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, August 29, 2019

What Does the Face Say?

Bossanova's worried face is less about his place in the Single-Wide
and more about whether anyone brought him chicken!   KN
Cat-lovers quickly get used to reading feline body-language.
When Horatio first came to us, we saw a lot of both
the angry and the fearful cat - PH
Happy tails say "Dinner time!" - TS
Some of it is very obvious – the raised back and puffy tail says “angry”; the erect tail and body rubbing against human ankles says “happy”; the hiss and fangs say “stay back!” - and there are many other subtleties in the way the body reacts. Actual vocalizing is a very small part of cat-communication – many visitors are surprised by how quiet the Sanctuary is.
Creamsicle - MW
But the actual feline face, for the most part, can best be described as “resting bitch-face” - not because that’s a mood that cats are in, but just that their mouths tend to turn downwards. For the majority of cats, life (from their faces) appears to be a serious business
Celine Dion - MW
If it’s not serious, sometimes it’s downright hard!  Look at these sad faces (none of whom are really sad cats)
Cadbury - KN
Leland feels that life is tough - MW
But just occasionally there’s sunshine in the smile.  Sometimes that’s because of the cat’s fur markings – a shading below the chin can have the effect of changing the mouth shape.
Sweet Happy (now passed), in Old Aids,
always looked like she was smiling  -  MW
Spooky's mouth markings also show a smile  -  MW
Sometimes it's just the hint of a smirk - cats, of course, know that they are superior and we're only there to serve them.
Hillie has a secret smile - MW
And some cats just have their moments when they’re obviously blissed out, and not just the body but the face shows it.
Happy Willow, enjoying the sun - JK
Sunday, and Allison's arrived - Little Orange is in heaven - MW
Now that Skittles has discovered laps, life is very good! - MW

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Phaedra Hardman, Jennine Kariya,  
Karen Nicholson, Tim Stocker, Michele Wright

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Feline Loverboy

This week's blog from volunteer Pauline Chin.
Tibet looks down from the cage-top - PC
We have seen several cuddle kings over the years. These feline loverboys magnetically draw in many cats that snuggle right up to them.  It was as if they possess magic – a love potion that extends beyond genders and makes other cats feel safe, relaxed, and full of purrs.
Tibet - MW
So what makes them so attractive? Pheromones? A magnetic personality? Their aura?  Mannerisms?  Their plush fur?  No one knows for sure.  If only cats spoke human.…
Mario was a comfort to feral buddy Shrek - CF
For veteran volunteers, Mario was lovely in appearance and personality.  He was the most well-known cuddler of cats.  His presence was enough to entice a crowd of cats to form a snuggle pile on top of him.  Only his fur was visible underneath the fuzzy bodies.
Salty (centre) and the boyz - Ridley (L) and Sid (R)  -  MW
Dusty was one of Salty's many girlfriends - DW
 After Mario travelled to the rainbow bridge, it was Salty’s turn.  Salty spent most of his time on the couch of the double wide and the cuddlers followed suit.  The couch was also the “secret spot” for visitors to have 5-10 cats walk all over them. (We know Salty did most of the work.)  Sadly, Salty went to join Mario and we were left without a feline loverboy for a while. 
Tibet - MW
Unexpectedly, a noisy tabby emerged. After being caged for another treatment of a constantly recurring cold virus, back-pen cat, Tibet, chose to stay in the Double-Wide. In recent months, he has shown the cage-top cats and back deck cats a great deal of physical affection.  Tibet would walk up to almost any cat and give them a good head bonk, body rub, or spend naptime with them.  Shadrack, Spike, Scooter, Lulu, even ferals Benji and Ringo have all received Tibet cuddles.
Judy & Tibet - MW
During life in the back pens, he had a girlfriend named Judy. Tibet moved on from that relationship, but Judy still searches for him. She briefly consoled herself cuddling in the newcomers area with Sprocket – a young, handsome feral that used to spend a lot of time with big boy Tiger in an open cage in the Double-Wide. Tiger has now been adopted, and Sprocket is confident enough to venture out into the backyard.
Pixie's warning stare - MW
In the double wide, Tibet’s new girlfriend was Pixie.  Always out of reach, she was untouchable in the 15-ish years she spent with us. Through Tibet’s love and encouragement, she transformed into a happier cat, who finally welcomed petting in her final months.
On the back deck, Tibet may have had a short romance with LouLou. Whatever it was, it was enough for her to become more confident, outgoing, and interested in people.  Even Spike has changed. He makes it a point to hop down for petting during visiting hours. He even tries sharing a bed with Buddy, although the latter refuses cat cuddles.
Watch for the sneeze from above!  - KN
Visitors initially become aware of Tibet by his snorting sounds/snoring/weird purr.  They’re amused by it and it’s usually the conversation starter. Once spotted, he’s quick to approach (he used to be shy!).  He leans down and offers his head for touching.  Then shakes his head.  Watch out for flying snot!   For years, he was known for his incurable chronic congestion.  One of the current causes for his snortiness is a polyp in his nasal passage, but there's no guarantee that its removal will quiet him down.  Some animals and humans breathe loudly and that’s just how their bodies were built.  Although it sounds like his nose is clogged, he can definitely smell when dinner is being served!
If anything, Tibet’s physical affection for cats has grown leaps and bounds in just months.  He is a charmer and a comforter.  He loves cats and cats adore him – a true loverboy.  We’re incredibly lucky to have Tibet.  We get to enjoy his company and the positive changes he’s made in the cats.

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin, Brigid Coult, Claire Fossey, 
Karen Nicholson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Formerly Feral

Many of the cats at the Sanctuary have come into our care as ferals.
Pen 8: Selena, Hailey & Johnny - KN
Some of them will remain feral in behaviour all their lives.  Many of the cats in Pen 8 are examples of this – as you enter the pen, they take a horror-filled look at the intruder, and make a beeline for the closest cover. It is clear in their eyes that they want nothing to do with humans, and when, in areas like pen 4 that cover may be in a free-standing kennel or in the bushes, they present a significant challenge for the med staff who need to check on them.
Pebble (front) and Sandy (rear) - DW
In this pen, only OJ and Pebble are comfortable being touched (the links take you back to their early days, but a little searching by name will yield updates); both enjoy petting, but you can see the wariness in their body language. Pebble’s sister Sandy is almost identical but sends out a very clear “don’t touch me!” vibe.
Yma prefers to climb out of reach - MW
These cats, together with many though not all) of the ones in Pen 3, and a good number of those from other open pens, were born wild, missed being socialised at the optimal time, and have it well ingrained that humans are The Enemy – we may be a source of tasty food, and of occasional touch, but we are not really to be trusted. We occasionally worry when an old feral suddenly becomes friendly and handleable; it’s often a sign of a kitty dementia, as the cat forgets that it should be scared, and it may be an indicator that it’s coming to the end of its life.
Little Calista only became touchable in her last months - MW
Common cat-handling wisdom has it that a kitten should be socialized by the age of 3-4 months, or it won’t socialize at all. In fact, those of us who have had semi-ferals in our homes know that they can become very handleable to their own people, though they may always be wary of strangers in their space. At the Sanctuary we have tried to keep some of the younger ferals together around the back deck of the Double-Wide, and the Kitty Comforters have worked with them as much as possible.
Bubbles loves to play - BC
Gradually we see behaviours changing:  hissy Luke is now allowing us to touch him; Bubbles is enjoying interactive play;  shy Ruff is coming out of his hiding place; beautiful Scooter, who hovered just out of reach on the cage-tops, smacking at us when we coaxed her closer, is now coming down to an accessible shelf and enjoying being petted.
Scooter original (L) and relaxed & happy (R)
In pen 3 former feral Napoleon has decided that humans are worth cultivating – both regular volunteers and Kitty Comforters have charmed him to the point where he will approach, asking for petting. His buddies at the back of the pen are not ready for much contact yet, but Napoleon is happy with human company.
Napoleon - LB-F
My own former-feral triumph has been with Skittles, formerly of Pen 6. That pen has now been vacated in preparation for another group of ferals coming in, and Skittles and his friends have the run of the back pens. Most of them are now based in Pen 2, where there are other semi-ferals, and lots of places to hide. But Skittles, who was always the bravest and most social of them, has decided that he likes to be around people. Chicken tidbits help – he’s always been a chick-oholic.  But he recently decided that since I was a source of Good Things, he might try something new, and he hauled himself up on my lap.
Loving a lap - DW
This was not just cupboard love – he wanted petting and attention, not just feeding. It’s a little painful on the legs – he’s a big solid boy and doesn’t jump much, so lap-climbing is mountaineering!  But it’s happened often enough now that we can really feel Skittles has earned the former-feral label. And he is now transferring that trust to other people.
Skittles - MW
All these cats may some day become very used to human touch, but they will always remain cats that we will hesitate to adopt out because of their background, and because new experiences will likely cause them to revert to the fear-filled wild creatures that originally came into our care.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult, Karen Nicholson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Our newest member of the leukemia cats colony is Cleo.
This little girl came in to us about four months ago. As with all new cats, she was popped into a cage for a familiarization period – without direct contact with other cats, they are still aware that other felines are around; they get smells and some visual contact, and they become used to handling by volunteers and staff.
We noticed immediately that Cleo was unsteady on her feet. Within the confines of a cage, that was not much of an issue, but it might impact life outside the cage.  We made sure that she had a step to access the top shelf and a place to hide if she needed.
It quickly became apparent that she had a considerable degree of disability, rather like our late and much beloved Wobbly Bob.  It’s apparently not Cerebellar Hypoplasia, in which the cerebellum of the brain is not fully formed, and the cat’s coordination is affected – that’s a condition that exists from birth. We’re told that Cleo disappeared from her person for 5 weeks in the very worst part of winter and when she returned after that experience she developed the wobbliness. It might have been a virus or a trauma of some kind.  It seems to come and go – sometimes she seems to have things together, and at other times she staggers like she’s had too many drinks.
Cleo loves attention, and everyone visiting her cage fell in love with her. Once she was released it became apparent that there would need to be some adjustments made. She likes being in an upper-level cage, but also wants the freedom to move to floor level. We make sure there is always a cat-tree within reach of her preferred cage, and it takes her a while, but she can make her way up and down.  However, she particularly likes when someone comes and sits in the big arm-chair, and she can laboriously make her way up into a lap for a cuddle.
CH is a non-progressive condition; cats who have it can live full lives, and though they may not be able to run and jump, they often develop good climbing skills. But this is not CH, and because we don’t know the source of Cleo’s ataxia, we don’t know whether and how it will progress, and how it is affected by the leukemia virus. All we can do is what we do for the rest of the leukemia cats – be very careful to wash before entering so that we can protect them from other infections, not allow outside visitors, and keep a close eye on them in terms of their general health.
Cleo is not a great fan of the other leukemia cats; she seems to want to keep herself to herself. But when a human comes on the scene, she turns into a cuddle-bug. She’s not about to give into her disability; life is still good for Cleo, and we’re going to work to keep it that way.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Careen & Willow

Pen 5 is largely inhabited by big cats.
Big floofy cats....
Adam & May - DW
Solid muscular cats...
Rudolph - MW
Cats who definitely could do with losing some weight.
Capilano - MD
And then there are Careen and Willow.
These two sweet grey girls are of the small-but-solid variety.  They came from very different situations, several years ago. Careen comes from the same site as many of the No 8 Pen cats – the Lafarge cement plant in Richmond – but unlike most of them, she was ready to be friendly with humans.  Unfortunately, by the time she came to us, the main shelter was in full swing of kitten season, and there was no room for Careen.
Careen - MW
Because we wanted to keep track of her, she was put in Pen 5, which was closed at that stage, and she quickly settled with her new cat family, though she became much shyer, once away from constant human contact.
Pet me now! - MW
She enjoys wandering the extent of Pen 5, and is much happier now about coming out to meet visitors, and indulging in human attention.
Careen naps - MW
She became the buddy of another little grey girl also from east Richmond.  Willow was a former farm-cat who came in as a typical scared feral who didn’t want human attention.  Her sister is Amelia Earheart, who hides out in Pen 4 with the ferals.
Young touch-me-not Willow in 2013 - PH
However, Willow was one of the cats who developed vestibular disease – a condition of the inner ear which leaves the cat off-balance and nauseous – and the necessary course of cage-care to help her recover had the added advantage of proving to her that humans were less scary than she had thought.
Willow - JK
Like many of the cats with this condition, Willow has been left with a slight head-tilt, which doesn’t seem to affect her movement, but certainly leaves her looking cute!  (Fellow felines Babylon, Tara and Tibet all have a similar head-tilt – though Babylon can turn his head round more like an owl!)
Willow - PH
Both Willow and Careen enjoy gentle attention from visitors. As former ferals, we would be very wary about allowing adoption unless they were to bond with someone – and they might well not adapt well to becoming indoor cats after enjoying the freedom and safety of pen life.
Willow was Miss June in our calendar two years ago! - MW
Their favourite place is to be found on the front step of the cabin, where they happily share a chair and mutual cuddles.
Willow & Careen - KN
The idiom “it’s a dog’s life” is usually taken to mean that life is unpleasant or boring. There is no feline equivalent idiom, but a cat’s life, for Careen and Willow, feels pretty good!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Jennine Kariya, 
Karen Nicholson, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright