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, July 25, 2019

Room for Teens

One regular visiting-day question is “where are the kittens?”
Kittens always look SO cute!  - JS
Visitors are always disappointed to learn that any kittens in RAPS care are usually to be found at the City Shelter, waiting for adoption – and some of them go rushing off to visit there.
In fact, to get kittens to that point, there’s a great deal more RAPS care by the invisible (to the public) team of fosterers.  Any time a pregnant cat, or a mom and kittens arrives in our care, someone from the fostering team leaps into action.  Many of them reserve a room in their home just as a kitten-nursery; if that space is taken, stand-alone cages are erected on the dining-room table, and all formal entertaining is postponed.
Mama Carly Simon is now settled with us;
her kittens were all adopted from the City Shelter - MW/KD
Fosterers are used to the anxiety of waiting for a litter to be born, of tube- and syringe-feeding when necessary, of dodging a protective mom in order to clean a cage. They handle young kittens as soon as possible, to familiarize them with people – the weaning stage between four and eight weeks is usually seen as the best time – and when the kittens are old enough, they are taken to the City Shelter for adoption - while mama is spayed, to prevent another litter, and moved to Shelter or Sanctuary, depending on her temperament.
Four wary teenagers: Perry, Peony, Perkins & Della - MM
The problem comes when we receive older kittens, who are past that optimal window for easy handling. Socializing them when they are four months old or more can take a great deal of patience to overcome the feral instincts instilled by a feral mama. We will sometimes receive these ones at the Sanctuary. At the age of 4 months to a year, they are not yet fully adult – we would probably say that a 1-year old kitten is developmentally equivalent to a 15-year old human.  And though 15-year old humans can be delightful creatures, they are not as adult as they think they are! We don’t need any feline teen pregnancies, so all of them will be “speutered” (spayed/neutered) before they come to us.
Baby Beetle is all grown up now - but still shy  - MW
You may hear the Sanctuary’s Hill House sometimes referred to as “The Teens”, from its early function. These days we have fewer teens, and they usually go to a room off the quiet senior-focused Moore House.  At one stage it housed Sage and Silky, Cricket, Beetle and Frisky, it was a home for the young cow-cats, Mya and Kirstie, when they first came to us, for Perry, Perkins and Peony (all adopted) and now it’s the base for six youngsters.
Blond Leo relies on his braver friend Benny - BC
Leo and Benny came to us from a hoarding situation. They are less than a year old, and were initially very nervous about being handled. Benny rapidly settled; Leo was less ready to be touched. They were sited in the DoubleWide, and got a lot of attention, but large as our cages are, they really didn’t give this pair space to be as active as they would like. Kitty Comforters spent a lot of time and love on them, and it was obvious that it would just take a bit of time. The two of them are a younger echo of Lindor and Parker who came to us earlier this year – and with similar colouring and initial characteristics. Both Lindor and Benny are fuzzy and black, fairly outgoing and not afraid to engage; both Parker and Leo are slighter and blond, much more shy and in need of coaxing.
Mason loves having space to play - AM
In the cage facing them was a little black panther: young Mason; very hissy and swatty in his first weeks with us, but with the Kitty Comforters working with him, he became very keen on human company – going in to feed or clean his cage meant entertainment time!
It's a hard life, being a kitten, says Mozart - MW
In the meantime, there was another group of teens in one of the Single-Wide’s big cages, tended only by the med staff until we were sure that they were all healthy. This trio had come to us from the Interior, offspring of a feral mama, and about 8 months old. They were named Pistachio, Caleb and Mozart – Pistachio with a little moustache marking; Caleb with more black markings, and Mozart more grey.
Mozart & Caleb - KN
Now there’s been a general reshuffle and the two groups have been put together in the Moore House kitten room, where there’s more room for them to run and play, and for the Kitty Comforters to do the work of socializing them as much as possible.  We hope that they will eventually go to the City Shelter for adoption, but it may be that their feral beginnings are too ingrained to overcome, and they will end up staying with us like the other youngsters. Sadly for visitors, the Moore House is off-limits – they may be seen out on the deck if they choose; they can be admired but not handled.
Pistachio - MW
The Kitty Comforters, of course, are having a wonderful time – but they all know that how they play with these delightful fuzzballs will be vital in establishing patterns that will help Benny and Leo, Mason, Pistachio, Caleb & Mozart eventually to find new homes and grow to be confident cats.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Kati DeGraff, Anne Marchetti, the late Marianne Moore, 
Karen Nicholson, Jocelyn Schonekess, Michele Wright

