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, June 17, 2021

Oodles of Orange

Billy, Buffy, Kumquat (LBF)

Pen 6 has become an important area of transition at the Cat Sanctuary. It’s a fairly small pen, but right at the beginning of the back pen complex – so there is lots of activity around.  Five years ago it was designated as the home for a colony of cats who had come to us from a Sunshine Coast shelter that was closing. We remember those cats with love – especially sweet Simba, and PawPaw

Simba and PawPaw (MW)
As they acclimated, or were moved to other areas, or adopted, we were able to move them out, close the pen for a clean-out, and prepare it for the Candy Cats’ arrival in the fall of 2017. With the exception of sweet Skittles, who has passed, these cats are still with us.  No orange cats in this bunch – the closest we have is the hint of gold in the agouti colouring of shy Hershey.

Hershey (LBF)
Two years later, the Candy Cats were moved out to make room for another influx of cats when RAPS trapped a total of nearly 60 cats and kittens from one colony.  Most of the kittens were fostered and adopted, but we had a group of teens who were too old to tame easily.  Most of them were black or tortie, but orange Mercury proved to be a very shy twin for Sprocket, living in the back courtyard.

Mercury (LBF)
These cats were very skittish for some time and it wasn’t until the following year that the determined work of the Kitty Comforters began to pay off. Most of them have relocated to Pen 1, and will likely remain semi-feral, and wary, but Aphrodite, the boldest of them, has found her own home where she can be tortie queen.

Aphrodite (KN)
And now Pen 6 is full again – and this time it’s an influx of (mostly) orange kitties from outside Kamloops, from a situation where TNR was needed, but in the end, the rescue felt that the cats really needed rescuing – and so they have ended up in our care.

Kelvin & Billy (LBF)
For the first few weeks there were just seven of them – Persimmon, Kumquat, Billy, Kelvin, Buffy, Goldie and a lone tabby, Juniper.  

Persimmon (KN)

Persimmon is the bravest of them, coming to investigate a visitor, talking and flirting. She’s something of a show-off on the shelf along the front wall.   Where Persimmon is, Kumquat is not far behind. Though he’s not ready for me to touch him, I know he’s allowed ear scritches from other volunteers. Kelvin will come and sit beside me, as long as I don’t reach out.  

Goldie, Kumquat & Billy (KN)
The others are all still very wary; they can be touched when they're tucked away in their cabin beds, but they now prefer to take cover in the many hiding places we’ve left in the pen. They particularly like the playhouse in the southeast corner of the pen, and are equally charmed by the prospect of playing on the tarp that protects the playhouse roof

Buffy (and Kelvin) camping on the tarp (KN)
They have just been joined by another five from the same colony: Cheddar, Creamsicle, Chamomile, Barley and Chaga (two more oranges, two greys and a black) - more introductions to follow in a subsequent blog!
We're all looking forward to getting to know them better as they become more relaxed in their new home.

Persimmon is already relaxed! (VW)

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Karen Nicholson, Valerie Wilson, Michele Wright

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hello, Cuddles

Cuddles? Is that your real name?

Cuddles   (KN)

Your sign says “surrendered for aggression”.  Quite a conundrum.  

Seasoned cat handlers always know to proceed with caution.  Animals-love-me type individuals insist on reaching for petting immediately.

PC

On first impression, she looks like a bright-eyed tuxedo cat waiting attentively for visitors.  After entering, she’s over eager for physical contact.  She’ll want pets, even nudging your hand for them.  Sit back for a moment and she will body rub everything in the vicinity.  Even the litter box!  A brief brushing is welcome, too.  Sometimes, she’ll even give a happy tail shake.  (The same shake some other cats make wet sprinkles with.  Thankfully, hers is dry.) 

So far, it seems the latter group won.

KN

At this point, Cuddles will either face the door or jump into the tree.  Now is the ideal time to entice her with toys, grass, or a treat.  Beef flavours and liquid foods are her preference.  Once satisfied, she’ll groom and hop to the top of the tree for a nap.

Here’s the strange part: Touch her again and there’s a 75% chance you’ll get hissed at.  Persist and you’ll get swatted.  I’ve spoken to a few people and she consistently gives the same reactions.  The cautious group was right.  The latter group can pick their pride off the floor and leave.  You can still use a toy to pacify her.

Feather toys are the best  (PC)

She desires human attention and plenty of playtime.  Toys hold her attention for 5-10 minutes.  In a way, she’s a large kitten who needs to flex her hunting skills and relieve her cat instincts.  If the prey is your hand… well, good luck.

Cuddles gets over-stimulated from physical touch easily.  An analogy to over-petting a cat would be rubbing your hands together.  Doing it briefly can be comfortable or soothing.  Continuously rub your hands and they will get hot and irritating.  The threshold is different for everyone, and any number of reasons could be the cause. Cuddles growls and goes on high alert if she sees any nearby cats. Competition and lack of resources can turn sweet cats into sourpusses.  

An unwelcome visitor (PC)

If a feral hisses from a distance, we think it’s a normal “stay away!” sign.  If a cat hisses in breathing distance, it’s considered extra offensive, even though the intended meaning is the same.  A misinterpretation on reading cat body language, and hissing became the efficient means of telling humans “no”.

All these habits make her hard to befriend. I feel her dream is to have a human who understands her, spoils her with cat luxuries, and stands at her beck and call.  After all, Cuddles won’t chase you out like other aggressive cats, nor wedge herself in a corner.

Cuddles "playing cute"  (PC)

While it’s too easy to blame problems on the victim who can’t speak up, or in this case, the cat, it’s actually quite difficult to unlearn things.  An average human takes 2-3 times longer to ditch an unwanted habit than to learn it.  With cats, it takes months, even years.  Cuddles is learning our routines here. There is a race against time on our part, as we have to make her feel confident enough so she doesn’t feel threatened by other cats when it’s release time.  She’s already brave to interact with strangers and the items we gift her.  We just have to keep up the momentum, so she can finally be happy and cuddly. 

Blog by Pauline Chin
Photos by Pauline Chin & Karen Nicholson



Thursday, June 3, 2021

Adopted!

 For many years, the Cat Sanctuary has been a home for cats that could find no other home.  

Not adopted: Beautiful Ollie just pees wherever he wants.... (KN)
Sometimes this was because they were feral, or very easily spooked; sometimes because they had been surrendered to us for bad bathroom habits; sometimes because they had health issues – but, for the most part, they came to us when they had waited too long in the City Shelter, or a shelter somewhere else, and space had become an issue.

Not adopted: Portia is both semi-feral and leukemia-positive (MW)

Things have changed. The single biggest issue has been that in this pandemic year, people confined largely to their homes have been looking for animal company, and not only the RAPS shelter, but other rescues have been finding it much easier to find adopters. So without the constant inflow of “unadoptable” cats, our numbers have been reducing.

Not adopted: Kin is a feral who prefers to stay well out of reach   (MW)

Sanctuary philosophy has been changing too. From having had a pretty hard-line “these cats are unadoptable” approach, we have increasingly been moving cats into homes.  Initially, this has been largely to staff and volunteers – the people who already know the cats in question, and are aware of potential issues and what may be done.  Because we had early bad experiences with adopting out shy semi-ferals (see Jenny's story), there was a reluctance to do so – but when the semi-ferals in question already know and trust their adopter, and that adopter is alert to the problems, we have seen some marked successes.

Larkin & Peony are now Scooter & Twinks
- and very happy!  (BJ)

Sanctuary cats are not for novice cat-owners, and the usual RAPS adoption requirements about no outdoor access are more important than ever for cats who have been used to a lot of Sanctuary freedom.  I hope that in the course of the next few months we may hear occasional reports from adopters about cats who have moved to a new home and settled in.  For now, here are a few of our happily-rehomed feline alumni:

Horatio (KN)
Horatio, former feral, finally decided that humans were OK, and that one of our med-staff was the best of the best!  She had given palliative home-care time to angry Frankie who couldn’t handle other cats; when Frankie’s heart-condition at last got the better of her, Horatio became her next home-cat, and he is ecstatic! 

Earl Grey (LBF) and Puma (KN)
We have worried about our seniors, as the Moore House has been gradually emptied in preparation for removal. Some of them have settled happily into life in the Single-Wide, but we were delighted when Earl Grey found a home, and even more delighted when his adopter returned to take Puma to join his buddy. The two old guys are happily settled together without other cats to bug them.

Leona claims the couch  (ACA)
Little Leona shared pen 6 with our McLeod clan of cats – but never really belonged with them. Almost always a loner, she waited by the gate for attention – both wanting it and dreading it. We finally moved her into the Double-Wide so that all the staff and volunteers working there would have a chance to help her get used to being petted. One of our volunteers fell in love with her, and now reports that Leona has settled very happily in her own home.

Darius & Mischa  (JB)
We are missing Darius these days, but are so pleased that another of our med-staff has taken him home. Former Sanctuary cat Mischa was already with her, and we hear that he has taken Darius under his wing and shown him around his new digs; the two of them have settled very happily together. Both are cats that spent a lot of time outside at the Sanctuary, and the ‘catio’ is a favourite place for the boys.

Her Majesty Queen Smokey is very comfortable
in her new digs (DJ)
Anyone working in the Moore House in the last couple of years has had to tiptoe around Smokey – a very angry grey girl who didn’t like either cats or people.  One of our volunteers was sure there was more than just “I hate everyone” going on, and has consistently made time for Smokey, establishing her boundaries, and spending extra time with her. Following the loss of her beloved Otis, she has offered Smokey a home, and is turning her into a lap-cat. We are so excited to hear the progress that is being made. Lots of patience and love...

There are a few other Sanctuary cats who have made their way to our Adoption Centre – for more information on who's available there, please check https://www.rapsbc.com/raps-adoption-centre/


Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Ana Carolina Albuquerque, Jess Breitkreitz, Lisa Brill-Friesen, 
Bev Johnston, Daphne Jorgenson, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright




Thursday, May 27, 2021

Big, Black & Beautiful

 Not long ago we opened Pen 6 to allow all the “god” cats – (Aphrodite, Atlas, Juno, Athena, Mercury) – to explore a bigger world. Many of them have relocated to Pen 1, but I now find there are lots of little black cats in the back courtyard that I find hard to identify quickly.

No, you may not have this chair! - MW

There’s never any problem in identifying Cole! He’s probably among the largest of the cats – and I mean large in length and leg, not in tubbiness. He came to us a few years ago with a pretty uncertain temperament and I blogged about him in February 2019.  

Soaking up the sun - KN

He’s become a much more mellow cat in the intervening couple of years. He is still largely a loner, and it is beneath him to interact with the other cats, though he’s not aggressive like Jasper or Gizmo – he just ignores them.  He still claims the clean laundry shelves as his favourite bedding, and we continue to work around him there.

Towels are the best bed - KN

Occasionally he can be found at the entrance gate, but now it’s less about gate-busting, and more about soliciting attention. There is a lot of leg-rubbing and he will quite often put his paws up and ask to be lifted.  Carrying Cole around is no light weight, and I prefer to sit with him in the breezeway, and allow him to do face-rubs – something I wouldn’t have tried two years ago. He is active in his attention – he not a cat who collapses on the lap and relaxes – when he’s finished head-bonks and rubs, he lets you know, and is off to find his laundry-corner.

Let me be...   MW

His title as Big Black Cat is challenged by another boy on the Double-Wide Deck. Denzel is a relative newcomer, arriving from the City Shelter before it closed. 

Top step is a favourite seat - LBF

It is possible that he was just dumped off in the parking lot there – we don’t know just when he arrived. He hung around for a good while, but didn’t allow himself to be trapped, so the staff made sure he had food and kept an eye on him.  Finally something tempted him too much, and the trap did its work. He came to the Sanctuary, and joined the semi-feral boys in the “red light area” at the back of the Double-Wide trailer.

Staying out of reach - LBF

Initially Denzel was very wary – staying out of reach or hiding behind the big mattress. But gradually he came to realize that nobody was out to hurt him, and that other cats were coming to us for petting and treats. He became braver, though he’s not ventured into lap-sitting, and he holds back when Chester claims the lap – Chester can be aggressive, and Denzel’s not about to challenge him. 

Handsome - and he knows it - BC

He's an active boy - it's not always easy to get pictures of him, because he won't keep still!  He still prefers to stay at platform level rather than at the floor, but he loves when people come and sit there with him and Hamlet, who also loves attention. Like Cole, he is a big solid boy, and he is a champion head-bonker; when Denzel tells you he loves you, you really feel it!  
Exploring at floor level - KN

In spite of his initial wary behaviour, it’s likely that he was a stray (or a dumped cat) rather than a feral; he has certainly grown to be a people cat, and though he’s not ventured through the building to the courtyard, his preference for the indoor surroundings may make him a more adoptable cat in the long run.


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



Thursday, May 20, 2021

A Needy Friend

Zivko - MW
Zivko came to us one of a group of cats “graduated” to us from the City Shelter about six years ago. Sometimes cats don’t do well at the Shelter for one reason or another, and they may be very hard to adopt out. This particular group, placed into Pen 2, included slightly aggressive cats (like Sophie), cats with bad bathroom habits (like Celeste) and many very shy cats. I blogged about them in three separate sessions, of which "Too Many Tabbies" was the second, introducing the personalities that were Sophie and Celeste, Calvin and Chase, and Zivko. The latter was definitely one of the shyer cats, and spent much of that first summer hiding in the back of the pen.

Zivko enjoying the sun - KN
As the years have passed, Zivko’s purrsonality has bloomed.  Once Pen 2 was opened, its inhabitants sorted themselves into the ones who preferred to remain in known territory, and those who decided they were outta there. Sophie is a TeaRoom cat; Celeste lives in the DoubleWide, Minnow and Tubby (both of whom have passed now) also preferred to be around the TeaRoom. Zivko remained where he was for a while, and then largely relocated to Pen 1, where he has established himself as the leader of a “boys’ club”. There is evidently some magnetic attraction, because when he calls out, they come running to be with him.

Licks for his buddy Booty - KN
Ringo came to us at much the same time as the Pen 2 cats, but was trapped near the hospital. His companion, Guinness, was diabetic, and sadly, we got him too late to be able to get it under control. Ringo was one of those always-terrified ferals. 

On the DW Deck
When finally released from his cage, he made his way to the DoubleWide Deck and climbed into the highest, most inaccessible corner, refusing to be tempted by treats or toys. We simply had to let him be, and give him time to make his own moves.  Gradually, he was more frequently reported being seen inside the DoubleWide – preferably when there was nobody but the med staff around.  It took about two years for him to venture through the laundry room to the DW door and to the courtyard access. He stuck there for a while – he didn’t want to go inside again, but he didn’t want to leave familiarity completely, so he holed up in one of the beds hidden by the steps. 

Ringo always has the wide-eyed feral look - KN
Gradually Ringo has progressed into being a back courtyard cat. He’s most often found out and around at early morning and in the evening, and tucks himself away in his entrance-area bed most of the day. He reminds me of that loner kid at school who can’t quite break in on all the social groups, and quietly entertains himself. He likes to poke around in the flower-beds and will occasionally find something to play with. He is one of those cats who has a fascination with his own tail-tip, and (tubby boy that he is) rolls around trying to catch it. He doesn’t want human attention – he would prefer that we didn’t actually look at him – but he’s beginning to realise that nobody is out to hurt him. Despite his build, he’s not really food-motivated, though he is starting to accept treats as long as they are tossed to him – there’s no way he will accept food from the hand.

Zivko and Ringo - BC
Ringo’s biggest discovery has been Zivko – and he has a serious crush on his buddy. Zivko already has a following: his friends from Pen 2 – Pavel and Booty and Kevin – and they’ve teamed up with the ginger boys in Pen 1 – Juvie and Chumley and Siskel. But any time Ringo sees Zivko, he hurries to be with him, following wherever he goes, anxious not to be left behind. He doesn’t seem to have migrated to living with the others, and isn’t part of the lounging parties in Pen 1, but his anxiety to be with Zivko probably means that it’s not far away.  This is not the mutual bromance we saw with Vesper and Fable; it’s pretty one-sided, but Zivko is accepting and tolerant about it.

"Will you be my friend?" - MW
Both cats are still very much ferals.  Zivko doesn’t fear us in the way that Ringo does, but he’s not friendly, as his former friends Calvin and Chase have proved to be. And that’s just fine. We’re always excited when a feral makes the breakthrough in relating to humans for pleasurable contact, but we also accept it that some will never make that breakthrough and will likely always remain reserved. That’s a big part of why we are what we are – cats who remain feral are not seen as failures, but just accepted as “that’s the way things are at RAPS Cat Sanctuary” 

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




Thursday, May 13, 2021

Hidden Sweetness

Four years ago, we brought in a colony of ferals to into Pen 6, and named them collectively “The Candy Cats”.

Hershey, Butterscotch & Purdy - KN

Some of our feral pens remain closed – pens 3 and 4 are examples of closed pens where the majority of the cats want no contact at all with humans. We’re always pleased and excited when one of these ferals “turns” and becomes handleable, but most of them just want to be left alone.  However, with other pens, the staff may decide that it’s time to open the pen and see how the cats manage in a larger arena.
Cadbury - LBF

So when pen 6 was opened, the Candy Cats split up. Skittles, who we lost very recently, hung around the back courtyard and enjoyed contact with humans, becoming one of the most dedicated of lap-cats.  His brother Cadbury relocated to pen 2 area. Cadbury is one of the most beautiful of fluffy-tabbies.  
Cadbury sunbathing - KN

He is erratic in his relations with us – sometimes he is spooked and wary, sometimes he comes for petting and playing.  He has never developed the comfort of his brother Skittles, but you can’t quite put him in the feral category either. Most of the pen 2 cats are former ferals as well, so there is a common wariness – but they know the volunteers who come bearing treats, and the ones who have feather-toys and catnip!
SweetTart - MW

Pretty little SweetTart showed an early fascination with the cats next door in Pen 7.  This is the farm-cat pen, and they have been kept separate, mostly because they have some genetic quirks in common – mostly around eye problems – which are more easily treated by the med-staff when they’re in a closed pen. 

SweetTart and Rodan - KN

Normally we wouldn’t add to this pen, but SweetTart SO wanted to be with them that we relented and added her in. Because they’re well up on the feral scale, she has adopted their ways, and has gone from being a cat that could occasionally be petted to being wary. One-eyed Rodan is the only one of this colony that really enjoys human attention. 

Purdy - LBF

The remaining three have relocated to pen 8, which was also a once-closed, now-open feral pen. They seem to have settled comfortably into sharing with Hailey, Johnny and co, with no territorial issues. Again, there is a common distrust of humans in the cats of this area, but Purdy, Butterscotch and Hershey are at least comfortable with us being around them; they will sit and listen to our voices as we work, and they no longer run to hide as soon as we appear.  Purdy is probably still the shyest of the three. There is a distinct resemblance to Cadbury in the sad-tabby face, but the short fur makes him look quite different. He does not want to be touched; his smacks are full-claw and offerings of treats are not sufficient to change his mind.  

Butterscotch likes to perch on the rafters - KN

Hershey and Butterscotch are less aggressive, but equally wary. If in company with Kermit or Gigi, both of whom love to play, they are ready to relax a little and chase a cat-toy or to wriggle around in a bit of catnip. 

Hershey watching warily - MW

But they’re both touch-me-not cats, and we don’t know if that will ever change. The most important thing, though, is that they are safe in our care, and they are no longer constantly fearful – we have a guarded truce, and can wait for their choice in timing. 


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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Farewell to the Moore House

Many of the staff and volunteers are feeling sad.  But it’s not a cat we’re grieving over – it’s one of the cats’ houses!

Selena's portrait of Marianne Moore
with all her favourites

In the early days of the Sanctuary, when RAPS was dealing with the worst of the feral cat problem in Richmond, the Moore House was the home of the kittens.  When we took on the running of the City Shelter, most of the kittens were transferred there, for easy adoption access, and the building was repurposed as the home of our senior cats – a special and beloved project of Marianne Moore, an anchor volunteer for many years, and creator of the Kitty Comforter concept, which has become such an important part of encouraging cats to feel more at ease when they come here.

Kitten room exterior, with Leo,
Pistachio, Caleb & Mozart - KN

One room in the building was put aside for occasional kitten use, for “teens” who needed more hands-on attention, or for cats who needed some separation from the others.  Front courtyard inhabitants Beetle and CricketMozart, Benny, Leo and Caleb have all had kitten room time there; Banshee and Domino lived there while waiting out their leukemia isolation (and eventual adoption); Sage and SilkyMya and KirstyDawn and Twilight are all kitten room “grads”


Twilight &Dawn, now adopted - KN

But the primary purpose of the Moore House was to provide a home for a very special group of felines. Typically, Moore House cats came to us from owners who had died, or gone into care, and whose old cats had nowhere else to go. Very few people are willing to take on an elderly cat or two, and especially one who is cranky because of a forced relocation.  The homeliness of the Moore House was intended to give them comfort, and keeping the numbers limited meant that the inhabitants didn’t get on each other’s nerves too much.

Earl Grey enjoying deck time - MD

The addition of a closed deck was a blessing on hot days (and even sometimes on cooler ones) and many of the cats enjoyed the fresh air and the view from the variety of seats and beds scattered around.

Chanel doing morning cat-yoga on the deck - BC



However, the trailer was not new when it came to us, and because we live on the edge of farmland, there is a constant rat-problem. The combination of rotting wood, and the rats accessing the crevices – never actually getting into the interior, but making their way into the surrounding structure – all this has contributed to a building that is no longer healthy for cats or people. Already many of the Moore House cats have been adopted, fostered or relocated to other areas in the Sanctuary, and it won’t be long before the building itself is removed. We hope that a replacement can be found, because the need has not gone away – we still need to be able to offer stressed, elderly cats a safe place where they can settle.

Moore House interior - DJ

The Moore House itself will be gone soon, but the memories will remain. Many of the Moore House cats have been featured in earlier blog stories, some of them by Marianne herself:  Eng Teng and Peng Peng; little Pauline who preferred to hide in her box; fragile Noni whose body never really recovered from having being fed a vegan diet; persians BluebellMiuMiu and GracieMae (who went on to her own home). We’ve had our share of angry cats, and volunteers who fell in love with them, giving them a reason to be angry no more – JackVenusBuster, and most recently Smokey, who is blissfully happy with her new family. 


Smokey - happy lap-cat - DJ

Thanks to the vision for these old cats, many volunteers have spent quiet hours cleaning, feeding, and most importantly, loving them, so that coming to RAPS no longer feels like their family has rejected them, but that they have found a new family with us. We are working to make the last of our Moore house cats comfortable in a new space – whether elsewhere at the Sanctuary, or with a new home, we don’t know yet.  We hope that when the current building is demolished, it can be replaced with a new structure that can house more generations of cats who need the quiet surroundings and loving care that their predecessors found with us. 


Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Daphne Jorgensen, Karen Nicholson
Portrait by Selena Marchetti