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, October 26, 2018


This gorgeous boy came into our care a couple of months ago – surrendered for litterbox issues and some aggression. As is usual, he was caged for his introductory period, and it became obvious that this was an introduction that was not going to go smoothly.  From inside his cage, Bentley waited to ambush any passing cats. A drape hung over the door to lessen the visual stimuli had little effect other than being a target for cat-pee (from both sides).
We had been warned about Bentley’s aggression, and all volunteers were cautious around him. Though he appeared to enjoy company, he was occasionally reactive to petting, and it may be that, like Chimo, he was never taught to play nicely. When the time came to release him, we tried to restrict his movements initially to the DoubleWide, but Bentley was having none of that, and was anxious to start exploring.
As you can see from his picture, Bentley has much in common with front-courtyard Puffin – an impressive appearance and a great deal of cattitude.  Visitors sometimes ask why we separate cats into different areas, and keeping potential trouble-makers away from each other is a good part of that.
If cats had opposable thumbs, many of them would be tweeting #MeToo.
Poised to leap on an unsuspecting victim - TV
Bentley is a harasser. He has no hesitation about taking on the alpha cats; our majestic Eli avoids him like the plague. But he also just likes to make a nuisance of himself – I’ve found him sitting by the cat door, swatting the backsides of all the cats who go through.  I don’t think it’s always specifically aggressive – he’s the sort of guy who probably thinks it’s funny.
Bentley being silly - PH
Within a week he was sporting a scratch on his nose – he obviously encountered a cat who wasn’t afraid to swat back. But it doesn’t appear to have dampened his enthusiasm for throwing his weight around. A number of the quieter cats are learning to keep an open eye for Bentley’s whereabouts, and he’s certainly not made many feline friends so far. But as he becomes more accustomed to life at the Sanctuary, we hope that he will relax, and find that acceptance is better than aggression!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Karen Nicholson, Tanisha Vincent

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Welcome Home

Mr Bojangles and Madame Hooch - MW
Our cats come from a variety of sources: local ferals, owner surrenders, and other shelters (especially when it comes to FIV cats). There are probably very few cats who come to us for happy reasons. One of the sadder ones recently brought four cats into our care – their owners were killed in an auto accident, and the family knew one of our Board members and asked for them to come to us.  There were four of them: a little tuxedo called Kelley, a big friendly white boy called Lego (short for Legolas), and a pair that were obviously litter-mates – orange tabby Mr Bojangles and tortie Madame Hooch.
Kelley in her favourite bed - MW
Initially we were given to understand that they might be FIV cats, but New Aids is pretty full right now so we moved them into the “Kitten Room” of the Moore House.  The Moore is set aside for older cats who need a quieter life. Technically these four fit there – they are 11, 12 and 14 in age, and we needed to keep them together until they were tested and decisions could be made. The word got around the volunteers quickly – this was a room worth spending time in!  Everyone who has visited them has been welcomed and purred over.
Mr Bojangles is interested in everything! - MW
Personally, I’ve had a hard cat year. I lost my 17-year-old Kissa in February to kidney disease, and then 10-year-old Peggy in August to cancer. I was still a bit raw when I met these guys, but rapidly fell in love, especially with the two older ones.  Mr B and Madame H are the sweetest pair. We don’t know what’s gone into their breeding, but we think there’s some Rex there – little round heads with big eyes and Yoda-like faces.
Madame H & Mr B snuggling together - BC
Mr Bojangles (named for the celebrated dancer of the 1920s) is quick to climb into a lap, and likes to put his paws up on your shoulder and offer kisses. He has a wonderful purr.
Madame Hooch (named for the flying instructor at Hogwarts) has plenty of tortitude, and could be found at the door of the room at mealtimes grumbling at the volunteer who is taking too long to bring food. The two of them get on well; they can often be found snuggling together, and they’re happy to share a lap.
Madame H loves to be held - DW
Mr B and Madame Hooch came home with me early this week, and took no time in settling in. We’ve booked a visit at the RAPS hospital to get a baseline on their health, but judging from their appetites, they’re in good shape. They’ve quickly discovered favourite places to doze, and have claimed bed-space at night.   I know as 14-year-old cats, I won’t have them for many years, but they’re a pair that need a loving home – I’d love to take all four, but I don’t think the co-op board would approve!
Legolas loves attention from people - MW
The two younger ones stand a chance of finding a home – all four have clearly been well loved and enjoy human company. Kelley and Legolas remain at the Sanctuary; potential adopters should contact the Sanctuary Manager for more information.

