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 25, 2019

It's A Ruff Life

This wonderful pair of eyes belongs to a cat who’s still not quite sure that he belongs here.
When new cats come in, they are caged for a while so that first the staff, and then the Kitty Comforters, can have a chance to make contact with them. For the first while the cage bears a DO NOT ENTER – Med Staff Only warning, so that regular volunteers know that they do not need to clean or feed in a cage with an angry cat ready to lunge.  Once we’re more certain of a cat’s reaction, then they can be approached with gentleness – sometimes with a volunteer just sitting in the cage and talking, and then progressing to touch with a wand or a scratcher, and then with a hand.
For a long time this was all we would see of Ruff, if he was not actually hiding behind his drape. Having a hiding place is important to a new and frightened cat – but gradually we try to wean them of the need to hide all the time, and help them to understand that humans are not there to hurt them.
A big floofy, more-grey-than-black cat - KN
Ruff came to us from a woman in Surrey who had been feeding ferals for 5 years.  She said "I always had a soft spot for him. He was my first feral. I came home from a trip to China in 2014 and saw this cat eating the fallen fruit from my plum tree and I thought, "that’s weird!" I started feeding him & giving him water in the back part of my yard & eventually called VOKRA to help trap him. Once trapped they said he was 7 years old, had been trapped in a horse farm not far from my house, fixed & released". She had to move, and knew that the necessary renovations would mean noise and disturbance; before she left, she wanted to know that the cats would be all right, and she contacted us.
Wild Ruff - WR
Ruff arrived at the Sanctuary early this year, along with his “buddy” Hamlet. In actual fact, there was not a great deal of buddying going on; the two did not get along, and Ruff - probably the older of the two at around 12 years old, usually got the short end of the stick. Often when cats come in together, we cage them together – this was not advisable this time, and the two of them were housed at opposite ends of the Double-Wide.
Hamlet - KN
When the med staff felt that both were ready for release, the cage doors were opened, and Hamlet made his way onto the back deck of the Double-Wide – the favoured space for many of the ferals. There’s enough open space, and cat-runs for wary ferals to stay out of reach. Ruff, in contrast, hunkered down, as if to say “You can’t make me move!”  An open cage is an irresistible draw to some cats, so he had to tolerate visitors, but they showed him no aggression, and he ignored them (as only a cat can!)
Eli comes visiting - KN
Humans, on the other hand, were The Enemy, and were greeted with aggressive lunging and spitting. It took our resident cat-whisperer to see past the facade to the pussycat behind the tiger. Working slowly and carefully, she first got him to accept petting (and belly-rubs) and then persuaded him to allow her to groom him.  The enormous cloud of floofy fur she got off him made us realise how appropriate his name was – most of his grey body-fur came out, and his magnificent black coat is now offset by his grey ruff encircling his neck.
Touch that belly, please.... - KN
Ruff has continued his lunge-and-spit greeting with strangers, but it’s noticeable that it’s only an initial warning, and that he doesn’t make contact.  Visitors who approach him gently are now able to reinforce his understanding that we don’t want to hurt him, and increasingly he is ready to relax and accept attention.

There is still some anxiety in his eyes, and too quick a move can produce another lunge-and-spit, but his body language is telling us that he knows he’s safe in his corner.  He’s happier to come down and use his litter-box when there’s nobody around, but he’s already using his floor-level bed rather than insisting on being up on the shelf, and we hope that he will start exploring soon. Probably, like Ringo, it’ll be late night or early morning, with few people around.  But there’s no hurry – he can take as long as it takes to know that he’s safe, and that a Ruff life at RAPS is not a bad thing.

Blog by Brigid Coult, with a lot of help from Karen Nicholson
Photos & video by Karen Nicholson;
one photo by Wendy Roberts

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Four Golden Oldies

Nearly every cat that comes to us, comes with a sad back-story.
Tugboat was surrendered for his bathroom habits - ML
Sometimes it’s as simple as being a feral cat, and therefore not suitable for adoption.
Smithy hisses at everyone - PH
Sometimes it’s a cat with a physical or medical problem, like our incontinent Manx Syndrome cats.
Sweet Plum's rear end is not so sweet! - MW
The saddest are the cats that have had a good home, and are obviously upset by its loss.  Krissy’s owner died and Krissy took more than a year to come out of her cage and investigate life at the Sanctuary.
Krissy’s not a young cat, but she’s now part of the general front courtyard population. More frequently, a cat whose owner has passed or gone into care may also be getting up there in age, and these cats often end up in the Moore House – often known as GeriCatrics.  The Moore House was the gift of long-time volunteer Marianne Moore, who we lost last year. She was responsible for the creation of the Kitty Comforters, and she had a particular love for the older cats, who often do better in a quieter environment than one of the larger areas.
Rufus and Fluff - BC
In the last few weeks four “new” old cats have come into the Moore House. Like all newcomers, they are caged for the first few weeks to allow them to assimilate the move, and then the cage door is opened to allow them to investigate their new surroundings, and establish their place with the other cats.
PomPom loves attention - BC
Wink and PomPom are the slightly older pair, at 18 years each. Their sign tells us that they were “surrendered for allergies” - we don’t know whether they came into the hands of a new owner who wasn’t aware of his/her sensitivity, or a new person with allergies moved in. But at 18 years old – probably equivalent to late 80s in human terms – they find themselves surrendered. And people coming to a shelter to adopt don’t easily look at cats of that age, especially when they're a bonded pair. In some municipalities they would just be put to sleep, but RAPS’ no-kill promise means they will have a home with us as long as they need it.
Wink - BC
Wink, as his name implies, is one-eyed, and when I visited he had just finished dinner, and was mostly keeping that one eye closed in a cat-nap. His buddy PomPom was much more interested in visiting, though not sure about lap-sitting; he was very happy to sit beside me and be adored.
Fluff says "Up! Up!" -  BC
The other pair of boys are almost as old, at 17 years; the owner of Fluff and Rufus died, and they have come to us from a rescue in the Kootenays. Many shelters would not be able to give space to two elderly cats who are unlikely to be rehomed, at that age – with the added complication that Fluff has hyperthyroidism, and will need daily medication. Once again, our links with other rescues around the province mean that we can give these two a home. Rufus is very placid, with a soothing rumble of a purr; Fluff is more  restless (a hyperthyroid characteristic). Both were happy to have a visitor, and I think they will integrate well into the Moore House population.
Rufus is begging for belly-rubs - BC
We don’t allow Sunday visitors into the Moore House – having strangers around is often stressful for these old cats. But they will get regular visits from the Kitty Comforters, and staff and volunteers alike will often find their way to the Moore House for an hour of senior cat love.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Moira Langley,
Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Cookie Mills

