Isabella Steps Up

We have the best volunteers in the world. We can’t scientifically prove it but we can share some of their stories with you and let you see for yourself!

Like Isabella.

Isabella got her first pet cat last year and found out how great caring for fabulous felines can be. So when she had to do a high school project that involved some community volunteer hours, she chose VOKRA. Now she volunteers with us every Saturday doing Cat Care and we love her.

Because Isabella is 15, she needs to be accompanied by an adult (until she’s 18) so her mom volunteers too. Making time to volunteer isn’t always easy for this busy family but they make it happen because it’s important to Isabella. Why? Well, I asked her that. She said,

I think it’s really important because if you don’t step up, you don’t know who will. You need to take the first step. I was kind of nervous coming in, I’m like, a 15 year old kid…I felt nervous about doing anything wrong. For VOKRA there are always new cats and it’s nice to know you’re helping.

And help she does. As a Cat Care volunteer at our Operations Centre, Isabella feeds cats, cleans their living areas, and, of course, plays with them. She loves how the cats meow at her when she arrives, how they all want to be loved, and how grateful they are for the time she spends with them.

She says her favourite thing about volunteering with VOKRA is seeing the unique personality each cat has. She finds it so interesting that no two cats are ever the same.

What’s her least favourite thing about volunteering with VOKRA?

Nothing! Except I wish I could do it more.

Isabella started keeping a list of her favourite VOKRA cats on her phone but abandoned it when the list got way too long. She likes to follow up once the cats go to foster, viewing their profiles on the VOKRA website and watching for those profiles to disappear which means the best thing for a rescue cat; they’ve been adopted.

But Isabella is not just an awesome VOKRA volunteer, she’s got big plans for her future too. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this big-hearted teen wants to help humans as much as she helps cats.

I want to go to law school. I feel like I want to fight for social justice because I like to help people. Helping your community in any way you can is important.

It sure is, Isabella. Thank you for all that you do. We are so lucky to have you on the VOKRA team!

Isabella

If you’d like to volunteer with us (doesn’t the Poo Duty Roster behind Isabella entice you?), please fill out an application on our website. We need people to help with cat care, admin and reception duties, trapping, driving and more. Why not step up and help out some kitties too?

Olivia and Daisy–Wobbling Their Way Into Your Heart

There are certain conditions that can be a death sentence for a rescue cat. Being a “wobbler” is one of them. The official term is Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia and it’s a neurological condition that results in walking and balance problems. Even though they are as loving and playful as other kittens, most people don’t have the understanding or the resources to care for a CH cat. When they end up in a shelter or are in need of adoption, even the most caring organization can be daunted.

VOKRA has had a number of “wobblers” and has had good success with therapeutic treatments for them. So when we received a call from a small rescue in Lethbridge, Alberta this March, saying they had a litter of four kittens in their care, one of which had CH, and had just taken in another wobbler kitten as well, we understood only too well the likely fate of these babies and the need for VOKRA to help.

Purrfect Endings in Lethbridge, like most rescues, was overwhelmed. They already had three special needs cats in their care, so when they ended up with these wobbler kittens, they knew they didn’t have the resources to care for them, let alone find homes willing to take them forever.

Linda from Purrfect Endings says,

Daisy and her three brothers Sky, Turbo and Noah came to Purrfect Endings Rescue Society from a situation where their mom, Black Cat, was not spayed resulting in litter after litter of kittens. Purrfect Endings Rescue takes in many special needs cats. However, when it was discovered that Daisy had CH we searched for a rescue that had the resources to better accommodate her needs. We were so fortunate to find VOKRA.

We agreed to take the siblings, including wobbly Daisy, as well as the other CH kitten, Olivia, all only a couple of months old. But Lethbridge isn’t exactly a hop skip and a jump from Vancouver. So how to get them to us?

We called our friends at Pilots N Paws. If you haven’t heard of this amazing organization, well, get yourself a kleenex and have a sit down before you read about what they do. Pilots N Paws provides free air transportation to Canadian-based rescue organizations and shelters. They have helped countless abused, abandoned, and injured animals get to fosters, adopters, rehabilitation and medical groups. Check out their website to find out more about their amazing work and how you can become a Petscort!

Pilots N Paws was in. They organized a volunteer to drive our new buddies over 200 kilometres from Lethbridge to Calgary where the cats would then be flown from Calgary to Abbotsford. Everything was a go. And then the weather turned. The flight couldn’t be made. But that didn’t stop the amazing folks at Pilots N Paws. Instead, Russ and his wife Karen loaded up their car full of rescue animals and headed off on the 11 hour drive to Vancouver! Aren’t you glad I told you to get that kleenex now? These are some dedicated folks.

Our heroes!

Our heroes!

Along for the ride was a rescue dog named Chrissie, coming from the Alberta Sheltie Rescue to her forever home in the Lower Mainland. (Disney, are you listening? This has your name written all over it!)

Photo courtesy of Pilots & Paws

Photo courtesy of Pilots N Paws

Safe in Vancouver, Noah and his brother Turbo were adopted quickly. Daisy and Sky went into foster with some of our experienced Wobbler Wranglers, Lee and Sheral. Okay, they do more cuddling than wrangling, but they are the volunteers we turn to when we have CH kitties because they have opened their homes and hearts to special cats like this before. Sky and Daisy quickly made themselves at home and got to work on Daisy’s physical therapy, a.k.a. playtime.

 

Sky & Daisy

Sky & Daisy

Daisy & her toy, Mozart

Daisy & her toy, Hamlet

Olivia, oh sweet Olivia, is with another one of our dedicated volunteers, Jen. Although Olivia couldn’t stand or walk without falling over when she first came in our care, she was playful and determined.

Olivia & her bunny

Olivia & her bunny

First time wobbler foster Jen says:

Fostering Olivia has been both rewarding and challenging. She is a super sweet loving kitty who will purr up a storm in greeting. She loves everyone she meets and they love her too. She tries so hard to do things that would be simple for a “normal” kitty, like eating from her bowl. She knocked a tooth loose recently when she fell and had to have the tooth pulled! She does sometimes get frustrated when she tries to do something and just can’t but she is so determined and full of energy!

Jen and her husband Connor have been working with Olivia daily to build up her motor skills.

Go, Olivia, go!

 

Work hard. Play hard. Nap hard.

Work hard. Play hard. Nap hard.

 

As with all special needs kitties, getting them into our care, while life-saving, is only the first step in the rescue of a wobbler. They require special foster humans who can spend lots of time with them and provide an adapted environment to live in so the kittens are safe. They are in foster care for longer than other cats, putting a strain on our already stretched-thin resources. But they need more still. In order to truly allow these kittens to develop, we need to provide them with specialized therapies.

They can benefit from acupuncture and physiotherapy and we’ve had good success with hydrotherapy to help increase strength, mobility and to support “re-wiring” of neural pathways in the brain. But these treatments are costly and we can’t always afford them. After all the coordinating, driving and volunteering involved to rescue them, it breaks our hearts not to be able to provide cats like Olivia and Daisy with therapies that could help them, and that could mean the difference between them being adoptable or not. But at more than $1,000 per cat, not including food, litter and other necessary supplies, these treatments still remain out of paw’s reach for these kitties. We’re hoping you’ll help.

Not everyone can foster, let alone adopt a CH kitten or cat. But everyone can help us care for them by making a donation in support of these special babies. Please visit our website or click the big DONATE button on the upper right and contribute whatever you can. Let us know that you’re donating in support of the Lethbridge kitties and we’ll make sure your money goes directly to their care. We couldn’t say no to Daisy and Olivia when we got the call about them. Can you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compassionate Kids–Vanessa

You really shouldn’t judge someone by their shoes but, in this case, the awesome shoes match the awesome kid. Meet Vanessa. Her family adopted a VOKRA cat last year, and when Vanessa was planning her 8th birthday party this year, she asked her guests to help her raise money for VOKRA. See, awesome, right? Right.

Vanessa raised over $100 for VOKRA and asked us what was needed most. Then she went shopping! She bypassed Ardene’s and Urban Planet and went straight to the pet store, picking out the most fun toys, the healthiest food and the best scratching posts for our kitties. We loved having Vanessa deliver her donations in person so we could show her around the Operations Centre and we took the opportunity to get a picture of the birthday girl in our birthday chair! (Okay, seriously. Check out the awesome sneakers.)

Vanessa

 

Thanks to you and all your friends for your fantastic donations, Vanessa. And thanks for being a compassionate kid!

Maria’s CATch of the Day #1

I joined Maria, VOKRA’s head trapper, recently to visit an area she has been trapping ferals in for several years. She does her best to get them all and the neighbours help her out with information, access to their yards and even snacks when her hours get long. But sometimes cats get missed, someone dumps a new cat in the area or an owned, outdoor cat isn’t fixed. Then, despite her best efforts, new ferals are born.

Setting up

Getting ready

On Saturday, we caught six kittens, about eight weeks old. Can you spot them trying to hide from Maria in the grass?

Cat Grass

We see you!

They were speedy little muffins but Maria managed to nab two right away. The others found a clever hiding place where we almost missed them. Only Maria’s keen and experienced eye noticed this fuzzy butt under the fence!

fuzz butt

Kitten butt!

They were in a neighbour’s yard, hiding in a pile of wood. Thanks to the help of the homeowner and Maria’s leather gloves, we got them! Maria “freestyled it”, unable to use any kind of tools or traps because of the location. She was finally able to grab each hissy, bitey, scratchy kitten while I held open the carrier door just long enough to drop them inside and shut the door tightly again.

Wood pile Maria under lumber

 Caught kitten

Gotcha!

Then we set the traps to try and catch the mom. We’d seen her under an old boat that was being stored in a carport and figured this was her home base.

 Maria setting traps Judith under boat

Within a few hours, success! Mom was reunited with her babies at our Operations Centre. Maria named her Judith, in honour of her friend (and fellow cat rescuer) Judith’s birthday. The mom is tame and, with some socialization by one of our experienced fosters, the kittens will be tamed too.

Judith and kittens

Judith and her babies

Soon after that, another mama was caught, this one a mama-to-be. She is ready to give birth any day now so we got her just in time. The name Sonata was picked for her.

We were hoping to catch this guy, the obvious father of the kittens.

Studly Siamese

Big Daddy

Isn’t he a studly fellow? He was strutting around the alleys of South Van like he owned the joint and I’m pretty sure I heard the BeeGees song Stayin’ Alive playing. Unfortunately, we haven’t had any luck catching him yet.

Sunday we caught a beautiful young grey female, probably about seven or eight months old. The neighbours say they were born last winter and that some of the litter haven’t been seen for a while, undoubtedly coyote snacks. Maria named this girl Elsie after Elsa, the woman who called us about these cats. Elsie was very sweet and let me pet her head through the cage so she is likely a kitten of the tame mom. Hopefully she is tame enough that she can be adopted into a loving home.

Elsie

Elsie

Monday, we caught this beautiful guy who is likely Elsie’s brother.

Black Male in trap

We know he is a brother because Maria is an expert at reaching through the bottom of the trap to feel for…um…telltale signs.

Black Cat Fondle

Yup, that’s a boy

The Studly Siamese is undoubtedly wondering where his ladies are! Hopefully he will go in one of our traps soon so we can neuter him and prevent more kittens from being born. The neighbours all know to call Maria if they spot any more kittens but cats are very good at hiding their babies so we won’t always know about them. Fingers crossed there aren’t any more there.

Traps in the van Maria and homeowner

Maria’s trapping van and a victorious Maria with a helpful homeowner

Speaking of kittens, when we were heading home after this trapping adventure, Maria said to me, “I just want to drive by a house near here. I’ve trapped there before but I think I might have seen some kittens when I drove past today.” You’ll have to wait for another blog post to find out what we discovered but, let me just say, yes, there were kittens. Oh boy, were there kittens. Stay tuned!

Are you good at climbing over things and under things (including things that might contain a bunch of spiders)? Does the idea of sitting in a car for hours watching a trapping site on a kitty stakeout sound good to you? Can you recognize a fuzzy kitten butt under a fence from across an alley? Then volunteering as a VOKRA trapper might be for you! Maria is always looking for people who have strategic minds, who aren’t afraid to get dirty, and who have good people skills to join her trapping team. Check out this and other volunteer opportunities on our website and fill out an application.
We’d love to have you volunteer with us!

27 and Counting

Child care workers are used to kids asking for help. Can you tie my shoe? Can you read this to me? Will you take me to the bathroom? But earlier this year, a child care worker at a Lower Mainland school heard a new one. “Can you help my sick kitty?” the child asked her.

The worker, being an animal lover, went to the child’s home to meet the kitty but instead, found many kitties. Dozens of them, in fact. And lots were sick with puffy, runny eyes and colds as well as intestinal parasites. Luckily, she knew about VOKRA and sent us an email.

We’ve all seen animal hoarding situations on TV and, if you’re like me, you wonder to yourself, how the heck did this happen? In this case, the underlying intentions were good. The family rents a house at the end of a dark street where people dump garbage in the treed lot next door. Sometimes people dump unwanted cats there too. These cats aren’t always spayed or neutered and, of course, they breed and create more cats. The family did their best to feed and care for all the cats and kittens but the numbers got too high and they were overwhelmed.

By the time VOKRA got involved, many of the cats and kittens were very ill. We took them to the vet in batches, day after day, and then set them up at our intake centre for monitoring. Those who were healthy enough went to foster homes right away. Sadly, two of the kittens were just too sick and didn’t survive, despite round-the-clock care.

Smith 22 Smith 9 Smith 7

When all was said and done, VOKRA took in 27 cats as part of this rescue.

This has been a very expensive rescue for us. With so many cats and kittens needing vet care and extensive rounds of medicine, the medical costs alone have climbed to over $7,000. Add this to the amount it costs VOKRA to provide food and litter for each cat every month they are in foster care and that number looks more like $10,000.

We try to keep a contingency fund available for emergencies but we weren’t prepared for a rescue this big. (We weren’t prepared for the two big rescues that came along in the following months either but those will be covered in future blog posts.) We are a completely volunteer-run, no-kill rescue organization and it takes continual fundraising just to cover our regular costs. When a huge rescue like this comes along, it really takes its toll. And it means we don’t have the resources for the rescues that will be coming our way in the next few months.

We desperately need help to pay down our vet bills and ensure that we have the funds to keep rescuing cats and kittens. Not everyone is equipped to care for dozens of cats, as the family at the centre of this story found out. Hearts being in the right place isn’t enough. At VOKRA, we have decades of experience saving and caring for cats, relationships with vets who provide excellent medical care for our animals, and over a thousand volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping end the suffering of abandoned cats and kittens. We encourage people to leave rescue work to the professionals but there is something you can do.

Your financial contribution to VOKRA, no matter how small, will make a big difference. If you can make a donation on behalf of these kitties, please do. (Click on the red words to go to the donation page of our website or click on the logo on the upper right where it says “Donate to VOKRA today”.) Thank you for your support.

These cats and kittens have a second chance thanks to one caring child care worker and VOKRA. Some have been adopted already and they went to great homes. Those who are still waiting for forever families are being cared for in our volunteer foster homes. Like Ritchie and Robbie who will be available for adoption in the next week or so.

Ritchie Robbie

Their foster, Stacey, says:

I got Ritchie first and he lived behind my toilet for a couple weeks before I was able to tempt him out with chicken baby food and a “birdie” toy. Now he is the first kitty to greet me when I wake up and he loves to be petted. He is still skittish and isn’t a lap cat (yet!) but purrs when cuddled and likes to be around where the action is.

When his brother, Robbie, came to stay, Ritchie really came out of his shell. Robbie is super confident and moved right in like he owned the place. The two of them play ALL DAY LONG! They love to wrestle and chase the laser dot. Whoever adopts them will get a lovely pair of sweet boys. While they are about a year old, these two act just like kittens and are full of beans.

I know when I look at these photos and read about how sweet these cats are, it breaks my heart to think of them being sick and uncared for. Will you donate to VOKRA and help us make sure the hard times are behind Ritchie, Robbie and the 25+ other cats rescued from this site?

Check out this slideshow featuring some of these rescued cats now, then click to donate and help us care for them!

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Sweet Dreams, Mr. Washington

Yesterday we lost a friend. Mr. Washington was a resident of VOKRA’s Southlands Barn Sanctuary which houses a number of feral and shy cats who are not adoptable. As a no-kill shelter, we find a place for our rescued cats, even if that place can’t be a traditional home. Mr. Washington called the Southlands Barn Sanctuary home for four years. He was quite elderly and, in the past two years, began to show his age and medical problems arose. On May 19th, he was accompanied by his volunteer medical caretaker Carley to Intercity Animal Emergency Clinic and supported to pass away in a gentle, dignified way. VOKRA volunteer Ellen is one of the people who loved Mr. Washington well and she wrote this tribute to him.

 

Washington 1

Sometimes after a time spent under the care of humans, semi-feral cats slowly begin to warm up to the point where they are tame enough to pet and accept the care of their human guardians–there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing that change. Mr. Washington was one such special case, and his love seemed to grow daily, warming the hearts of his feline and human friends alike.

While we can only half guess at the life Mr. Washington lived prior to coming to VOKRA, we can speculate that it was the kind of life that led him to have such a regal and formal name bestowed upon him. His benevolent and welcoming air would match any politician in his namesake capital city! With a twinkle in his eye, and the older, wise air of a gentleman about him, Mr. Washington was always sure to greet each visitor and volunteer, whether he strolled calmly up to you, or gently eyed you from his favorite perch. His right eye was semi encircled in black, monocle-like, as though born to watch over, like some kind of purring detective.

And watch over he did! Mr. Washington loved to know what was going on, whether you were merely cleaning, or dinner had finally begun. He could often be found grooming or cuddling with his feline friends, and even seemed to teach and assure the other cats, who were much more feral than him, that us humans weren’t so bad.  He led his friends in his brave interactions with us, accepting pets (and treats!) graciously.

Mr. Washington is truly an example of how a cat can say more with their eyes and affection than words ever could. With Washington it was always love at first sight–he burrowed his way into the heart of everyone he met, and it is doubtful that he will ever leave. He spent his last day enjoying the simple pleasure of lying in the sun, and knowing that he was loved. No one warns you of the tears you will shed when you become a volunteer, but having known such a special boy is worth every one.

mrwashington

Washington 3Mr. Washington and his GF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Ellen, for this lovely piece, to Sharon Darling for the wonderful photos, and to all the volunteers who give their time and love to our Southlands Barn Sanctuary cats.

 

 

 

Compassionate Kids–Max

We were so thrilled to get a message from a proud mom recently, telling us about her compassionate kid. Max’s Grade 4/5 class took part in a “Young Entrepreneurs” project at his school. They had to design a project, then create and market it including figuring out all the financial costs. Each student choose a non-profit or charitable organization to receive 10% of the money they made. Max choose VOKRA because he loves his cat Jax.

Here is Max and his Aliens in a Jar that he created and sold. Okay, well now I totally want an Alien in a Jar. Looks like this creative little guy has a great future ahead of him! And thanks to his donation, so do more rescue cats and kittens. Great job, Max!

Birthday Max

Thank you so much for supporting VOKRA and for being a compassionate kid. (And for capturing those aliens.)