A happy homecoming for me and for my two new buddies.

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

Sadly, Mr Bojangles developed lymphoma, and passed just before Christmas; Madame Hooch had sight and balance problems in the New Year that we think was probably a brain tumour and died mid-March. I only had them five months. Legolas had a bad respiratory infection and passed at the Sanctuary. Kelley, the fragile little one, is still hanging in there!

July 2020: we lost little old lady Kelley this week; we miss her, but it's comforting to think that the family is united again.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Kermit & Gigi

Kitty Comforter Pauline Chin knows the Double-Wide cats best, but she's also come to know the cats in a more distant corner of the Sanctuary.

Walking past Pen 8, you might notice two smaller black cats.  Kermit is all-black with light green eyes. Gigi is black with a white chest patch and a white bikini patch.  Her eyes have changed from gold to yellow-green.
Gigi - MW
Kermit and Gigi are the youngest arrivals trapped from Rusty’s Towing.  These two are currently over a year old. There’s a high chance they are younger relatives of Magpie, as well as Fable and Eclipse, who hang around the back courtyard.  All sport mostly black coats, round faces, and round eyes.  All are different degrees of semi-feral and prefer to avoid human touch.  But they love food!
Gigi & Kermit - MD
The pair arrived last year and were caged with Fable.  It was a bit of a challenge to interact with all three of them, but Kermit seemed to come around first, then Gigi.  Not so much with Fable, as she was older and far from the kitten socialization window. The wand toy seemed to fascinate them and entice them to paw at it, while staying out of reach from the human.
Magpie -  PH
Once released from the cage, Gigi and Kermit went to Pen 8, along with Magpie.  Fable often sits atop the cages in the double-wide.  And I hear Eclipse retreats beneath the single-wide during the day.

The majority of kitties in Pen 8 are very feral.  Johnny and Smithy welcome humans with loud hisses before running to the back.  Hailey the tabby will sit and stare at a distance.  Entering the shack usually causes the remaining residents to flee.  A walk behind the little house reveals the cat tree where everyone is usually hiding.
Smithy & Splotch - MW
In summer 2017, feral Splotch had a stroke of sorts that caused some paralysis to his back legs, and also made him forget he was feral.  On his return to Pen 8, he became an ambassador for the cats in Pen 8.  With Splotch around, the other cats got their daily cuddles and knew they had a trustworthy friend.  He also piqued their interest by showing them humans weren’t to be feared when he came over to rub against our legs.
Kermit - MW
Kermit, in particular, followed Splotch’s example.  Play with human and earn a treat.  Simple.
Sadly, this past July we lost Splotch.  With his absence, Kermit would come to the gate and look eagerly, eyes full of hope.  “Where is my friend?  No Splotch? I sad.”  Then he would retreat to a corner, lay down with his head on his front paws, and stare off into the distance.  Death seemed to be a new and uncomfortable concept for him.  It’s taken him most of the summer to recover and he no longer runs for the gate… unless he knows you have something good.
Gigi - MW
Today, Gigi and Kermit are still playful kittens at heart.  They love their toys and treats.  If we’re lucky, we may even get to pet them after playtime.  We hope that they’ll become more welcoming with humans.  Since every cat has an individual personality, we can never really predict their future disposition, but we can befriend them along the way.

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Michele Wright

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mooching No More!

Our visitors are sad...
Our cats are sad...
But it's all for the best – or so we believe.

For some years, the Sanctuary has welcomed visitors on Sunday afternoons.  And week after week, visitors have brought the cats treats – usually the commercial ones, marketed for just that purpose. And week after week, the same cats got pushy about getting their share, and we dealt with little piles of throw-up, and the Sunday evening feeding had to be limited because we ended up discarding so much wasted food on Monday mornings.
Sweet Precious claimed her own bag - DW
No more!
With the sudden influx of visitors, prompted by social media, we have had to establish much stricter rules around visits. We try to limit numbers so that the cats are not overwhelmed and stressed out by so many strangers. We try to establish no-go areas so that the more stressed cats have somewhere to hide. And we're saying
Jake begging: "Is that for me?"  -  PH
That's disappointing for a number of visitors who have come before and had the experience of cats like Jake approaching them with delighted anticipation – Jake never saw a treat he didn't like. But he would push shyer cats out of the way to get his share – and then his not-too-happy gut would rebel, and we would have the cleaning-up!
Cagney's belly after too many treats - MW
Cagney is a front courtyard favourite – and it's mostly because he hangs around the front gate hoping for handouts.  And as you can see from his picture, he is not a small cat, and treats were not helping!
For cats, as for people, food works on a number of levels – basic nutrition, a reward for certain behaviour, an incentive to try something new.  Offering treats is often a useful tool when working with shy cats; it can be comforting or a stimulus to accepting touch.  But when too many people are present, those shy cats are the last to appear. And for the not-shy cats, handing out treats is like handing out candy at a kids' party - they can't ration themselves.
Debo gets a hug from Jocelyn - MW
So the no-food rule during visitor hours is remaining, and we are encouraging visitors to find other ways than food of interacting with cats.  Sitting, with quiet petting, is always welcomed by the social cats – and by some of the shyer ones too. There are a few who love to be cuddled.
Leland lets his favourite human cuddle him - BC
Sometimes it's enough for the cat just to sit next to a visitor. Some of them like to be groomed, while the offer, with others, is greeted with tail-swishing and airplane ears!  Many of the younger cats like to play, and wand toys are available; younger visitors need to be taught that "play" is hunting behaviour, that toys need to mimic the movement of prey, and that a happy cat is one who feels that s/he has caught the prey!
Gizmo is better with feathers than fingers!  MW
Staff and Kitty Comforters will continue to use food occasionally out of visiting hours to coax shy cats into contact, though we are trying to use mostly high-value proteins – chicken and fish – in an effort to curb the increasing incidence of diabetes and overweight cats. The decision was made to request that even these "good" foods are not offered during visiting hours, since we have no way of confirming how the food is prepared. Barbecue chicken from the supermarket, for instance, needs to have the fatty seasoned skin carefully removed; one of our volunteers purpose-cooks plain fish, and with her we are able to ascertain that there are no added ingredients.
Albi & Chimo contemplating catnip - CP
Even catnip can be an issue. Some cats are unaffected by catnip, or it blisses them out; for others it not only produces a temporary "high" but makes them more aggressive. Our already-overaggressive cats like Cole and Gizmo can get really nippy with this stimulus. Gizmo has been calmer in the last few months, and more willing to interact with visitors without aggression, and too much catnip can undo all that work.  A catnip pillow for a caged cat or one in its own home is a different prospect from handfuls of catnip scattered around the sanctuary. And with catnip, more is not necessarily better - it's just being wasted. So catnip has been added to the "not on Sundays" list.
Restful back courtyard - AV
We want the Sanctuary to be just that – a place where cats and people alike can find calm and peacefulness; where our cats can eat healthy food rather the feline equivalent of MSG-infused fast-food; where the natural hunting instinct in a cat can be turned on a feather rather than on a human hand or on another cat.
And if you really HAVE to feed the cats, come sign on as a volunteer (see the RAPS website), and help us keep them happy and healthy.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Pictures by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, 
A. Vandenbrink, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright