RAPS is short for Richmond Animal Protection Society, a registered charity and operator of a sanctuary which houses and cares for more than 400 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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Beetle and Cricket

As our name implies, Richmond Animal Protection Society is focused on the needs of the animals in our own municipality, and grew out of the need to get control over the feral cat population that existed here some twenty years ago. Currently, we’re feeling good about the feral situation; many of the cats that are trapped here are escaped or dumped pets rather than “career ferals” and our expert trappers are quick to act when a stray cat is reported.  Occasionally, we will cooperate with other shelters in giving homes to cats that cannot be homed elsewhere – the FeLV cats come particularly to mind, because not every shelter can deal with the level of care needed for leukemia cats.  But occasionally cats arrive on our doorstep by different routes.
Baby Beetle
Baby Cricket
In the late summer of last year, one of our staff took a holiday in the Interior, and just before returning, was landed with two young feral kittens. Once a rescuer, always a rescuer – Beetle and Cricket got packed into the car with the rest of the bags, and brought to the Sanctuary.  Normally kittens go to a foster home where they can be handled and habituated to human touch. But these two were about three months old – just feral enough for the fear of humans to be well implanted, and unlikely to tame enough to be ready for adoption.  They took up residence in the wing of the Moore House (usually known as GeriCatrics) that gives it the alternate name of The Kitten Trailer.
For a while they have resisted human contact. But steady work by the Kitty Comforters and the cat-whisperers on staff have produced a more relaxed attitude, in tabby Cricket at least.  Beetle is still somewhat spooked by any movement, and his wariness is reinforced by another black kitten, Frisky, who looks almost identical, but is even warier.
As with Pebble and Sandy, these guys are approaching the stage when they will be released into the general population – and the question will be whether it will be a general release or whether they will join the older pair in one of the feral pens at the back.  Pebble and Sandy resisted all attempts to make contact, but in the last six months or so, volunteers have been reporting regular friendly contact with Pebble, who comes forward to investigate the human intruder, and is willing to accept petting and head-rubs.
A teenage Cricket with distinct cattitude - BC
Beetle is still wary - BC
So visits by staff and volunteers to these youngsters are encouraged, in the hope that we can overcome the fear instinct and get them to accept regular handling.  We’re careful about washing before visiting, so as not to transfer germs from other areas, and currently, we’re saying no Sunday visitors, for their protection. Both are easily coaxed with Temptations, though Beetle at least prefers not to have the hand giving them out too close.  But at some stage they will have to face the bigger Sanctuary world, and we hope they can do it more easily, knowing that humans are their friends.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Gizmo is a sweet orange boy who has recently come into our care – with an interesting back-story. We understand that he had a home, as a young cat – one where he was much loved. Many cats come to us unmarked: no tattoo, no microchip, no way of identifying them – their former owners obviously just don’t think it is important enough. Gizmo was clearly marked – so when he disappeared, his owners must have hoped that someone would find him and bring him home.
No luck... we imagine they did all the usual things of putting up notices and informing the local shelter, but no Gizmo. After a while they probably gave up hope, and assumed that a car or a coyote had got him.  They mourned him, and got on with living.
Fast-forward 16 years.  An orange cat was found, and his markings clearly identified him – his owners were called with the good news: “We have your cat!”  “We don’t have a cat!” was the response. They were totally taken-aback to find that the cat they had lost so long ago was safe and sound. Obviously, someone had been caring for him, because he was in good condition. They were delighted to see him, and happy to have him back home.  But things weren’t the same. In the interim, they had acquired a dog, and cat and dog took an immediate dislike to each other – so much so that it was obvious they couldn’t live together.
We haven’t been able to identify Gizmo’s interim home – he was never formally registered with a vet, or he would have been returned to his first family sooner.  Presumably the interim family, too, is mourning his loss – though not enough that they came and looked for him at the RAPS City Shelter.So Gizmo is now with us, in the Moore House.
He was caged for some time, as our new cats always are, and now he’s allowed to be out and about, he’s still often found in his cage, which he feels is his safe place.  Like many of our Moore House cats, his advanced age (we think he’s about 18) means that he’s unlikely to be adopted at the 5 Road shelter (too many kittens!), but he might do well as an only cat in a quiet home, with a human who loves sweet ginger boys!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 10, 2016


When visitors are taken round on Sunday afternoons, they are usually introduced to the DoubleWide trailer as “operation central”. This is where much of the laundry is done, this is where many of the cats that need medical care are caged, this is where the medics have their own cage, where they can keep all the tasty food needed to coax cranky cats into taking their meds safely away from healthy (and hungry) feline appetites. It’s a busy place. Many of the DW cats wander in and out at will; several have learned to open the door from both directions, and don’t have to wait for a helpful human. There’s usually a cuddle-puddle on the couch, and an active population on the cage-tops.

DW cuddle-puddle - BC
But a move on through the building to the back deck sees us in a very different space. The deck is a quiet haven for the shyer cats.  This is where Brighton and Hillie hang out, gradually getting used to human attention. Ringo spends all his daytime hours as high in the corner as he can get, safely out of reach. In the colder weather the heat lamps are on, and there’s a happy crowd of toasty cats on the mattress. At food time, some of them venture down, though others hang back until the waiter service is safely back in the main building.
Dazzle's suspicious glare - BC
Dazzle was, until recently, one of the latter. She would hover hopefully till dinner was delivered, but not get closer until the volunteer had left the deck – or she would hide under the shelf and glare. But in the last month or two, she’s not only been out more, she’s also been venturing into the main building, obviously flirting with the thought of attention from humans, tail quivering madly, but staying just out of reach.
Just a little closer...   BC
I contacted Kati, who had cared for Dazzle when she first came into RAPS care as a pregnant momma. Kati is one of our wonderful foster-parents, who will see new moms through birthing and early kitten-care. Sometimes an orphan can be added to a litter; sometimes, Kati is tied to the kitten room by the need for frequent bottle-feeds; sometimes in spite of everything she can do, the little one is too weak to survive. Kittens do much better in home-care where they will be handled and socialised, and then transferred to the Shelter for adoption.
Always more relaxed when high on a shelf - BC
Handling and socializing, of course, is a little difficult when you are dealing with an angry adult cat – and that was Dazzle.  Kati tells me that she picked up three kittens – two back and one orange – from the Shelter in May a year ago; they were only 3 weeks old. Dazzle was brought in a couple of days later, and they were never quite sure whether she was the mom. Initially she cared for the kittens, but then she turned on them and Kati had to remove them to safety. Kati shed much blood in the process of handling Dazzle until it was decided that she needed to be spayed and brought to the Sanctuary, where she continued her feud against humans, shedding more volunteer blood, given any opportunity.
You have something for me?  - MW
So it’s most satisfactory to see this new step in the relationship with this feisty little tortie. A hand held out to her will sometimes elicit a decided smack – but now it’s usually a smack without claws. Last week she came over to me and rubbed against my ankles repeatedly; I was able to reach down and give her a full-bodied stroke a couple of times before she backed off and hissed at me. Other volunteers are reporting that she’s accepting head-rubs when the mood suits her, and this week I watched as she accepted full-body, two-handed stroking from Claire.
Dazzle -  MW
There is much excitement when former ferals turn the corner and show that our patience and love is paying off. Dazzle obviously has her share of “tortietude”, and this won’t be a quick process, but it’s wonderful that she feels safe enough to relax her former wariness around us.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Pictures by Brigid Coult & Michele Wright

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How's home life, Buster?

Many long-time visitors to the Moore House will remember a large white cat who terrorized intruders on his space.  The story of his adoption by Maureen can be found here, and I asked Maureen to update us on his life as a cat with a home of his own.

Maureen says:
Buster is still a loving, entertaining big ball of white purrrrr.  He is at my side every moment I am home and still happily greets me at the door when I come in.
“My mom says I can sit on the kitchen table anytime I want to!”
We eat and play together but Buster is in full control when it comes time to decide what time we go to sleep at night. The purchase of an automatic feeder has helped me with getting some sleep as Buster never seemed to adjust after the first time change once he arrived in my home from the sanctuary.  His 5:00am feeding soon turned into 4:15am and with mom not being a morning person…well, the feeder works!

“Looks like she needs to use the computer…I’ll just nap a little bit longer”
A few challenges came up in 2015 for Buster - the most difficult being dental issues.   After a trip to the vet, it was discovered Buster had severe gum disease most likely caused by many broken teeth which had never been tended to. His doctor prescribed medicine and home we went with high hopes and an empty wallet.  Instruction was 3 full syringes before each meal  for 3 weeks.  It took two weeks to realize there was more medicine being sprayed all over my kitchen than in Buster’s mouth - Buster wasn’t buying it. Plan “B” came soon, the doctor decided to remove all of Buster’s teeth.  I didn’t want to see him in pain any more. It was a lengthy complicated operation but a huge success. Buster is now toothless and happy! He does of course still have his fangs and incisors to maintain his wild mountain-cat appearance.
Wild mountain-cat experience
Buster’s second challenge was when I decided to go on vacation for 3 weeks. In a perfect cat world Buster would have renewed his passport and come with me but alas, he is a home boy and is only happy surrounded by his smells and his stuff.  My only choice then was to enlist the help of a full time babysitter. Thanks to my nephew Kyle approving to move in with Buster during my absence, everything was going to be okay – so we thought!  I said good-bye to my baby and left him eating some patè and purring. 

When Kyle arrived later that evening with his bags – out of the closet came a beast bearing teeth (all 4 of them) and some sharp claws many cat sanctuary people may remember. Kyle having a black belt in martial arts believed he had a chance.  I never did find out how long it took Buster to corral Kyle towards the door snarling and snapping at him, but he eventually left – backing out of my place holding two of Buster’s scratch pads against his legs for protection. Buster then spent his first night alone in his home.
Ruler of the Ottoman Empire
The next morning at 4:30am Buster Comforter Extraordinaire Christine shows up to help (Kyle’s mom). Buster allowed her to stay because of course, hunger had set in AND he does not like to be alone.  Success after 48hrs though -a friendship with Kyle was forged through trust, Carbonara sauce and Netflix for the following 3 weeks.  Buster even became a pillow lap-cat with Kyle – something he has never done with me.
Otter paws when he thinks nobody is looking
 I, of course, received a very cool reception from Buster once arriving home. He nestled up to Kyle when I tried to get him to come to me, sigh. But after a few days we were back to normal.  Buster seems to have a 48hr adjustment thing going on.  I am not planning any vacations away from home soon!

Blog & pictures by Maureen LaHaise

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wobbly Bob

Who would ever think that Bob would be a popular name for a cat? But we’ve had several Bobs at the Sanctuary: there was Snotty Bob, with his permanent cold; quiet short-tailed Bobby in the Old Aids; we still have Belly-Rub Bobby in the front courtyard, and if you are very quiet you might occasionally see Wobbly Bob in the back.
Back courtyard Bob came to us as so many cats did 10 or so years ago – development was hitting Blundell Road between Garden City and No 4 Road, and long-standing houses were being torn down to make way for townhouse developments. An elderly man was feeding a colony of ferals in his back yard, and when he moved out, the developer turned to Richmond Homeless Cats, and Carol arrived with her traps.  There were about 10 cats trapped from that site, and they all came to us – mostly black and white “cow cats” and brown tabbies. The last to be trapped was a ragdoll cross who was whisked away by med-staff Leslie, and named Clooney.
Darla, from that group, has her own blog entry, and had her own fans, but most of the others remained quite shy. They included Sonny and Cher, Bob and Marley (do we hear a theme here?), Harmony, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Molly and a couple of others.
Bob was actually one of the first to venture out and express interest in contact with humans.  But at some time in the years he’s been with us, he had some sort of neurological episode that leaves him very unsteady on his legs. Bob’s quite a long cat, and when startled, it sometimes looks like his front end wants to go one direction and his back legs in another. This unsteadiness has understandably left him feeling vulnerable, and his former friendliness has changed to a skittish wariness.
Chicken to the rescue! – he’s fairly food-motivated, and when chicken is being handed out, I am sometimes aware of Bob sneaking up behind me. He’s happier not making eye contact, but he no longer runs away when that happens, and he will actually approach closely enough that he can take food from the hand. 
Life must be a pretty scary prospect for poor Bob, but I think he’s learning again that humans are his friends, and that touch is possible. We just need to encourage volunteers and visitors to move gently around him and to let him know that he’s in a place of safety.