Cookie Mills is one of our Double-Wide Manx cats.
Her human companion died, and the situation was not an easy one for her – she was obviously attached to the woman, and to a life in which she was the only feline. She was taken in by a family member, but the stress of upheaval led to her peeing in the wrong places, and she eventually came to us. To find herself living in a dorm of other cats must have come as a shock. As with all our new cats, she spent the first month in a cage, getting used to the sights and sounds around, but with a space she could call her own. And, in common with some other new cats, when the cage door was opened, Cookie Mills didn’t want to leave!
Unfortunately for her, cages are needed for other new cats, or for cats who need medical attention, and Cookie Mills had to relocate a few times.  She always manages to find a shelf in a quiet cage, and claims it for her own. She’s not actively unfriendly to other cats; she’s like the new kid in school who is something of a loner, and doesn’t really want to make friends. Occasionally she can be found sharing with another shy cat – perhaps Tiger or Pancake – and sometimes she reluctantly makes room for Sativa.
Sharing a shelf with tabby Tiger - JK
Cookie Mills shares space (and occasionally a shelf) with some of our other Manx cats, who have Manx syndrome issues.  Little Sativa can’t help but leave bits of poop wherever she goes. Plum can use a litter-box, but can’t always control her sphincters, and needs regular baths. Our new girl Luna is leaky because of post-surgical issues and we need to change her bedding regularly. Cookie Mills’ peeing problems were emotional rather than physical, and she usually uses a litter-box and keeps herself pretty clean.
She is a general favourite with many of the Kitty Comforters, and has taken a special fancy to one of the Sunday visitors. Her owner’s family came to visit recently, and were visibly moved to see Cookie Mills react to the visitor – it appears that her manner and style are very like the original owner’s.
In the mermaid pose favoured by many tubby cats - KN
So far Cookie Mills has restricted herself to remaining in the Double-Wide. Currently the swing door is closed because we try and keep new cats from going outside until they’re more comfortable. (The long-time inhabitants are well able to open the door for themselves, but it’s a barrier for the newbies). We’d like to see Cookie Mills go out and get some exercise. The characteristics that make a Manx a “stumpy” can also mean shortened spines and arthritis, and many of them are stocky at best, and obese at worst. Because it’s so hard to control Sanctuary cats’ diet without caging them, encouraging exercise and play is our best option. She may end up among the cats who get carried to the gate at the far end in order that they at least get to do the return walk.
Cookie Mills doesn’t really come into the category of “Garbo” cats who “vant to be alone” - she’s not aggressive in any way to other cats or to humans. We understand she misses her former owner, but we hope she can learn that there’s love for her here, as well.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Chelzea Freeman, Jennine Kariya, & Karen Nicholson.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mighty Mikey

From guest blogger Pauline Chin:
Mikey is our completely blind cat.  He resides in the double-wide, specifically in the basket inside the cage that used to belong to Binx.  He originally came in with two green eyes with some vision in one eye.  After an eye infection, that eye was removed.  He still recalls the layout of the place, knows how to get up and down stairs, navigate the courtyard, and use the litter box.  You’ll recognize him as the glossy black kitty with the disoriented walk.
He walks with his head tilted and neck outstretched.  This allows him to “feel” surrounding objects better.  His whiskers and hair detect slight movements and lowers his chances of bumping into moving objects.  For stationary objects, he’ll walk forward until he feels it, then meanders around.  Mikey is especially sensitive to touch.  Petting time is limited to seconds before he growls, “Enough!”
If he collides into a another cat, both will get startled.  If Mikey bumps into a human, he’s liable to use their feet as a scratchpad.  We used to have a horizontal scratchboard - he even slept on it!  As with anything cardboard, it had a short life expectancy.  Should Mikey become overwhelmed from too much activity, he’ll curl up on the spot.  It can be stressful for him and us to have him sitting next to everyone’s feet.  Not everyone is aware of his blindness.
It was decided on Sundays that it was safer to cage him, since we have visitors around.  In addition to regular amenities, he gets a plate of moist food and a bed/box to snuggle in.  With a full belly, he’s more like to take a nap for 2-3 hours.  By the time he wakes up, visiting hours are over, and it‘s safe to release him.  Despite his blindness, he knows exactly how to enter a litter box and bury his business afterwards.
In the summertime, Mikey tends to wander outside.  He’ll walk the length of the back courtyard and back again - perhaps remembering mornings when he would go for a run with Phaedra.  Sometimes he takes a sunbath or curls up in a tight little ball.
The other cats don’t bother him.  Now and then he does get lost if the ground is uneven or if there’s several planters in a small space.  We’ll just pick him or nudge him out and he’ll be on his way.  Mikey can probably feel the temperature changes on his fur and will head back into the trailer when it cools in the evening.
Life is a good thing for him at the Sanctuary.  Mikey never has to worry about competing for resources, fleeing from predators, catching illnesses from outdoor animals, or euthanasia for his disability.  He’s got many people to look out for him, access to indoor and outdoor life, food and toys brought straight to him, and much love.
He's our lucky black cat!

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin, Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman and Michele Wright