Puffin is tolerant only so far....     MW
The first concern was for very young children, and the decision was made to deny entry to those under 6 years old. Between 6 and 13 they are welcome, but must be attended by an adult at all times. Regular visitors know that cats like Puffin, Sophie, Lumi and Jobie are unpredictable, and we really don’t want an incident with any of them. Many of our young volunteers have first met the cats through Sunday visiting, but they cannot volunteer until they are 16 years old (unless they are working with an adult).
Hillie likes to wander - but she's not really comfortable round people -  DW
The second concern was for our shyer penned cats, and for those with health issues. It was decided to restrict access to all these areas – and to restrict it even to volunteers on Sunday afternoons, since it’s confusing for visitors to see someone in an area they’ve been told is out of bounds. Volunteers and Kitty Comforters can come and visit at the Sanctuary at any time, and will continue to do so, but Sunday afternoon focus is now on visitors, and volunteers who are present are there in the role of guides and ambassadors.
Shy Marilee hides behind her buddy Gilbert - MD
I have commented before that we have an ageing feline population, and an aging infrastructure too – timber that was in good condition when things were first constructed is now disintegrating under the influence of weather and enthusiastic claws. Many of our cat-cabins should really be replaced, pavers are buckling, pushed up by roots below, flooring needs to be re-laid, and the Single-Wide is only half-renovated. Generous donors made it possible to gut and renovate the Hill House, Connor and Old Aids in previous years, but there’s a long list of other projects awaiting attention.  So reluctantly, we have to be more pointed about asking for donations – financial or in kind.
Lumi scouting out her next victim - DW
It’s hard to make changes like this, and particularly hard on people who’ve made a routine of weekly visits, and look forward to visiting with favourite cats. We hope that some of those folks will commit themselves to being volunteers, giving them access not only during their shift but at other times.  Our primary concern has to be for the cats – not just for their physical well-being, but for making them feel that they are truly in a place that is a sanctuary for them.

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Extra toes!

A group of cats who were placed in the front courtyard were all given singers’ names by the med staff.  I introduced Carly Simon and Celine Dion back in January, and in June Cher had her moment in the sun. Somehow I’ve missed the fourth cat named after a singer – Christina Aguilera!
Christina came in at the same time as Cher, surrendered by a man who told us that the two ferals had been hanging around his home. When they came to us, they were caged for a while, as usual, to acclimate them to the space and the other cats around. Once the cages were open, Cher quickly emerged and made her presence felt, but Christina remained hidden behind her drape, hissing and swatting at anyone who dared peek at her.  It took her a little while to decide that we really weren’t as dangerous as all that, but once she started to feel secure she progressed by leaps and bounds
We have our share of cats with the manx tail mutation – from the totally tail-less rumpy (and the cats with manx syndrome) to cats like Abby with a tail that’s slightly shortened. Christina has another mutation common in cats – she’s a polydactyl, with extra toes on both front feet. This can be a result of breeding or it can occur spontaneously. I understand that it’s most common in western England and Wales, and on the US eastern seaboard.  That would make sense, since apparently polydactyl cats were popular on ships – the theory was that their bigger feet made them more secure on a ship, and therefore they were better mousers!
Polydactyls are sometimes known as Hemingway cats, because one of the areas that they are more commonly found is in Key West. The writer Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain, and his house, now a museum, is home to 40-50 polydactyl cats – many of them likely descendants of that first cat.  It’s been a while since we’ve had a polydactyl cat at the Sanctuary; the last one was Danny, a beloved favourite, who passed in 2010.
Christina tends to be the cat that walks by herself – she’s not aggressive in any way to cats or humans, but she’s still a little wary. However, that’s improving all the time, with attention from volunteers and visitors. Just don’t try to touch her paws – she’s not yet ready for that degree of intimacy!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Michele Wright