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016


This is Pumpkin, a remarkably handsome orange boy who came to us in October 2015.  We don’t know much of his history, but he definitely appeared semi-feral when he arrived.  He’s so beautiful and so interesting, that we’re really hoping he’ll tame up.
When he first arrived, he was pretty alarmed whenever anyone would come in his cage, and would do the usual hissing and swatting to deter visitors.  He would bite and scratch if you tried to touch him.  And interestingly, if you offered him a treat, he would reach up and whack it out of your hand quite aggressively before he would eat it. 
But RAPS volunteers are not easily deterred.  I found him mesmerizing from the start and was determined to get to know him better.  I spent a lot of time in his cage, and we ended up playing “chicken” a lot of the time:  I would try to sneak my hand towards him soooooo slowly that he would not notice; he would try to stay awake and alert long enough to catch me at it and chomp my hand.  I like to think I got good at this.  I did even manage to get my hand just under his tummy one day, while he rolled his eyes and went back to sleep.  But I got my share of bites and scratches too.
When he was let out of his cage, he was much harder to get at.  He found himself a spot in the room behind the double-wide, on the platform at the top of the stairs, under the heat lamp.  That suited me because there’s a mattress up there and it’s pretty warm and cozy.  I like to kitty-comfort lying down.  So I spent a lot of time up there with him too, tossing him treats and trying to get him to let me pet him.  I discovered he’s very food-motivated and I would chat with him and toss him treats, which he loved.  Through painstaking effort, I used the treats to lure him closer, and eventually got him to take food out of my hand.  I never did manage to pet him though – he was pretty determined about that.
When the spring came and the weather got nicer, the back door to that room was left open one day and he found his way outside into the courtyard.  He seemed pleased and surprised as he explored this new area in his own alert and cautious way.  And he settled himself on the outer edge of the ring of cats out there, prowling the perimeter in the hopes of getting some stray treats.
Since then, he seems to be gradually relaxing and trusting more, gently teasing the hopes of those of us who want to be best buds with him.  There was the day that Brigid was feeding him chicken and said to me – look, he doesn’t have to shake his food to kill it before he eats it any more.  Another day, I managed to rub his chin and he didn’t even seem to really mind although he looked pretty confused.  And last week, he seemed to have let his guard down and blended into the middle of the group of other cats, his body language relaxed and almost nonchalant.  He still looks completely indignant and surprised when I try to stroke his head, but he doesn’t try to take my hand off any more. 
He’s such a stunner that I’m hoping he’ll tame up enough that we can give him the full tummy rub one day.  Stay tuned.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Volunteer/Cat relationship - Lee and June

June and Lee have been coming to the Sanctuary since 2010.
Lee writes:
We had heard about RAPS via the newspaper and June used to send donations when they were Richmond Homeless Cats. We came as visitors one Sunday, and loved this place immensely. As we are "cat crazy gals", we made ourselves a promise to start volunteering once we were both retired. This happened in 2013 & we have been visiting there ever since.
Angel and Kes
In our other life, we have 6 very special kitties of our own. Two are now senior kitties (16 next month) with health care needs. "Angel" has seizures & "Kes" our Snowshoe Siamese has been fighting kidney disease. When we are not doing kitty care we enjoy some other activities. We both enjoy the pool & June does the aqua-fit while I do my own deep water running. We both pole walk & learned the technique from a Nordic pole walking group we joined.
Lee loved sweet Jamaica in the Moore House
We have a regular Tuesday afternoon at the Sanctuary, where we go kitty-comforting in ten areas.  We start at the back pens. June likes to visit her sponsor kitty Careen in pen 5, and I go see Schatze, OJ, Pebbles & Sandy in pen 4. Then we go on to the new kitties in Pen 6, followed by the Moore trailer together & then New Aids.
Harry loved his cuddles with Lee
We then go into single-wide where June visits the kitties. I go into the leukemia room to visit with Smoochie and Bear; I miss my dear Harry and Mindy dreadfully. I head for the Hill House and Connor House to see which kitties are caged, and sit with them. June spends the rest of her time in Old Aids.
June gets lots of love from the cats
We love all the kitties at the Sanctuary and I especially like to look for the black cats. Buddy who lived in New Aids won me over a long-time ago. I was somewhat hesitant around black cats as had a bad experience many years ago. This dear boy who has since passed away helped me so much to feel comfortable and at ease with black kitties. They need love too and should not be overlooked.
Black cats need grooming, too!
When I finish in Hill House & Connor House I spend some time out in the front courtyard. We've recently lost dear Wonderful Wobbly Paulo but life goes on with more loving kitties surrounding me. They head butt, purr and are so happy for the attention. They return my love so willingly and sometimes my lap is not big enough!
Back courtyard - A. Vandenbrink
Our hope for the Sanctuary is that it will continue to thrive under our CEO Eyal's guidance. We read his detailed report in full and his plans for RAPS are commendable. He has a lot of interesting and good ideas. If a donor stepped forward with a large donation I would say buy the property RAPS sits on asap. If the Sanctuary were to lose their lease it would be tragic, and all the cats would be in jeopardy. That would be our number one priority.

Blog by Lee Turner, (ed. BJC)
Photos by June Price, Lee Turner & A Vandenbrink