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 31, 2019

Up Is Best

Emery surveys the world - PH
As all good cat-owners know, one of the keys to a happy cat-home is offering your cat a choice of levels on which to rest. Whether that means clearing shelves, installing steps on a wall, or just bringing in a good-sized cat tree, your cat will probably enjoy being above ground-level. For many cats, climbing behaviour is instinctive – it gives them a vantage point to watch for potential danger, and often offers a warmer place to rest.
Towels are warm - so Cole ignores the sign - TV
At the Sanctuary, it’s also one of the means of keeping the peace – cats who might not get on with each other can find different levels on which to co-exist, and the feral cats, in particular, like to stay well out of the way.
Even our handicapped Terry likes to go climbing - MD
All the space is set up with this in mind. In each of the main areas, cages are built with an extensive cage-top surface, well-equipped with bedding – and part of the morning clean-up involves volunteers and staff climbing up to check and change bedding as necessary. Every area has at least one cat-tree – often more than one – and we are most grateful to the donors who bring new ones in. Uninhabited cages are left open and provided with boxes and beds so that shyer cats have upper levels where they can hide.
Comet ready to launch from one cage-top to another - MW
In both the Double and Single-Wide, runs are set up around the room so that cats can choose to stay off the ground if they prefer. Some of the more feral ones may rarely venture down; food and water, litter-boxes and bedding are all within their reach.
exploring on the gazebo roof - BC
When the gazebo was installed in the front courtyard, it didn’t take long before some adventurous souls made their way up through the central lantern and onto the roof; that access has now been blocked
KitKat likes to be on a shoulder - TV
Some cats don’t wait for shelves or cat-trees – KitKat is one of our gate-greeters, and is quite ready to do a vertical take-off to land on an unsuspecting shoulder; she likes to be higher up than all the humans around her. If someone taller comes into range, she’s quite ready to transfer to the higher vantage point.
Skittles loves to show off on his shelf - MW
In all the pens at the back, the cabins contain several sets of shelves, well-equipped with bedding, so that cats can choose their preferred level. And out in the open there are also places where they can climb, and look out over the area with a greater sense of security.
Magnus, Duke and Max sunning outside New Aids - KN
One of the other functions of a cat-tree, of course, is to offer a surface for scratching – both to exercise the claws and to give the cat a chance to stretch their leg and back muscles. In many places around the Sanctuary untreated wood is used for stair and door posts, and there are a few places where there are signs that it will soon need to be replaced.
Albi gets in a good scratch - MW
The best scratching post, of course, is the tree in the back courtyard, and it is well-used both for that purpose and as a vantage-point by a variety of cats.

For a big cat, Leo is an agile climber - MW
Yma feels safer up high - MW
Pico loves to explore heights - MW

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

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Feral to flirty

Hillie enjoys watching the activity around - MW
One of the important differences between RAPS and many other shelters across the country is that we have the Sanctuary, and are able to walk the talk about being a no-kill organization.  Most shelters are set up to take in stray animals and to try to adopt them out – and many do an excellent job of it. But when it comes to cats, and especially cats born in the wild, it’s very difficult for the average shelter to find homes for them.  In a rural setting, it may be possible to create cat colonies on a farm, to help with rodent control, and there are an increasing number of municipal experiments on the same principle, where feral cats are being used in warehouse facilities to restrict a rat problem. But it’s a sad fact that there are still many shelters where they look at a feral cat, name it untameable, and euthanize it.
These feral cats prefer to live at the back of the pen.  MD
When feral cats come to RAPS, we are able to find them a home at the Sanctuary. They may end up being incorporated into one of the feral pens, or they may be allowed to find their way into the general population, and hide or not, as they please. Their initial period spent in a cage gives our Kitty Comforters a chance to see if any progress can be made, but we know that you can’t force-tame a cat, and some will never become comfortable around humans.
Autumn likes to flirt for attention - MW
That being said, we have had our share of successes. Pretty Autumn, in the front courtyard, has made the transition all by herself – even if it has taken her six years to do so.
Cricket is now totally at ease with us - MW
Cricket’s transition was faster – she came in as a half-grown kitten, just past the usual tameable window. We worked very hard with her, and her brother Beetle, and she resisted all our efforts. But when released into the front courtyard, she made a quick about-turn, and has become one of the friendliest cats in the place (though Beetle is still very shy).
Horatio is waiting for someone's lap - JC
Orange Horatio spent a year being untouchable, and then decided that he was in love with the med staff.  Bossanova, Gilbert and many others are now irrepressible cuddle-bugs.
Hillie is a nature girl - PH
Two arrivals within the last couple of years came from the same source; one of the places our trappers have kept an eye on for some time was a composting facility. A clowder of cats made their home there – some obviously feral, some possibly dumped. The group we call the “cow cats” came from there, and the black and white markings were common to many of them. Hillie  and Yma look very similar, but actually came to us some two years apart. The most recent arrival was a little tabby who looked nothing like the other cow-cats; his name is Merran, and he was put into the SingleWide.
Merran within reach of a hiding place - MW
For some time he was a ghost cat – mostly spending time out on the deck. Working there, you would become aware, at the edge of your vision, of a little cat watching every move but reluctant to come much closer. Gradually and with much patience, with grooming and toys (and not with treats!), Merran discovered that humans weren’t so scary.
Merran has now become an established member of the SingleWide family. He still loves his original tamer best, but he will accept play and petting quite happily from other volunteers.
Hillie allowing us closer and closer - MD
Hillie has been a familiar figure in the back courtyard for the last couple of years, but wary of contact. She is frequently found lurking in the flower-beds, or in one of the open pens; she’s not quite such an enthusiastic tree-climber as is Yma.
Yma would rather be out of reach - MW
One of our volunteers has been watching her for some time and encouraging her with play. Quite suddenly something in Hillie’s brain clicked, and she became very enthusiastic about touch, rolling and flirting and generally making it clear that she thought this was a Good Idea!
Other staff and volunteers are now reporting that Hillie is coming to them looking for attention.
Now who’s the next cat to decide to forsake the feral way?

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Jackie Chappell, Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Karen Nicholson (videos), Michele Wright

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tea-room Tabby Royalty

The back courtyard at the Sanctuary is home to several tabbies, and Stella is the queen!
Stella on her favourite throne
A large-boned girl with a certain presence, she can usually be found holding court on top of the cat-tree just outside the Tea-room;  if the weather is less pleasant, or the humans are meeting in there, she will claim the top of one of the shelves or the table.
The tea-room table becomes the throne
There she seeks attention with conversation and the odd waving paw. She doesn’t want to lap-sit, and she spends as little time at floor-level as she can manage, but she likes to be noticed and acknowledged.
We are not amused...
Stella came to us a few years ago when her family situation changed, and the stress caused her to become a pee-er, as sometimes happens with unhappy cats. She was even unhappier, initially, when she was surrendered to RAPS and brought to the Sanctuary.
Anything can be a throne - it's all in the attitude...
But time has done its work, and Stella is well settled with us.  She’s not much into the company of lesser cats; she’s not nasty about it, like Parry or Licorice – they’re just beneath her notice.
In the summer the throne is framed in floral offerings
Occasionally, a visitor will confuse her with Sophie. Sophie is  not a queen, she’s a spoiled princess, and things have to go her way at all times. In token of this, she wears a collar to remind people that she can sometimes be a bit nasty if she feels we’re not paying the right attention to her. Behaviour like that is beneath Stella’s dignity.
Sophie smirks - I can swat before you touch me...
Sophie is one of the cats who came to us from Five Road several years ago, and spent time in Pen 2 with Calvin, Chase, Celeste and Zivko for tabby company.  Even before the pen was opened, Sophie was eager to be out, and she, Parry and Taffy have relocated themselves from Pen 2 to the Tea-room.
Approach with caution - even outside...
Sophie wants attention but it has to be just so. Reaching to touch her is risky, but she is often ready to leap up on your lap. Better still, she likes the game of jumping on your chair just as you are about to sit down. Touch has to be around the neck and ears but not down her back; teeth and claws come into action quickly if you don’t read the body language correctly.  She definitely doesn’t like the other cats!
Queen Mothers enjoy floral tributes too
The third Tea-room tabby is Jody – and most of her time is spent on a shelf in the bathroom.  If stella is the Queen and Sophie the spoiled princess, Jody is the elderly, and slightly confused, Queen Mum.  She is very much a loner, though she adores human attention and will lick the petting hand as long as it is allowed. 
Jody says "Somebody pet me!"
Occasionally we will hear despairing wails that are characteristic of a geriatric cat who doesn’t quite know where she is; a little petting, and all is right with Jody’s world again.
These three tabbies could not be more different in personality, but they’ve chosen to share the same space, ignoring each other (and most of the other cats) with varying degrees of grace.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Michele Wright

Thursday, January 10, 2019


An introduction to a new cat - from volunteer Pauline Chin

Amongst the new arrivals sitting in their cages, I come across the name, Fido. What, a dog's name? A name search defines Fido as “a generic dog's name” and “trustful or faithful”. More curiously still, the little fellow has no litterbox in his cage. The floor is covered in towels because he is known to pee everywhere. 
It seems he was abandoned by his owners and left to fend for himself outside the home where he had lived.  Neighbours saw his predicament and started taking care of him.  They eventually reached out to RAPS and now he’s here.
Fido appears to be a grey cat with a large bone structure who has lost weight and muscle mass.  He has striking green eyes.  His big, white feet have been stained yellow by urine.  Judging by his feet and bones, he must’ have been heavily built in his prime.  His ear tattoo tells me he’s at least 14.  Reaching through the cage to give him cheek scritches is enough to calm him down.  His constant meows are demands for human attention.
I’ve been warned he can leak at any time.  Sitting calls for extra protection.  In this case, it’s a big towel and a garbage bag.  He seems to truly appreciate the close contact.  Understandable as not every human will want an incontinent cat on their lap.  Five minutes later, he’s still a cuddlebug and dry.  Five more minutes and he’s still happy and dry.  I check his cage over the course of 2 hours and it’s dry and clean.  Definitely an improvement.  Fido also drinks a lot of water for a cat.  Strangely, he has used his food bowl for a toilet.
Cats have all sorts of reasons for “inappropriate urination”.  Medical reasons aside, cats might pee elsewhere if the litterbox is too small, too dirty, in an undesirable location, has undesirable litter, or if someone is blocking access.  Some felines do it more for fun, when they’re upset, insecure, or want to claim ownership.  Sometimes it’s a quick spray, other times it’s a whole bladder’s worth.  Around here, we’re used to cleaning up puddles and wall stains.
It'll be interesting to see if Fido learns to fully control his bladder, if he dribbles as he travels, or if he is more selective where he goes.  Eli, Licorice, Terry, Ollie, and Delilah are notorious for spraying territory.  Through no fault of their own, late manxes Sweetpea and PeeWee were famous for leaving people with soggy feet.  Our star, Honeybear, also sprays and creates droppings as he makes his rounds, but everyone loves this bizarre boy.
Personally, I prefer to give Fido the name Pinot Gris.  He is grey coloured, unique, a sociable guy, and a pun on pee.  If not for his incontinence, he would make a great cuddle buddy.  Cheers to a new friend!
Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin, Brigid Coult, Jennine Kariya, Michele Wright

Note from Brigid: Fido is now out of his cage, and peeing enthusiastically everywhere to establish his territory! Though he can't really be said to be helpful, his chatty personality and his desire for attention has quickly made him a favourite!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Buddies on the way

An unlikely friendship - but one that helped them both...   CP

Tiger is a 7 year-old boy, surrendered to us for a peeing problem. Medical checks tell us that it’s not physiological – he’s just one of those cats who’s got out of the habit of using a litter-box.  He’s a beautiful boy with classic tabby markings, and right from the beginning he was friendly with people who visited him.  We hoped that the peeing problem might go away, and that he could eventually be adopted out, but no such luck – either it’s hardwired into him now, or he is so easily stressed that it’s his way of coping with things.
The smell of pee, of course, is one of the ways that a cat marks its own territory, and Tiger has claimed the cage he was placed in as his space – even though the door has been opened for some time, he is reluctant to wander too far, and constantly returns to the place he feels most comfortable. He’s not a food-motivated boy, but one who enjoys gentle petting, and a human that will allow him to roll and have his belly stroked.
Sprocket came in to us  about the same time as Tiger as one of a pair of feral cats caught in north Richmond by Stephanie, our most experienced trapper.  They are probably about a year old.  His brother Rocket (also orange) tested positive for feline AIDS, and is now living in the New Aids pen. Both were very shy; when startled, Rocket will fly around erratically, and we’ve learned to move very gently around him. Sprocket was caged in a corner of the DoubleWide, and for several weeks remained hiding in his carrier.  The med-staff worked with him, and eventually he learned that humans were worth purring for.
Once the Kitty Comforter team set to work, Sprocket decided he was on to a good thing. Though still very timid, he would sit within reach and allow gentle petting; for a while we had to be very wary because we wanted to keep him caged, and he would sit a little too close to the door for comfort.
Eventually Leslie decided that cage-time was no longer necessary, and his door was opened. Being a cat, he promptly decided that this was where he really wanted to be, and for a while longer, we continued to serve his dinner to him. But obviously, when humans weren’t around, Sprocket started exploring, and was often found in the cage opposite his own.
And then he vanished.  There was some concern – had he gone out on the deck with the ferals? Had he somehow got past the main door? When we have new cats around, it is kept closed, but experienced paws have learned to open it for themselves. With some relief, we found that Sprocket had not gone far – he’d braved the diagonally opposite corner of the DoubleWide and found Tiger’s open cage.
For some time we consistently found the two of them together. Occasionally they snuggled; mostly they lay separately, but each obviously took comfort in the other’s presence. The older, steady boy, and the younger, still easily startled feral made a good pair.  And gradually Tiger was completing the Kitty Comforters’ work, and letting his buddy know that he was in a place of safety and one where humans are not to be feared.
Sprocket & Tiger paws - MS
Both cats have moved on now - each one has gained confidence from the other's presence.  Tiger has remained in the DoubleWide - he likes warmth and comfort. But he's no longer confining himself to his original cage area, and he's often found buddying up with Pancake.
Sharing a shelf with Pancake - BC
Sprocket has made his way into the great outdoors, and is usually found in the Newcomers area with the other shy cats. Kitty Comforters and regular staff and volunteers are watching for him, and making sure he remembers that we aren't to be feared.
Sprocket outside - KN

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Vicki Lo, Karen Nicholson, Lisa Parker, Chris Peters, Molly Sjerdal, Tanisha Vincent, Michele Wright