Bottle Babies – A Reward Like No Other

20160507_Bottlebabies_2950_lowresWM-1If you’ve ever wondered about VOKRA’s origins, you wouldn’t have too look far – it’s right there in our name, specifically in the O and the K, which stand for “Orphan Kitten”. Founded because of kittens that were orphaned and without moms, VOKRA began as a means to provide crucial care that would replicate the feeding and love a mom cat would normally provide.

Though bottle feeding kittens may sound like it’s all purrs, cuddles and explosions of cute, considering that most litters reach upwards of five, it’s no small feat. Newborn kittens require constant tending to and must be fed every two hours. They have to be kept warm at all times through the use of blankets and heaters, they need to be burped and bathed, and you must stimulate their poop and pee. Basically you need to replace their mom in every way possible, short of becoming a cat yourself.

Many years ago, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA when litters of kittens kept coming in without moms. They quickly learned how to bottle feed and fielded requests for their services up to twice a day during kitten season. If you’re picturing an actual orphanage filled with rows of cat beds and endless litters of kittens, you wouldn’t be far off. At times their own beds were piled high with kennels full of kittens requiring 24-hour care. Eventually, Karen and Maria branched off on their own and realized the reason for all the motherless kittens was that no one had figured out how to trap the feral moms. Once they began trapping them, the need for bottle feeding was greatly reduced.

While keeping kittens with their mom is always the preference, bottle feeding is at times a necessity. Sometimes it may only be for a short period, temporarily feeding them until their mom is located or merely helping a mom cat with her extra large litter. Other times we may be able to use surrogate moms instead, adding orphaned kittens to another mom’s litter. We trap feral moms whenever possible, using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But in cases where the mom is never found or has passed away, bottle feeding is the only hope of the kittens’ survival.

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Receiving an average of 10 litters a year that require full-time bottle feeding, we have a handful of dedicated volunteers who provide constant care and attention to ensure these little ones survive. Around the clock care is necessary and some volunteers even take their tiny wards to work. In the past Ellen Keiser, a teacher, took her bottle fed babies to school and fed them during recess and lunch as her class looked on for some firsthand lessons in cat rescue. At times, volunteers share the duties between them, “babysitting” if one of them needs a break.

Even with the best possible care, survival rates are a bit lower for bottle fed kittens. They’re more prone to illness and not all of them make it. To be a bottle feeder volunteer requires not only time, patience, flexibility and the ability to do without sleep, but also the strength to handle the potential for heartbreak. Says Ellen, “You need to prepare yourself for the loss, but also for the celebration that so many do make it due to your efforts.” Last year, foster mom Tania Hennessy cared for more bottle feeders than she ever had before and says she becomes especially attached to them. For her, watching them grow up and find their forever homes is worth the undertaking.

Bottle fed kittens sleep a lot and after two weeks you can begin to train them to use their litter boxes. Eventually you’ll find small puddles of poop, which to a seasoned cat rescuer like Karen is “quite exciting”. As the kittens grow, they become among the sweetest and sociable of cats since growing up among humans is all they’ve known. In fact, they consider their bottle feeding human to be their “real” mom.  Says Tania, “My favorite part of caring for bottle feeders is the day when their eyes open and they finally look back at you for the first time. Paired with the happy purrs of a full belly at 3 a.m., it’s heart melting!” Seeing bottle fed babies transform into active and healthy kittens is truly a reward like no other.

Written by Ellen R.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. We’re currently actively looking for cat care and reception volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Cinnabar’s Happy Tail Ending

We first told you about Cinnabar back in May 2014. You can read all about her rescue story here.

 

Cinnabar
Kathy, who happens to be the the executive director of Paws for Hope, wasn’t looking to adopt when she and her young daughter Maya came to VOKRA’s Operations Centre. But then she met Cinnabar and fell in love with the sweet calico cat. Kathy remembers how after meeting each other, Maya and Cinnabar “automatically took to one another and I thought maybe this would be a great opportunity to foster. She was so playful, despite her condition.” (You can actually watch a video of this very meeting right here!)

Cinnabar at KillarneyCinnabar had a rough life and lived for an extended time on the streets before being rescued.  On her arrival at VOKRA she was in a pitiful state; shivering, emaciated, dehydrated, filthy and smelly.  Her tail was infected, part of her lower lip was missing and she was so tightly matted her fur was pulling out by the roots and damaging her skin.  It took hours for VOKRA co-founders Karen and Maria to gently and carefully remove the mats and they were horrified and heartbroken to find maggots living inside.  Finally shaved and cleaned up, she had an odd owl-like appearance and was therefore named after the Cinnabar Owl.  It was not immediately known if Cinnabar would survive so she was temporarily placed in a recovery kennel.

It was just a few days later when Kathy and her family met Cinnabar and agreed to take her home as a foster kitty. Cinnabar quickly fit right in with her new canine foster siblings, and with Chili in particular (who was also a rescue). Kathy knew then that Cinnabar had to become a permanent member of the family. “We had [Chili] for three years and had never seen her act like this,” said Kathy. “Chili was running around tail wagging, playing chase with Cinnabar. It was amazing.”

Cinnabar & Jules

Kathy’s partner Jules is Cinnabar’s dad and she loves to spend time sitting on his shoulder.

Now enjoying life with her forever family, Cinnabar spends her days playing with her canine siblings (or trying to get them to play). She even has a new best friend – a pit bull named Lucy! “When we travel, Cinnabar stays with my friend and her dog Lucy,” said Kathy. “Lucy and Cinnabar love each other and play all day long.  Both of them are always sad after Cinnabar comes home.”

Cinnabar brings much joy to Kathy’s family and she remarks how “everyone who visits loves her.”

Would you like to share your Happy Tail? Email us at communications@vokra.ca.

Post written by Kim C.

Wanted: Foster Coordinators

_MG_8142Who wants to help our kitties find their forever homes?!

We’re looking to grow our team of foster coordinators and are looking for cat lovers like you. What does being a foster coordinator mean? You get to manage a group of foster homes and make sure each kitty gets matched with the right foster to best help them get adopted!

We know your heart breaks when you see a lonely cat or kitten. You just want to scoop them up into your arms and tell them they deserve all the love in the world. Foster coordinators are the key to giving that kitty a family.

So, let’s get a little more into the details of what tasks a foster coordinator takes on. In general, foster coordinators oversee foster homes and their assigned kitties.  They interview new fosters, match suitable kitties to the foster home and follow up with fosters to address any issues. Overall, the end goal is to make sure kitties get put up for adoption as soon as they’re ready.

Now, what is there to take away from this position? Sarah, our lovely Burnaby foster coordinator elaborates:

My biggest fulfillment in this role is being able to help so many cats at once. Although it’s an indirect role, I’m able to help so many more cats than I would be able to otherwise. It’s also great to know that I am giving joy to the foster families who want to have a furry friend. As well, I’ve learned a ton about cats. It is a very rewarding role.

Valerie, the North Shore foster coordinator speaks on working with foster homes:

The relationships I’ve built through managing foster homes and kitties is strong and good. I’m always available to help when they need kitty advice and it’s definitely an interactive relationship. I love being a foster coordinator because the role is dynamic – it’s constantly evolving. Every concern, issue and happy experience is different for each foster. I learn something new every day.

The role of a foster coordinator is perfect for every cat lover. Although it can be an unseen role, it’s extremely crucial. Without all our existing foster coordinators, VOKRA’s unique foster program would not be successful. We want to grow this team and we want you to know you can make a huge impact on the lives of countless kitties, as well as their fosters!

Are you ready to take on the task of helping our kitties get adopted? If you’re interested, email volunteervokra@gmail.com. Please be sure to include your experience with kitties, the number of hours per week you’d be able to dedicate to this role and why you believe you’re the perfect addition to our foster coordinator team. It’s your time to shine!

Written by Aurora C.

Ask Dr. Waffles

DrWaffles

Dr. Waffles is VOKRA’s senior feline health advice columnist. He has had more than four years of experience as a cat with health, and is thus fully qualified to advise other cats in their health.

Dear Dr. Waffles,

The screened balcony, which was my own sanctuary when it was colder, is suddenly crowded with pots full of mud. Green stuff that is delightful to chew on is starting to appear out of the muck, as if by magic. I suspect my people are getting into witchcraft or something. What’s going on? Can I eat this stuff or will it turn me into something terrible?

Yours,
Ginger Cat

Dear Ginger,

It’s really hard to say what these creatures we live with are up to at any given moment, but I doubt they’re clever enough for magic. In my experience, the green stuff comes in many varieties – some are delightful to munch on, but some could actually kill you! Best to steer clear of all of it if you’re not sure – but here are some types that are relatively safe to you (although with any you might still get a stomach ache) – basil, begonia, orchid, jasmine, roses, sage and summer hyacinth.

More about toxic and non-toxic plants can be found here.

Sincerely,
Dr. Waffles

Volunteer of the Month – May 2016

IMG_5924It’s not quite summer yet, but it definitely feels like it! May and its weather are bringing joy and happiness to us at VOKRA and, as we’re super cheerful, we’d like to spread the happiness and thankfulness to all the VOKRA volunteers. In particular, we’d like to thank our Volunteer of the Month – Lindsey Dawes!

Lindsey has been volunteering with VOKRA since June 2015. As someone who has an older cat, she felt volunteering at VOKRA would be an educational place to learn how to care for her aging kitty. Playing an integral role at our Operations Centre’s reception, Lindsey welcomes visitors and walk-ins. She is the fresh face of VOKRA! She explains how our organization works and about the programs we run, all designed to improve the lives of kitties. Other than working at reception, she also provides administration support, where she learns all about kitties through procedures, documentation and updates.

Her most memorable VOKRA moment to date goes back to November 2015, when a couple and their two children were looking to adopt. They specifically wanted only one cat, so Lindsey introduced them to Trudi Mom, who also happened to have two kittens. They fell in love with the mom and two kittens and ended up adopting the whole family. It warmed Lindsey’s heart when the wife said she could not separate Trudi Mom from her beloved babies.

ViperLindsey’s favourite cat is (obviously) her foster fail, Marty. He’s a fantastic cuddle buddy, while throwing in numerous affectionate licks. He makes an awesome buddy to her 3-year old tuxedo cat.

As a volunteer at VOKRA’s reception, Lindsey plays an integral role in extending our organization’s purpose by being the first point of contact for many current and future volunteers, as well as for those adopting! We thank you, Lindsey, for always working hard to ensure the best service and information is offered from VOKRA.

Post written by Aurora C.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. THANK YOU!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Meet Colleen & Suzie-Q

SuzieQ_ColleenColleen and Suzie-Q are literally the picture purrfect pair.

These sisters came to VOKRA when they were only 5-weeks-old from a house where they were living with dozens of other cats. The home owner did her best, but was no longer capable of taking care of them. When Colleen and Suzie-Q arrived they weren’t in the best of health so they went to live with experienced foster mom Valerie.

Initially the kittens were sneezing, as if they had a cold, and then Colleen’s right eye became runny. The kittens took a trip to the vet where they were both diagnosed with having a feline herpesvirus (FHV) infection. Initially this may sound scary, but FHV is actually quite common, especially with cats who come from crowded and stressful situations. The symptoms are easily treated with a course of antibiotics and sometimes, like in Colleen’s case, eye drops are needed for a week or two. With medication, good nutrition and tender loving care, most cats will make a successful recovery and lead a long, full life.

Which is exactly the case with Suzie-Q and Colleen! The sisters are now 13 weeks old, symptom free and no longer require medicine.

Suzie-Q

Suzie-Q

“They’re great, relaxed kittens and are ready to go to their forever home,” said foster mom Valerie.  “Recently they’ve been in a photo shoot, gone to a school presentation where they were loved by 40 kids and spent three hours on a film set where there were wrapped in their fluffy blankies and  happily held by just about everyone on set. They’re beautiful, funny, sweet-tempered and gentle.”

Suzie-Q and Colleen entertain each other and love playing in their tunnel, with a laser dot and with the ball in a circle toy. They like to cuddle, especially at bedtime and when they have full tummies. These two kittens are so special and want to find their perfect home where they can be loved and cared for.

They may have had a bit of a rough start in life, but today they’re doing well and continue to show their strong spirit and independence. Their FHV diagnosis shouldn’t stop them from finding a loving forever home and leading long, happy lives.

Colleen photoshoot 1

Colleen

Although most cats with FHV will remain latently infected (meaning they’re life-long carriers of the virus), for a majority of cats being a carrier causes no problems and they’re not a risk to others. Occasionally some cats will intermittently have flare-ups, but this is more common following episodes of stress or when the cat’s immune system is suppressed. Since FHV is contagious and can be spread among cats, Suzie-Q and Colleen are looking for a home just for the two of them where they can get lots of cuddles.

If you’re interested in adopting Suzie-Q and Colleen please fill out an adoption application today at www.vokra.ca/adopt.

 

Volunteer of the Month – April 2016

CharisWe’re kicking off National Volunteer Week by introducing you to our Volunteer of the Month for April – Charis Kalesnikoff!

Charis has been volunteering with VOKRA since 2012. However, well before she came across our organization she frequently volunteered at various animal shelters doing cat care. Several years ago, Charis started researching cat behavior, prompting her to spend extra time observing and interacting with cats who were having trouble adjusting. Conducting this research and being alongside cats made Charis long to work with a positive, supportive organization that’s able to address the unique needs of all cats and help to make them “adoptable”. Valerie, whom she was acquainted with at other shelters, encouraged Charis to volunteer with VOKRA.

As a VOKRA volunteer, Charis cares for the cats as best as she can. She drives, delivers, traps, helps find lost cats, and just about anything that she can do to help. Soon, she realized that although VOKRA wanted to save as many kittens and cats as they could, costs were an issue. Charis then became an active fundraising volunteer. She helps with various events such as Walk for the Kitties, attends information and adoption events around the Lower Mainland and works hard selling our calendars and gift cards.

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Charis (r) and Valerie spread the word about VOKRA at a recent event at VanCity

The main fundraising activity Charis participates in is the gift card program. Here she tells us how it all started:

“One night at a VOKRA meeting, I asked Karen about a handful of gift cards sitting in a box that were for sale but not being bought,” explained Charis. “I told Karen I would try to sell the cards and give it a one year trial. The first month we made a profit of a pitiful $25 – hardly enough to contribute to vet bills, food, litter, etc. The rest is history. Our gift card program is alive and well, and we now have a hardworking Gift Card Team of five volunteers.”

All Charis’ effort and long hours are because she believe in the work VOKRA does and because she loves cats.

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At first Webster wasn’t so sure about being indoors

“My favourite rescue story is of a cat that I called Webster,” said Charis. “His journey that year with me and several VOKRA volunteers is representative of how meaningful the work of rescuing cats is for all of us. This young, handsome and clever cat had survived a winter in a rundown, deserted cabin. It was due for demolition very soon, so he would have no shelter. He was beside a busy highway close to a coyote den and searching for food during the night. It took me a month to trap him and he was terrified, but not aggressive. Once I took him to VOKRA, we questioned whether he would ever be able to live inside a home and trust humans. Thankfully nobody would give up on him.”

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Webster well adjusted and happy today

Charis goes on to say, “Webster was a challenge, but was eventually fostered by Becky (from Confident Cats) when no other foster volunteer could be found to work with him. He’s the signature cat on Becky’s workshop photo teaching us how to help shy and fearful cats. This lucky boy has been living in a wonderful forever home for over a year now. His owners send updates which tell us he is healthy, happy, spoiled and adored by his adopted family. I miss him but love that he is safe and loved.”

Charis is clearly dedicated to VOKRA and all the work we do. She’s an incredible asset to our organization and we’re lucky to have her do all the work she does. Thank you, Charis! You’ve been with us for more than four years and we look forward to many more… and more stories too!

Post written by Aurora C.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. THANK YOU!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.