Thursday, July 18, 2019

When My Person's Gone

One of the most heartbreaking things at the Sanctuary is when we welcome a new cat in because their owner has died, or gone into care, or just abandoned them.
Our new boy, ZeeZee - BC
For a cat who has had the experience of “their” human, to find themselves in a shelter full of other smells and noises and no familiar comforting human presence has to be difficult indeed.  And many cats will react badly at the City Shelter, and end up coming to the Sanctuary where we can give them more space and time to adjust.  This is particularly true for the older cats.  And since we are now in kitten season, potential adopters tend to look first at the younger felines.
Rufus & Fluff comforted each other - BC
Sometimes cats will reconcile themselves more quickly when they come in as a pair. Shaggy and his late buddy Spicer, Wink and his late buddy PomPom, Rufus and Fluff, and our newcomers, Frank and Jim all had a friend to snuggle with when they got scared, and a little mutual grooming goes a long way to ease the kitty blues.  But for a cat who has been The Cat in its home, and who only knows its human, it’s a very hard adjustment to make.
It took a while before Krissy was comfortable with us - MW
Krissy came to us in 2015 when she lost her owner, and for most of her first year with us she remained in her cage, hiding behind  a drape. All the coaxing and patience of staff and Kitty Comforters was no consolation for being without Her Person.  It’s really only in this last year that Krissy has not only started being more active around the courtyard, but also approaching people and looking for attention. And even so, she’s not bonded with anyone, so we wouldn’t consider adopting her out and putting her through another traumatic transition.
Debo says, "MY chair!" - DW
Debo came to us with his brother Santos when their owner went into care, and the two had an “I love you / I hate you” relationship with each other, insisting on adjacent seating in the Single-Wide.  We lost Santos about a year ago, but Debo has actually adjusted pretty well. He is king of the main room now, having adopted both his own chair and that of Santos. Humans are welcome to sit in either chair – whereupon Debo will usually move over into the lap provided – but other cats are not appreciated.
Smokey is waiting to swear at volunteers;
Jimmy, above her, just wants to chill  -  DJ
Smokey also lost her owner.  She had probably had little contact with anyone other than that one person, and the transition has been very hard on her (and on us!). Smokey is in the Moore House, though she’s not really an old cat – however, she is a very cranky cat, and the decision to place her there was made because the Moore House is so much quieter. In her first cage, a corner one, she retreated to a dark corner except to launch attacks on unwary volunteers coming to clean and feed her. She’s now been moved to a cage that’s more open; she has a place to hide, but she’s more aware of movement around her. Her cage is open – but she really prefers it closed. And her swearing leaves us in no doubt of her disapproval of humans in general – though the Saturday evening volunteer reports something of a truce.
ZeeZee waiting for dinner - BC
Our latest senior orphan is ZeeZee, whose owner had to surrender him when caring for him became impossible from a wheelchair. ZeeZee needed as much care as his owner: medical issues and dental care are a fact of life for this lovely boy, who was immediately willing to interact with people. But there was a sadness to him – even when his cage was opened, he often returned to hide away in his cat-tree.  He has now begun to acclimatize, he is now out and exploring the Hill House and the courtyard, and making friends with staff and volunteers - though he certainly doesn’t want to make nice with the other cats around just yet.
Back to his favourite perch - like any cat;
"Sometimes I sits & thinks; and sometimes I just sits"  - BC
We can’t replace the people they’ve lost, but we can love them as much as they will allow, and hope that they will finally come to trust us.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Daphne Jorgenson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Monday, July 15, 2019

Adopting a Feral

More than half of our Sanctuary cats have come in as ferals.
Smithy's first reaction always used to be a hiss;
 recently he's become more curious than aggressive - BC
Feral cats are those born wild, or living wild from a very early age. They run the range from the cats that take one look at you and turn to hide (or to hiss angrily at a human interloper) to the cats who have decided that there is no better life than sitting in a human’s lap. Ferals and strays are not the same thing; a stray knows what human contact is, and though scared, may more easily revert to tame behaviour.
Our beloved Dell came in as a terrifyingly aggressive cat;
we are sure he was a stray because of how quickly he settled with us.  - MD
For many years the Sanctuary has been a refuge for ferals, as well as for owner-surrenders and health-problem cats. When we’ve had a particularly friendly cat, we have sometimes transferred it to the Shelter at 5 Road, so that it can have its chance at finding a new home.  And because for many of those years, the Sanctuary was Richmond’s best-kept secret, that was very often the only way those cats might make a new start, if they weren’t adopted by one of our volunteers.
Sandy (L) and Pebble (R) are feral sisters;  Sandy still has the horrified
feral stare and is wary of humans; Pebble loves to be petted.  - KN
What we call the semi-ferals are those cats who have adapted well to life with humans at the Sanctuary; they are often among the welcoming committee at the gate, and come looking for petting and attention. But just because they seek attention doesn’t always mean that they are adoptable – experiences with cats like Esme and Jenny led to a general no-feral-adoptions rule. A cat that appears happy to be handled at the Sanctuary may freak out when taken out of its familiar turf and put into a new home.
Sweet Jenny is entirely at home in the Single-Wide - MW
Many of us, of course, have ferals or former ferals at home. My own little Kissa, who passed last year, would hide when anyone except me or her favourite cat-sitter entered the house.  It took her more than two years of living with me before she allowed herself to lap-sit.  I have friends who care for neighbourhood ferals, who have adopted them as their humans, and who come and go from their home with great comfort.
Watson was very scared when he came in to our care;
he now lives happily with one of our volunteers.  MW
But at RAPS we feel a strong responsibility to the cats who we allow to leave in someone’s care. A cat that escapes from a new home may never return if it’s on unfamiliar territory. When you adopt a cat from the RAPS City Shelter, you will complete a questionnaire intended to ensure that you will provide a safe home for your new friend. If you adopt from the Sanctuary, you can expect, in addition, to be grilled by our Manager and/or med staff. Will this be an only cat? What is the potential access to outdoors? Do you have a room that can be a sanctuary for its first days or weeks? What’s your experience with ferals?
Peony - now called Twinkles - was a half-grown feral kitten from a composting
centre when she came to us; she's another cat who has found a home with a volunteer.  MW
Some of our former ferals we will never adopt out – cats like Simone and Latte have lived with us for years, and we would not want to have a relocation make them unhappy. For them, the compromise is sponsorship – the knowledge that you are contributing to their welfare and to a continued happy life with us. But others have become contented outgoing members of the welcoming committee, and when the right person comes along an adoption may be possible. The impetus has to come from the cat; when a visitor appears weekly and the cat makes a bee-line for them every time, discussions can take place. Sadly, many of those bonds happen with people whose situation may not allow for an adoption, and they become among our most faithful visitors in order to have time with “their” cat.
Pretty Cher is mostly a one-man cat,
and her guy comes to visit with her every Sunday - MW
The majority of adoptions from the Sanctuary are actually owner-surrender cats who may have been too stressed at the Shelter to show well, but who blossom in our hands.  Tiger, Terra, Suki (now Cassie - first blogged here by her new owner), Mookie and several others are doing very well in new homes – but the Sanctuary was never really home for them. Cats like Cricket or Silky in the front courtyard, and Willow or Hillie in the back are all a very different affair – they are all cats who have known the wild life as youngsters, and they are all used to a life without boundaries (other than the Sanctuary walls). We would need to be very sure that they had bonded with a human they had chosen, and that the potential owner understood that giving a home to a feral may be a much longer process than with a tame cat. Cricket, in particular, is outgoing and sociable with visitors (as both Jenny and Esme were), but that is no guarantee that she would be a good candidate for adoption.
Cricket loves attention - but she loves her relative freedom still more - MW
We do have feral adoption success stories – especially from among our volunteers, who establish a relationship of trust with one cat or another. But even with a feral-savvy adopter, it can take much patience, waiting for the cat to decide that it can trust again after relocation - Watson's human tells me that it took more than three months for him to come out of hiding.
Many of our ferals, friendly and shy alike, will need to live out their lives in our care, confident that with us they are in a place of safety.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Happy Tail - Terra

Terra came to us a couple of years ago, transferred from the 5 Road Shelter where she had not been happy. She was one of our “Garbo” cats (“I vant to be alone!”) and did not appreciate the proximity of other felines.  Like many of those cats, she enjoyed human attention, but unfortunately she also suffered from black-cat-itis. Many shelters have a number of black cats that have been passed over for adoption because nobody has bothered to look past the black fur to see the personality beneath.
Terra has been on our adoptable list for some time, and almost hit the jackpot a year ago – but it turned out that the black cat that the adopter had fallen in love with was actually another cat! So Terra remained with us, adopting the position of Laundry Cat in the Double-Wide. Unlike in the Single-Wide, where the Dryer Gang rules by the door, the Double-Wide dryer is occupied by one cat at a time – and mostly, that was Terra. She was often confused with big Cole, but he mostly wanted to be In the laundry (preferably nested in the towels), whereas Terra had her own bed on top of the dryer.  In that position she was able to make contact with the many humans working in the area.

From volunteer Val Lea, who has adopted her recently:

As a volunteer for several years at the sanctuary, we were keeping an eye out for a new member of our family to bring home this past June. I’d fallen in love with Terra, whose normal perch was on top of the dryer in the double wide. So affectionate with people, but hating all the other cats, she would want to sit on my lap, but if another cat came near (and one always does!) she would hiss and run away.  I was concerned she’d miss all the love she receives from the staff and volunteers if we took her home.  I was reassured that since having no other cats around would lessen her anxiety, two people loving her would make up for it.

We (and by we I mean my husband Greg) spent five weekends building her a catio on our back deck. It was a major project because the deck had to be shored up to take the load, and the wood had to be painted white so it would look nice too.
 All screened in and with a roof, it measures six feet by fourteen feet, because I wanted an area big enough so we could be in there too. It has shelves for her to perch - some with pillows on them, which Terra has just jumped across, and not actually sat on.
Her first day was spent mostly under the bed, but I coaxed her out for cuddles every couple of hours. She was much more adventurous the second day and found a spot where she could see the front door, down the hall and up the stairs – the perfect look-out!
By the fourth day, she was acting like she owned the place and was rolling around, trilling, sitting on my lap, enjoying being brushed and generally relaxing. Even greeting people who visited – after first checking that there were no cats with them!
Completely ignoring all the cushiony areas I made for her (along with the “softest pet bed in the world”) she prefers to sprawl out on the carpet.
though it didn't take long before that pet bed was also getting a good workout!
We are absolutely delighted that we can give Terra a forever home where she is queen of the castle. I spend a good part of my time singing Terra, Terra to the tune of Sarah by Jefferson Starship.  She likes it, but I’m not sure how the other human feels about it 😀

Thank you, Val and Greg,  for loving her and giving her a home of her own!

Blog by Brigid Coult & Val Lea
Photos by Val Lea and Michele Wright

Thursday, July 4, 2019

P.O.W. Cats

At the back of the AIDS pen is a smaller one where a group of five cats live together.
Frontier & Walter - MW
The enclosure is known as the Prince of Wales pen – it was built about 9 years ago with a generous donation from fundraising by students from Prince of Wales school in Vancouver. Initially it housed a group of feral cats that had come to us from the Interior; they were not FIV-positive, and as the older ones passed, it was decided to combine the remaining colony with the feral cats in Pen 3 
Malcolm & Mr Moochie - BC
Our population of AIDS cats was growing.  Cats who are feral, or who have lived wild for a time, are more likely to become infected with the virus in the course of battles over territory or potential mates. And many of them have decided that humans are to be feared – no matter how kindly they are treated. Cats like Tiberius and Zimmer have made the transition to toleration – they will move from cabin to pen easily, and though they don’t like touch, they will accept it. But there are also cats in the back of the AIDS pen who don’t even like to be looked at; they prefer to hide when visitors are around and are stressed by too much movement.  For some of those we have made a sanctuary within the pen; for others the move to the Prince of Wales pen was the answer.
Malcolm - BC
Five cats make up the POW colony. Many of our AIDS cats have come from other shelters around the province where there are no facilities to keep FIV or FeLV cats separate from the general population. Big blocky Malcolm is usually the greeter at the gate. He may hiss a bit, but allows gentle petting and can be quite chatty. He loves his chicken and catnip treats. He’s almost a twin to Harold, who was an AIDS cat we lost about a year ago – similar colouring and build. I wonder if they came from the same colony...
Malcolm (left) and the late Harold (right)  - MW
Also fairly comfortable with himself is tabby Frontier. He’s obviously lived a tough life, with a harsh coat and a few scars, but he now knows he’s in a safe place and is more relaxed.
Frontier - BC
Mr Moochie is a long-haired dark-brown boy who likes to lounge in a box. Actually, given half a chance, they ALL like to lounge together if they can find a big enough bed.  When he came to us, he was determined to find an escape route, and the relocation to POW was our move to foil that – in a smaller pen, it was easier to ensure that all the possible cracks that might lead to a breakout were secured. 
Mr Moochie - BC
We never want our cats to escape – life outside the pens is too dangerous. But especially, we wouldn’t want any of the AIDS cats to escape, to be a possible danger to other cats.
Walter and Harvey prefer to hide - BC
The remaining two in the pen are tuxedos – Walter has an all-white nose, and Harvey has a white blaze. Both are definitely feral; Walter is brave enough to turn and hiss as he takes cover; Harvey just hides, though if he’s cuddling with his buddies he does well as long as we don’t get too close.
Harvey - BC
When Walter first came in, and was in a cage, he was pettable (bum-in-the air!) but now he has his "freedom" he has decided that he doesn't much like us.
Walter - BC
These five don’t get outside visitors; the latter will sometimes visit the AIDS cats at the weekend when there is a guide available, but we don’t allow access to these shy boys.  They get regular attention from the staff and volunteers who are more familiar to them, and the Kitty Comforters team members spend quite a bit of time with them.
Frontier & Mr Moochie - BC
As with all our feral cats, we will be delighted if they decide they would like a closer friendship with humans, but if that never happens, they will just be allowed to continue in their small colony, with the furry friends with whom they know they can snuggle.
Louise says this makes her think of a rock band album cover
- perhaps a band called "Stray Cats"

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Louise Parris & Michele Wright