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, March 28, 2019

Pen Three Ferals

A question frequently asked by Sunday visitors is  “Where do these cats all come from?”
Napoleon - MW
In our early days, they were entirely local cats – we were Richmond Homeless Cats, created to meet the challenges of a feral cat problem in the municipality. Our spay/neuter programs, our focus on TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) and our ability to give shelter to colonies displaced by commercial development meant that all our resources needed to be reserved for Richmond felines. Sanctuary numbers peaked at around 900 animals at one stage, but since then we have living with an aging population – and feral cats, who may have come in with early-life malnutrition, or environmental exposure to toxins, do not always have a long life -expectancy.
Michonne - MD
As our resident numbers decreased, we became more able to work with other organisations outside our immediate area. Shelters all over BC are doing outstanding work to rescue and give help to the animals for which they care, but it only takes a few “dumped” families of cats, and a feral cat explosion can occur. And many of those shelters simply don’t have the facilities to deal with large numbers of ferals.
Garth - BC

Some cats can be tamed – especially if brought in young enough – but it’s a long process, requiring a lot of patience, when it comes to older cats. In many areas, feral colonies are being TNR’d and assigned  as barn cats or some other situation, where they will receive basic oversight and care, but continue to prey upon mice and rats.  But sadly, there are other areas where there is no shelter able to undertake this work, and dealing with feral cats is a matter of exterminating them.
Desmond - MW
The cats living at the back of Pen 3 are part of a group that came from that sort of situation some eight years ago – feral cats were being trapped, but without ongoing care available, their survival was moot. Several shelters, RAPS among them, stepped up and took groups of ferals. The colony that came to us initially lived in the Prince of Wales pen, at the back of the New Aids pen. The smaller pen was the outcome of a generous gift from a group at Prince of Wales school, and the restricted size meant that we hoped to have a better chance of connecting with this feral group. No such luck – they were firmly stuck in their belief that humans were not to be trusted, and the majority of our staff and volunteers were treated with great suspicion. Even the best cat-whisperers were not able to convince any individuals to make the big jump – though occasional touch was reported.
Beethoven - BC
As they aged and the colony became smaller, we were also faced with a growing population of FIV cats. So the decision was made to take our ferals and relocate them to one of the other feral pens – and then reassign Prince of Wales to the FIV cats who needed a quieter life.  The two feral cat pens – 3 and 4 – are both sufficiently large spaces that the staff felt the colony could choose to live separately from the residents, or assimilate.
lounging together - MD
In the end, the cats chose the former option. They decided to live entirely in the back section of the pen, sleeping in a collection of kennels and other shelters, most of which are lined with straw rather than fabric bedding. They obviously enjoy each others’ company, and will often be seen out, all together, or all be hidden away at the same time.  Four of the five are long-haired, and well-suited to outside life; short-haired Desmond probably uses his buddies as insulation on cold nights!  On really cold days, black Michonne just looks like an enormous ball of fluff.
Michonne in fluff mode - CP
The most venturesome of the group is grey Napoleon, who will allow just a little human contact from time to time. Michonne, Beethoven and Garth prefer to keep themselves away from humans; Desmond has apparently been showing some interest in people.
Desmond being curious - BC
Members of our wonderful Kitty Comforter team continue to visit with them – never to force contact, but just to sit and talk with them, and to allow them to know that humans have their interests at heart, and that we can be there if and when they decide to approach.

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

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Cats have a reputation for being loners.
In actual fact, like humans, they run the gamut from being antisocial with other cats and humans, to loving everyone around. They rarely go as far on that spectrum as dogs, but we have many cats who enjoy each others’ company, and love having human attention. The introverted end of the spectrum I call the Garbo cats (“I vant to be alone...”) and they usually carry that bubble of alone-ness around with them. Cat-spats most frequently happen when another cat moves into that bubble.
Timmy (left) & Leland (right) - MW
There are several front courtyard introverts who have already been introduced, and many of them can be found around the entrance to the Single-Wide.  Timmy has claimed the hallway by the door, and tends to be very unhappy when another cat moves into his space; providing different levels to sit on means that an interloper can co-exist with him if the two don’t look at each other.  Grey Leland avoids the gaze of any other cat on the principle of “If I don’t see you, you don’t exist” - but he can often be found on the porch seat with other cats steering a wide berth around him.
Another porch inhabitant is Iris. This pretty girl is mostly grey with peachy markings. For the greater part she sends off a vibe of “I need my space” but she has her favourites among the volunteers, and there are several people who make a point of having Iris-time when they’re done with their shift.  And always on a Sunday, Iris will find at least one visitor who will sit with her and make her feel loved.
Iris came to RAPS in April 2017, when her owner moved. As sometimes happens, she was shelter-stressed in limited space, and aggressive. In some shelters the aggressive label would be fatal, but at RAPS we are able to move a cat from Shelter to Sanctuary, and give it more time and space. I understand that her name was originally Isis, and the RAPS staff changed it – only to find that her former owner’s name was Iris!
Last year we did in fact have a potential adoption for Iris, but it didn’t work out, and she came back to us. We still think there is hope for her – a home with no other cats or dogs, no children, and lots of love and patience would suit her very well.
In the meantime, she confinues to claim the front steps, and to hope that someone will sit down with her and not allow other cats to muscle in on her precious time with a human friend.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Jennine Kariya, Angelina Mak, Michele Wright

Thursday, March 14, 2019


I have written before about Black Cat Syndrome, and how it doesn’t play out at the Sanctuary.
Sure, there are a lot of black cats, but they all have personality, and it only takes a little individual attention to establish how that personality fits into the community.  And I think many of those black cats have at least one human who knows that cat really well, and to whom the cat responds.
Tyson has been with us for the last couple of years. Rumour has it that he was an illegal immigrant – caught in a truck that had arrived from the USA.  He was brought in to the City Shelter, and his fear-aggression led them to send him over to the Sanctuary as a likely feral.   With us he continued aggressive for a while, until he realised that nobody was out to harm him. Since then he has relaxed into be a big loveable cuddle-boy, who gets along with practically everyone.
In the suspicious early days - PH
Mostly he hangs around the Tea-Room area – which means that there are a few other black cats with whom he can be confused. I have to confess that I don’t always ID him correctly in photos, but when I see him move, or with other cats, he’s easy to distinguish.  Cole is taller (Cole is taller than all the other black cats!). Jay-Z is tubbier (ditto) and has green eyes. Ninja is closest in body type, but a quick ear-sniff tells us that Ninja is the one getting medical care for his ear. Steele has longer fur, and won’t allow himself to be touched. Celia is smaller and swatty.
Tyson loves his toys - KN
Tyson’s a sort of in-between boy. He loves attention, allowing himself to be picked up and cuddled; he will happily follow around with whoever is cleaning the back pens.  Unlike Ninja, who likes to sneak through gates, Tyson is happy to go off and do his own thing, and then return when the human is free to pay attention again. He likes to play – a ball or a wand toy will keep him occupied for a while, and in the recent snowfall, he enjoyed chasing after snowballs, and destroying them by grabbing and kicking.  He is one of the few cats who seems to enjoy being held on his back, and it’s often the best way to clip his nails.
Tyson gets a pawdicure - BC
Tyson illustrates the clear difference between a stray and a feral. A stray usually knows that humans are a source of food and comfort; a feral only knows that they are to be feared. A stray may exhibit feral fear/aggression, but will often revert, like Tyson or like our big boy Dell in Pen 3, to the behaviour of a domestic cat; a feral may tame down to the point of being petted, but is rarely relaxed and comfortable with many people. Ferals Hillie and Merran have learned that humans are a Good Thing – but they remain wary with the people that they don’t really know. For Tyson, everyone is a friend; life is a party for him, and with us, he’s truly landed on his feet.

Blog: Brigid Coult
Photos: Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Like Families

This week's blog comes to us from volunteer Pauline Chin
Little Simone, with her big boy, Bantam - MW
On occasion we receive cats who are related to each other.  There are siblings Honeybear and Honeybun, Pancake and his mom, Autumn, Simone with her son, Bantam, siblings Miller and Fiona, and brothers Pogo and Tommy.
Gigi & Kermit - MD
Most of these related cats are not bonded, yet they’ve somehow found family-like companionship with other cats.  Black cats Jay-Z, Fable, Eclipse, Kermit, and Gigi were trapped at Rusty’s Towing.  Being the oldest, Eclipse may be the father. The other cats are all within a year of age of each other.
Mya and Kirstie - BC
Siblings Kirstie and mustached Mya came in together.  Their cow cat relatives Yma and Hillie were also from the same composting facility.
Pops & Sparrow - BC
Our newest family edition is father and son pair, Pops and Sparrow.  They travelled all the way from the US (with a short stay in the Okanagan).  They currently reside in the side room of the Moore House.  Visitors can say hi to them through the covered deck.  Peachy coloured Pops is 5 years old and black Sparrow is 1.  They groom each other, play together, share the same beds, and are truly bonded.
Horatio, Yogi and Wobbly Bob snuggle nose-to-tail - VL
Unrelated to each other, we have the Double-Wide couch buddies.  The current line up includes Colin, Horatio, Wobbly-Bob, Fido, Yogi, Chatter, CB Lincoln, and Squeakers.  They love napping on the couch, especially on cooler days.  If there are humans around, Orlean, Dazzle, and Huey will appear.
The Dryer Gang - at capacity - MW
Most people are familiar with the Dryer Gang in the single-wide.  If you’re not, then the core group is Bantam, Simone, Belinda, Zoe, and Little Mama.  Sometimes others like Dodger and Diablo will join in.  The most I’ve seen was 7 cats piled on each other.  The dryer warmth and vibrations bring a sense of calm.  Every cat is welcome to be there.  Once in a while, ailing cats will hop on and receive care from the others.
Terra staring the competition down - MW
It’s funny how so many cats can fit on a single dryer, but in the double-wide, only 1 cat is allowed on the dryer at a time.  Terra does not like to share.  Emery hates other cats.  Cole prefers his own space.  If any of these cats can’t have the dryer, then they’ll nap on the window sill, or in the pile of clean towels.  It’s a free re-fuzzing service for the freshly washed blankets.
Double-wide deck crew - VL
Out on the deck where the ferals roost, Benji, Bubbles, Ringo, Smudge, Joleen, and Lil share the mattress.  These ferals treat each other like long lost family.  No squabbling; just quiet company.  Only humans are unwelcome, as almost everyone will scatter if we approach them.  However, the Tea Room offers a back side window-view of everyone without disturbing their peace.
Snuggling under the heat lamp - DW
Regardless of background, the cats who live here can choose to make family-like connections.  There’s no judgment on appearances, age, or disabilities.  Once they’re accepted, they’re friends for life.  Even the most feral arrivals have a soft side and will seek out company at some point, even the company of humans.

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Vicki Lo, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright