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, January 20, 2022

Mango Tango


Look!  A big orange cat came right up to me.  He must be as nice as he looks!  

NOT!

Like other large or attractive cats, people often wonder why they’re here. If only their exterior appearance matched their personalities! 

Mango loves to befriend humans and bully cats.  His current routine is to greet newly arrived humans with a bold leg rub and at times… a leg trip.  With a club-shaped tail, large body, and being almost knee-high, he can easily tangle your feet.  Moving backwards or forwards, you’ll be doing the foxtrot when he chooses to weave between them.  Be glad you’re not carrying a tray of coffees or a pot of soup!

He likes petting and all food offers.  Like a loyal friend, he’ll keep following you around.  He has a growing curiosity of closed gates.  The cold doesn’t bother him at all.  He also like to sample all the food bowls in the courtyard.  

With his “friendliness” established, you’ll be playing right into his paws.  Nothing bad can happen, right?  If any other cats come by to say hello, Mango will swat them.  He also has a sneaky habit of inching closer to unsuspecting cats and smacking them or chasing them away.  These dirty tricks have quickly earned him a bad reputation.  Keeping it up and he’ll be dancing with himself in time out.

Mango threatening Salem

I find him to be an oversized, unruly kitten at times.  Wands and lasers catch his eye, but only hold his attention for a short time.  A rattle from a ball or another cat approaching suddenly becomes more interesting.  If he wants something, he might bite or grab with claws.  We have other cats like that, too.  It’s a behavior that most of them never leave behind.  We warn newcomers or leave a wide berth while walking by.

This boy does not know his own strength.  If a small kitten pounced on feet or gnawed on hands, it could be ignored.  When a 15 pound fellow like him does it, it hurts.  Littermates can bite them back in return or walk away to establish boundaries.  All we humans can do is shout “no!” and walk away.  Of course, there’s the odd human who insists on carrying on a conversation and still treating them.  In Mango’s mind, it means biting = treats.  “I must bite the hand that feeds!”

Sunning the belly...

While caged, he appeared calm and lazy.  For a 1 year old, he’s huge!  After a couple minutes of interaction, the claws and teeth would come out.  He didn’t display much warning.  It was his way of communicating “enough” or “go away”. His size made it tough to maneuver around.  The only choices were to sit or leave.  Mango would either lay in the tree or snack on his kibble.  If he was angry or defensive, he would make some effort to chase you out.

Biting and clawing are learned behaviors - just like so many other surrendered for aggression cats have here.  Sadly, Mango also seems to lack feline social skills.  Instead of a stare down or swishing tail warning, he will outright hit other cats.  He 100% has a home here, but I can’t say how many friends he has.  If you choose to tango with him, know that he likes human company and loves food even more.  Obviously, don’t wear your best dress or any knitted sweaters, ‘less you don’t mind having distressed threads and an untrendy ugly sweater afterward. 

Blog and photos by Pauline Chin
(thanks, Pauline!)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Big Chances for Two Big Boys

Nishka   (LBF)
It’s been a custom to end the old year and begin the new one with a Neko-RAPS retrospective focused on those cats who have passed – but I just can’t do it this year. We lost a number of well-loved characters in February and March and I paid tribute to them at that time; and then we marked a Rainbow Bridge day in August and shared more sad memories.
No – this needs to be new hopes for the New Year, and a focus on a couple of the cats who are getting a new lease on life with us.  

Little John  (MW)
Most of the cats that come to us, come because someone has given up on them. They’ve been deemed unadoptable for some reason – they’re feral, or they’re pee-ers, or aggressive...  And here, they discover that they can just be what they want to be; they can stay distant or allow human touch, they can live inside or outside, they can be a loner or cuddle up with a whole bunch of other cats.

Enjoying attention   (JS)
In the fall we welcomed a big Siamese mix from Kamloops – and I mean Big!  This guy is a good 20lbs of solidness – not obese, just large. His owners had given him the quirky name of Little John (for those that don’t know, this was Robin Hood’s big sidekick) but I’m also hearing people refer to him just as LJ. Sadly, he’s a biter, and apparently always has been – and it’s not just love nips; this guy bites down, and we don’t know what sets him off. It’s probably something that over-stimulates him.  

"helping" with the cleaning   (KN)
We saw this with Benji and Mango (next week's blog) too – when caged, everything was intensified for them, and a visitor preparing to leave the cage was particularly at risk. In this situation, it’s perfectly acceptable for a volunteer to ask a staff member to deal with a cage;  many of our volunteers are experienced cat-people, but for those that aren’t, we don’t want to make them feel at any sort of risk.   Cages of newly-arrived cats are often initially marked for med-staff attention only. Little John liked to have visitors – especially Assistant Manager Valerie, who already knew him well – but even she came in for the teeth treatment occasionally.  

Out and about in the gardens  (KN)
In a regular shelter, this would not be a good situation; he’s too big a cat to keep caged the rest of his life;  he couldn’t be offered for adoption because of the biting; he would probably be put down.  But with us, once he was past his initial cage-stay, Little John was given the freedom of the back courtyard, and visibly relaxed.  If we are ever allowed to have visitors again, he will probably be one of the cats that has to wear a warning-collar, but for now he is happy to wander, to investigate every open pen and to interact minimally with other cats. We’ve not seen signs of aggression with them, but he’s so imposing that not even Jasper and Gizmo (our usual troublemakers) are getting in his way.

Big paws mean big claws....   (KN)
He can’t be offered for adoption, but that’s not to say that he might never find a home – many of our staff and volunteers are suckers for a cat with personality like LJ, and though he’s not part of the cat-crowd, we know that he tolerates them, and that he lived with and loved a dog-friend.

You may admire me....   (MW)
Our other Big Boy has just come to us. Nishka is a pure-bred Maine Coon cat who was kept by his breeder for stud services.  At the age of 3 he was retired because of stomatitis - they didn't want to risk that in the bloodline - and most of his teeth have been removed.   Maine Coons often have an “angry” face (I have a friend with a T-shirt that says “I’m not angry; this is just my Scottish face”) and Nishka has a formidable presence that was interpreted as aggressive – hence the surrender to RAPS. We are delighted to welcome him.

Interested in conversation   (BC)
Obviously, he is not entirely happy about being here, and about being caged. But he has quickly realized that he can have a rotating stream of volunteers coming to visit him, and has accepted some lap-sitting and gentle petting. Sadly, he doesn’t much like being groomed, which he badly needs!  He lives up to the Maine Coon nickname of “gentle giant”, and can occasionally be heard talking to himself in that characteristic chirpy voice. We’re looking forward to having him out of the cage and interacting with the SingleWide population. Because he was surrendered for aggression, he will not be going to the Adoption Centre, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t find a home with a volunteer or staff member.

Sometimes I sits and thinks....  (BC)
Both Big Boys have another chance for a good life in 2022. A very Happy New Year indeed!


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

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Winter Kitties

 

Cornelius & Gemini enjoying snow and sunshine (LBF)
Ten days of snow in the Lower Mainland is pretty unusual; most of us need to head to the mountains to get the white stuff. So when it happens, everyone is taken by surprise - cats included!

Leo seems to love being outside  (KN)
Most humans and cats tend to fall into one of two categories; we turn our backs on what's going on outside and cosy up for the duration, or we get outside and enjoy winter sports.

The Pen 6 cats would rather stay in a warm floofy pile  (LBF)
This happened during the holiday, when we had volunteers missing, and covering the extra shifts was complicated by the need to dig out paths to access the various buildings.

Sunshine on (piles of) snow.  (BC)
The majority of cats seem to prefer their comfort, and stayed safely in their buildings. There was, after all, no point in putting plates of food in their usual places outside; frozen catfood is not appealing to anyone. 

Chai is much more an indoor kitty than she used to be;
she stays carefully in the shoveled areas (KN)
In the front courtyard there was some serious hibernation, with only occasional visits outside to investigate the conditions. 

Autumn loves the snow, and her thick coat keeps her cosy  (MW)
But there are always a few intrepid explorers.

Kenji is another floof with no fear of the cold   (LBF)

Something under the snow attracts Figaro's attention  (KN)

The pen 3 cats are from Alberta.  They probably have no actual experience of an Alberta winter, having come from a hoarding situation, but they have been eager to get out and investigate.

Cornelius leads the way (LBF)

but encourages the others to join him!  (KN)

The pen 6 cats are from Kamloops and have undoubtedly survived winter cold. Their thick fur is good protection, and though they'd rather cuddle up and stay warm, some of them are willing to brave the cold to get a bit of fresh air.

Cheeto  (LBF)
For some reason, the tree is especially attractive in this weather, and there have been several little black climbers surveying the Sanctuary from above.

Jackie O is the chilly queen of all she surveys  (KN)
Not everyone is happy, though.

Jasper's paws are cold!  (KN)
In the evening, they all return to their cabins, and leave it to the volunteers to tramp through the snow to deliver dinner.

Sanctuary at night (JS)
It's beautiful - but it never lasts long.  And nobody - cats or humans - enjoys the rain that inevitably washes it all away. 


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



Thursday, December 30, 2021

Marty

Recent time spent in the Single-Wide has reminded me that there’s one little cat who has somehow missed having a blog to himself.

Marty, in his younger days   (MW)
Marty is one of a group of cats that came to us from a farm in south Richmond in the days when we were still managing colonies of cats around the city, until they were forced out by development or changed ownership. Volunteer Mary He visited and fed them regularly, and when she saw a family of kittens there, she was able to trap them and bring them in.  Some of the adults later made it to the Sanctuary – Belinda, Marilee, Alec (who was adopted and loved by long-time volunteer Stephanie), Maureen, and others. But Mitchell, Mary, Mischa and Marty all came to the SingleWide, and never left; sadly, they were all too nervous to tame up well, and we were very wary about adopting semi-ferals out.  

Wary feral Marty  (MW)
They came to us in 2008; we lost Mitchell in the fall of 2011 and Mary a few years later; Mischa and Marty hovered in the background, reluctant to accept much attention until the past few years. Mischa likes to be around people but not necessarily within reach; Marty has recently become more and more a people-cat.  

Marty  (KN)
With me, he started by sneaking up from the back of the couch while I had lap-time with Belinda and Bossanova.  I became aware of this presence behind me, wanting in on the chicken treats, but not really wanting attention – so chicken bits would make their way over my shoulder where they would magically disappear. Gradually the couch back gave way to the arm, and then to a just-within-reach spot near me.

Chicken, please?   (BC)
Marty has been having eye problems of late; one eye is quite cloudy and we don’t know how much sight he has in it; the other seems to get a recurring infection which responds to drops, and then flares up again. He’s had quite a lot of cage-time for treatment, and has become used to being handled and petted – with the result that he is now one of the most enthusiastic lap-cats in the room.  Both he and Mischa are obviously aging – at around 14 years they qualify as seniors, and as with people, some cats seem to age earlier (whereas others, like Sara Lee, go on like an Energizer Kitty).

Sharing a chair with Dodger & Mr Pink  (BC)
When the weather’s not so cold, the couch on the deck is a good place to have a feline love-in. Boxing Day cuddles this year had to be a how-many-cats-can-you-hold affair in the main room, with Marty front and centre (and active) in my lap with Mr Pink, Bossanova over my shoulder, Dodger, Paylan and Presley all hovering hopefully.  Marty, you’ve come a long way from the scared feral kitten you were!

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


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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Purry Holiday Greetings

Christmas Cassidy
As we head into the Christmas season, the Sanctuary becomes both quieter and busier.  Even in these Covid-19 times, both staff and volunteers need to take some time out for their home lives, and more gaps start appearing on the shift-board. At the same time, it is heart-warming how many volunteers not only do their regular shifts, but also fill extra spaces as needed;  far from being quiet, Christmas Day is usually buzzing with activity at the Sanctuary.

Christmas Huey
The cats, of course, are oblivious to things like immaculate bedding, or sparkling floors;  as far as they’re concerned, a little cat hair never hurt anybody, and a clean floor is just for being walked on. They only care that their food is delivered on time, and that there are humans around to pet them and offer treats.

Christmas Jason
Last year’s Elf on a Shelf has visited briefly, but has mostly been displaced by Frosty the Snowman and the Christmas tree; with a little bribery, cats have been encouraged to pose, and to share in sending out seasonal greetings to all who love the Sanctuary and its inhabitants.

Christmas Leo

Christmas Sherbet

Christmas Oscar

Christmas Cadbury

Christmas LittleJohn

Christmas Cornelius

Blog by Brigid Coult
All photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen (thank you, Lisa!)


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Visiting the Shut-Ins

Plum - caged for bath-time   (MW)
One of the things that so many of our visitors adore is the freedom that the Sanctuary cats have to roam. There are limits, of course – leukemia and FIV cats have separate areas, the Single-Wide cats never go out of their building, and some of the back pens are kept closed to give the cats inside a better sense of their own territory.  But people often come, expecting cages, and are surprised to find that they are the exception rather than the rule.

Rico, when he first came to us; now he roams the back pens freely   (BC)
So why do we have cages at all? Well, any new cat needs an acclimatization period, during which they become aware of other cats around, with whom they don’t yet have to interact.  They may have vaccinations due, or be recovering from spay/neuter surgery. And they need to get to know the people who will be working with them.  Perhaps they’re a cat that someone has identified as “off colour” and they are caged so that the med staff can assess if they’re eating/drinking enough, if they’re using the litter-box – perhaps a visit from the vet or a trip to the hospital is in the cards.  We’ve recently had a group of cats from one pen, with upset stomachs – they’ve been on a special diet, and it’s taken having the whole colony of that pen on dietary restriction to get it under control (they’re all back together now, and very happy about it).  

Poor Taylor has dental problems, and many teeth pulled;
hence the tongue-tip showing   (KN)
Perhaps a cat has been diagnosed with a condition like diabetes or hyperthyroidism, and they need to have cage time to get used to being medicated – and to allow the staff to assess how that medication will be most effectively administered. Or perhaps (and this is very common) they’ve had dental surgery, and are on a no-kibble restriction (which means extra wet-food treats!)

Winston getting cage-time snuggles  (MRJ)
A cat who is caged may only see the med staff when being medicated, or a volunteer when food is being offered or the cage cleaned.  The work of the Kitty Comforters is very important with these cats, encouraging contact with the shy ones, and making sure that the social ones don’t feel abandoned.  Many of the volunteers will spend extra time with the caged cats once a shift is “finished” – because for many of us, it’s not finished until we’ve shared cuddle time with our charges.

Quinn is not happy about being caged  (BC)
My Saturday evening place is with the Double-Wide cats, and last week, having fed everyone and checked on water and kibble, I went back to spend more quality time than just simply putting a plate down.  Two of our shyest cats were tucked away in different corners:  all I got from black Michonne (pen 4) was an unfriendly hiss, but handsome tabby Quinn, though hiding in a corner, gave me his best owlish stare.  Quinn is a buddy of my sponsor cat, grey Sylar, and is usually very keen on the prospect of chicken tidbits; he rarely allows himself to be touched and I was not about to force it on him, but with this visit he was not much in a mood for eating, either.   He will be watched carefully, and force-fed if necessary.

Oscar has to be tempted to eat a little of his special food   (BC)
Our Haida Gwaii teddy-bear-cat, Oscar, liked the cage he first came to so much that he has refused to vacate it. Right now he is confined so we can see just why he’s a bit off-colour, and just what he’s eating.  The med-staff are finding little tasty plates for him, and he will sometimes eat while there is someone there to admire, and talk with him. Sadly, he is not fond of the company of other cats, so a closed cage suits him well. 

Hillie enjoying visiting time  (BC)
Cow-cat Hillie has been caged for a while with a cold;  when a cat gets congested, not only is the breathing impaired but sometimes so is the appetite, because they may not be able to smell the food. Hillie seems to be doing well, but she’s less active than usual. She was very pleased to have a visitor, and emerged from behind her drape to sniff me over and accept attention. 

KeKe is not happy about necessary medical attention  (BC)
A temporary resident in the cage opposite is cranky KeKe. She is one of our diabetic cats, and more importantly, she’s one whose blood sugar fluctuates a lot, so she needs regular glucose checks. She is not happy about this – not because it’s particularly painful (the prick of a glucometer or of an insulin needle is negligible) but because she resents being handled on someone else’s agenda. She makes her feelings known very vocally, and by changing her mind frequently about what she will eat. The med-staff offer her a regular buffet of gourmet cat-food, and she will often make it quite clear that none of it is good enough.  It can become a real battle of wills to get her to eat before she gets her insulin and is released from the cage for the rest of the evening.

Rodan is happy to be caged and fussed; the more visitors, the better!  (BC)
In the cage backing on to hers there are two cats from the same pen – sometimes the presence of another cat that is known can be a comfort to a stressed animal.  In this case, grey Odie couldn’t care less; he has established himself at floor level and does not want to be bothered, letting me know by his hissing that he does not appreciate the visit. Rodan, on the other hand, is delighted by the presence of a friend. This sweet one-eyed boy is the only cat in pen 7 who is really comfortable with humans – a good thing, because he gets recurring colds and ear infections, and is a regular user of med-staff attention. He ignores Odie, and rolls happily at shelf level, begging for petting and treats.

Luke would rather mooch for treats than eat what's on his plate  (BC)
His next-door neighbour perks up and also begs at the mesh for chicken bits. Luke, normally a back deck member of the Tuxedo Club, is our newest diabetic, and is caged to accustom him to treatment and help us get a base-line on his glucose levels. He’s not likely to be a problem to medicate – most of the diabetics are pretty easy-going about the whole process. The biggest problem is convincing them that because they demanded tuna yesterday, it’ll be equally tasty today – it seems like the moment diabetes is diagnosed, they become pickier about what they will eat than Jamie Oliver!

JackieO hasn't let the loss of her tail affect her climbing skills;
she REALLY wants to be back out again  (KN)
The last cage belongs to a sweet girl – but a visit requires a towel. JackieO came to us in 2020 as a cat made incontinent by a tail-pull injury; we had her tail amputated (it was effectively paralysed) which meant that it was easier to keep her clean. The amputation has not slowed her down one bit – she climbs and jumps and plays as much as ever, and her polydactyl paws are always busy. She’s got a messy gut problem right now, and visiting requires the visitor to be well protected; we check and change all her bedding on a regular basis, and hope her medication will sort her out quickly so she can go back out to play – at the moment it’s rather like telling a child that they have to stay in their bedroom.

Nobody likes to think of the cats being caged; at least, in the DoubleWide, they’re big cages, so human visitors can sit fairly comfortably, and let the patients know that they’re not forgotten, and that the big wide world awaits them if they’ll just hurry up and get better!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Marla Rae Jenkins, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright