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.



“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


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


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.


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.


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.”


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

Join Team VOKRA


We want to let you in on a life changing experience.

On June 26, Team VOKRA will be participating in the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and 5k run/walk and we want you to join us. It might not change your life, but your support will definitely help change the lives of the more than 1,800 cats and kittens we rescue each year.

Cats like Gingersnaps. After being bitten by a coyote, Gingersnaps developed a serious spinal infection and needed special medial care. As a volunteer-driven non-profit, VOKRA relies on events like the Scotiabank Charity Challenge to raise much needed funds to care for Gingersnaps and all the other kitties in our care. Last year we raised more than $10,000 and, with your help, we know we can beat that this year.

You don’t have to be an athlete to join. And few on our team have ever fundraised before either (you only need to commit to raising a minimum of $50). All you need is a love of cats. This love is what unites us as a team and carries us all over the finish line!

It’s super easy to get started. To join Team VOKRA simply click here to register. And, as a bonus, each team member is entitled to a special preferred rate. To get the preferred rate be sure to enter PIN code 16VKITTENS. (And when you register please specify you’d like “Team VOKRA” on your bib.)

Once you’re registered we’ll send you a link to your personal fundraising page so you can get started right away. And to help ensure you achieve your fundraising and fitness goals, Team VOKRA will provide you with a half-marathon training schedule and weekly motivational emails. We’ll also invite you to join the Team VOKRA Facebook group so you can connect with your fellow team members. So there’s no excuses! Sign up today and join Team VOKRA!

Be sure to reserve your Team VOKRA spot as soon as possible so you don’t miss out!

register now

Don’t want to run? You can still help when you sponsor Team VOKRA today!

A Vancouver Renter’s Plea


We received the following heart wrenching letter on March 22, 2016.

To whom it may concern,

I’m a renter and my family has recently welcomed our second child! We are now a family of 6 – Dad, Mom, Toddler, Baby, Dog & Cat. We rent because we don’t have a down payment for a home that’s big enough for all of us. We need a minimum of 3 bedrooms. We won’t be having anymore children and our cat & dog are our family.

I’m writing this because for the past year we have been searching for a home for the 6 of us to rent in Vancouver. 1 full year of searching. The added stress to my pregnancy was terrible. We needed a bigger home for the humans that had at least 3 bedrooms, of course, but that wasn’t our biggest issue. Our dog is 60 pounds. She is far from a large dog, she’s a medium dog. She’s a mix breed that we rescued from the SPCA because we love dogs and believe a house isn’t a home without pets.

My husband and I grew up with homes full of pets; dogs, cats, hamsters, fish and bunnies. We both agreed that the memories we both had from animals in the home were extremely important to us for our kids. Our dog is wonderful and is my toddlers best friend. The idea of sending our dog back to the SPCA is out of the question. Our dog is our family.

Our cat was rescued from VOKRA years ago and my lap is never cold because our cat takes the job of “snuggler” very seriously. I have cried into our cats fur several times because it looks like we might have to send both our pets back to the very shelters we saved them from.

I’m writing this to you because my family finds itself in a horrible position: we can’t afford to buy a home in this city, but we also can’t rent in this city because not all our family members are welcome. “No pets” has become the normalcy in rentals and this means my toddler will lose his best friend and I will lose my lap warmer. Right now our current home allows all 6 of us, but it’s just too small. We need to grow into a bigger home, except there isn’t one that allows all of us to live in. Something has to give.

In Ontario a landlord has to accept your entire family – including your pets, why doesn’t British Columbia do that for us? We are not loud or messy or irresponsible. And yet, we can’t find anywhere to live in the city my husband and I both grew up in. We are getting to the point that both our dog and cat will be returned to the SPCA and VOKRA. Please help us. Please fix the housing crisis that this city faces. We can afford to live here as renters, we just aren’t all welcome.


A Vancouver Renter

Beware the Lily

easter-lily-dangerBeautiful and fragrant as many varieties of lily are, they pose an extreme danger to the cats. Any part of the lily, even the pollen, is toxic to cats if ingested and even a small amount is deadly. Unfortunately they often come into homes as part of a bouquet or as a potted plant and curious cats will nibble on the leaves or brush near the flower and get pollen on their coat.  They may also eat a leaf or flower in the garden and, in either case, they’ll become extremely ill and often die.

All this comes from personal experience. My one year-old cat, even though I had her on a leash, managed to mistake a daylily leaf for a blade of grass (they look very similar) and scarfed down a four inch piece while I had my back turned.  I noticed the fresh bite on the leaf and phoned the ASPCA poison control line to see if daylilies were as dangerous as the Asiatic lily that often comes in bouquets. They told me to get her to the vet as soon as possible as it’s the same class of plant. The vet gave Zena hydrogen peroxide, a treatment to make her throw up. Luckily it worked and we identified the piece of daylily leaf.



Even though we removed the poisonous item they told me that even a trace of this poison left in her stomach could destroy her kidneys, so she would have to spend at least 48 hours at the emergency clinic being constantly monitored by a vet and technician. They kept her on a constant IV drip with fluids to help remove the poison and hopefully stop it from destroying her kidneys.  She seems to have recovered without any ill effects, but the vet cautioned there are no tests that show kidney damage until there is only 25% of the kidney functioning so she still could have damage that will compromise her kidneys later in life. He said we were very lucky as usually they don’t see the cats that have ingested the plant until they start showing symptoms and often there is no help for them.


Easter lily

The most common symptoms are vomiting, anorexia and depression or lethargy. Less often hypersalivation, twitching and hyperthermia are seen.  Signs of renal failure are usually seen within 24 hours.

As little as one leaf can cause a fatality.  Using Diuresis (increasing urine production) helps to eliminate  what is left in the system and limit damage to the kidneys.  If the treatment is not started within 18 hours the prognosis is very poor. Unfortunately the cat may not arrive at the vet’s office within this time frame and it will be probably too late for effective treatment.


Stargazer lily

Indoor cats may be a greater risk as they may not have access to greens indoors and will be interested in any plant material, though they do prefer grass.

Some examples of lilies that are nephrotoxic to cats are: Daylily (hemerocallis), Asiatic Lily (Lilium asiatic), Tiger Lily (Lilium Tigrinlum), Easter Lily/Longiflorum Lily (Lilium loniflorum), Stargazer Lily (Lilium orientalis), Japanese Showy Lily (Lilium hydridum), Rubrum Lily (lilium rubrum) and Western or Wood Lily (Lilium umbellatum).  This is not a complete list as there are many varieties of lily.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s phone number is 1.888.426.4435. Their poison hotline is staffed by veterinarians and operates  24 hours, 7 days a week for information and instructions on what to do if your pet has ingested plants or substances that you suspect may be poisonous. At the present time there is a charge of $65USD for a veterinarian’s advice. Their poison control website has a list on toxic and non-toxic plants, poisonous household products and more.

Written by Laura Bartlet

Volunteer of the Month – March 2016

Another month, another Volunteer of the Month! This month we’re thanking one important and amazing volunteer, Trish Stamp.


Jack at the adoption event where Trish met Karen

Trish came in contact with VOKRA by meeting co-founder Karen at an adoption event, where she adopted her first VOKRA kitty, Jack. Talking to Karen made her want to help the kitties and that’s how her volunteering began. She has been volunteering with VOKRA for just over four years – she’s fostered, run errands, helped with cat care at our Operations Centre, run the online store, fundraised and been a vaccinator. Whew! Anything Trish can help with, she does, which is why we love her.

Her favourite part of volunteering is being able to see the kittens and cats get their forever home after a rough start from being either homeless, sick, abused, etc. Trish loves working alongside all the other VOKRA volunteers; they remind her there are still good people in the world that really care. Being a part of VOKRA is something Trish is proud of, and knowing she has a helping hand in improving the lives of kittens and cats puts a big smile on her face.

VOTM5_0316Trish digging through an old trailer looking
for kittens in which she later fostered.
VOTM7_0316The kittens that were found in the trailer!
They all have their forever homes and VOKRA
is able to receive updates through
the VOKRA Alumni Facebook page.

Trish has fostered numerous kitties and in turn, has a million photos.  She’s also what we call a “foster fail”.


These three fur babies were Trish’s first foster kittens! The black one, Hercules, was kept by Trish and renamed Rocco.


Look at how cute Tony Toes is! He was also adopted through VOKRA


Rocco and Tony Toes today.

Now enough of the adorable kitty photos (but really never enough), let’s get back to thanking Trish for all her hard work. As we can see from above, she puts her heart and soul into helping the kitties she works with. Trish is integral to VOKRA and how we help our fur babies – thank you Trish for everything you do. You’re spectacular and an absolute asset to our organization. Stay awesome and keep photographing your adorable kitties!

Post written by Aurora C.

If you’re interested in volunteering visit our website at

Keeping Your Cat Happy Indoors

Statistics show the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12-20 years compared to only 1-5 years for an outdoor cat. This is why at VOKRA we firmly believe keeping your cats strictly indoors will lead to a long, healthly life for your beloved pet and fewer worrisome nights and vet bills after a cat goes missing, is injured or even worse.

Many cats love to stay indoors and are never happier than when padding around the house. Yet sometimes your cat may become less content, which can be distressing both for you and your pet. When a cat isn’t 100% happy they can show it in a number of ways. For example, your cat may become ill or simply more lethargic than usual.

It perhaps doesn’t surprise many of you that your cat likes to be in control! And when they don’t feel in control in their environment this can lead to unhappiness. One simple way you can keep your cat comfortable in its environment is by keeping to a routine in your interactions with them. This can be by feeding them at the same time each day and even by trying to play with them at the same time.

Cats also need their senses stimulated to keep them happy. While many readers will already use catnip, there are also a number of other herbs that could provide a little interest and variation for your cat. For those of you whose cat isn’t partial to catnip, cat thyme may prove a useful substitute.

Enriching your cat’s life with toys is also a fun way to keep them happy. Unfortunately this can get expensive as cats tend to grow bored of toys pretty quickly, so why not try to enrich their lives by making some easy to create toys and puzzles? This is a great, cheap way of adding variation to your cat’s day to day life.

Hopefully this quick guide will give you some ideas to enrich your cat’s lives:

Keeping Your Cat Happy Iindoors
Keeping Your Cat Happy Indoors by Terrys Fabrics.