For kittens and cats who wouldn’t have a future in most shelters, the RAPS Cat Sanctuary provides an all-inclusive forever home.
By Marianne Moore
The Richmond Animal Protection Society does much more than provide the animal control and shelter services one would expect from a large city animal shelter. We offer education for pet-owners regarding the importance of spaying and neutering. We help them manage their pets’ behaviour problems. We offer assistance and pet food to allow low-income families to keep their beloved pets healthy and at home. Also, we’re proud to say that we were major players in having Richmond mandate spaying and neutering of cats, and banning the sale of puppies and rabbits in Richmond’s pet stores.
Our efforts have contributed to significantly decreasing the number of stray cats and feral kittens in Richmond. RAPS, which began as Richmond Homeless Cats, started by setting up feeding sites for colonies of street cats and practising a trap-neuter-release program. After being neutered, healthy adult cats were returned to the locations where they had been trapped, while volunteers took kittens and elderly, ill or pregnant cats into their homes. When the Cat Sanctuary was established at its present location, in 1999, trapped strays were relocated there rather than to their potentially hazardous previous locations. Some fortunate ones were reclaimed by their grateful owners or adopted, but most became permanent residents of the sanctuary.
RAPS assumed operation of the Richmond Animal Shelter in 2007, so strays now wait there to be reunited with their families or to be adopted. If neither of those happy events occurs in a timely fashion, or if a cat is unsuitable for adoption, it is transferred from the Shelter to the Sanctuary to carry on in, let’s admit it, pretty luxurious surroundings for a former street cat. There are still stray cats out there and RAPS volunteers are still trapping them – neither rain, sleet, mud nor darkness can deter a team of dauntless trappers from getting their cat when a report comes in of a stray cat sighting.
Like the Richmond City Shelter, RAPS’ Cat Sanctuary is proud to be a no-kill facility. Over 400 cats live on the large property, which consists of three trailers and several smaller buildings set in attractive courtyards and among cat-friendly raised garden beds, all safely enclosed inside a chain-link fence. Often referred to as “Kitty Club Med,” the Sanctuary is operated by a small staff and around 150 dedicated, cat-loving volunteers.
There are several other excellent cat shelters and rescue organizations around, but ours is Canada’s only true Cat Sanctuary, providing a permanent and loving home for any cat who needs one, even those considered impossible to adopt, including:
- Cats with feline leukemia and feline AIDS. We’re able to keep them and also to take them in from smaller shelters who are unable to house cats with these contagious conditions.
- Feral or semi-feral fraidy cats, who have had little or no good interactions with people. The Sanctuary has plenty of safely enclosed outdoor space in which cats can distance themselves from people. We still take every possible opportunity to convince them that they have nothing to fear from us. Every once in a while, much to our delight, one of those cats that we were certain was feral proves us wrong.
- Cats who had to be surrendered for persistent litter box issues. We have enough volunteers to clean up their “transgressions.”
- Depressed elderly cats who’ve suddenly lost their best human friend to death, illness or eviction. They get extra special love to help them get over their loss.
- Aggressive behaviour. Bring ’em on – we love a challenge!
RAPS Cat Sanctuary is truly a special place where animals get a second chance at life and love.