Why we Walk for the Kitties

UPDATE: It turns out Polly is a boy! Because he’s feral we weren’t able to get close enough to give him a thorough examination so it wasn’t until he was put under anesthesia to remove his rotten teeth that the discovery was made.

Senior cat Polly was living under a vacant house when she was spotted by a letter carrier who asked us to help.

Suffering from a severe infection to her nose and left eye, poor bedraggled Polly was taken to our Operation Centre for treatment. She came in very dirty and skinny with broken teeth and many puncture wounds. We suspect she must have been attacked by another animal, but initially the vet couldn’t rule out cancer on her nose.

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BEFORE & AFTER

To make matters worse, Polly is feral. This means she didn’t grow up with any human interaction so she lashes out when people come near. But this didn’t deter VOKRA co-founder Maria. She wouldn’t give up on Polly and everyday she patiently and slowly cleaned her face and applied antibiotic cream.

There was a point when Maria thought Polly’s nose would never heal, but suddenly one day new, pink skin began to grow. Today Polly’s nose is almost completely healed. After she has a couple of her rotten teeth removed, our hope is she’ll be able to live out the rest of her life in our feral barn sanctuary.

Polly is just one of the thousands of reasons why we Walk for the Kitties.

Each year, VOKRA rescues more than 1,800 homeless cats in the Lower Mainland. Unlike many other animal rescue groups, VOKRA is a volunteer-driven, no-kill organization. Our work is made possible through the generous support of volunteers, adopters and people like you.

Please help us help kitties like Polly this September 18 by joining us for the 7th Annual Walk for the Kitties.

Eventbrite - VOKRA's 7th Annual Walk for the Kitties

Walk for the Kitties is our largest fundraising event of the year. Learn more here.

Can’t make it on September 18? You can still donate today!

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Volunteer of the Month – July 2016

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Our July Volunteer of the Month is all of our VOKRA volunteers! We want to thank each and everyone one of you for all your help and support at our Volunteer Appreciation Barbeque on July 24!

We welcome our current volunteers and their families to drop in anytime between 1 – 3 p.m. for a rooftop BBQ. We’ll have door prizes and tours of our Operations Centre. If you’re planning to come to the pawty please RSVP by July 17 by clicking here.

Like we like to say, volunteering is the joy of making a difference one purr at a time. Thank you all for all your dedication and support for VOKRA! We honestly couldn’t do it without you.

Kittens, Kittens, Kittens!

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Kittens, kittens everywhere!

Kitten season may be the cutest time of the year, but it means a lot of extra costs and work for us here at VOKRA.

Each year during kitten season we care for more than 400 kittens, and this year is no exception. As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we can’t do this without the support of people like you.

Kittens in our care have a chance at a happy, safe and healthy life. Kittens like Samuel, Simon, Lily Mae and Ginger McGraw. These little orphans came to us when they were only a couple weeks old. We’ll never know what happened to their mom, but what we do know is they wouldn’t be alive today without our care.

When these kittens arrived they were so young they needed to be bottle fed every 2 – 3 hours. Between the cost of special kitten formula and supplements, nursing kits and medical care it costs more than $250 to raise each kitten. That adds up to more than $1,000 just for this litter alone.

Will you help us today?

Your support today will help us buy extra food and litter, and will also pay for veterinary care and medication.

Please donate today to help save kittens like Ginger and her brothers and sister.

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Luna’s Happy Tail Ending

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Dear VOKRA,

We adopted our kitty Luna in early December 2015. I often see adoption stories on the blog and I thought I’d write you to let you know how much we love our cat.

I have to start by saying I have had a life-long allergy to cats. Puffy eyes, swollen glands, itchy hives, runny and sneezing nose were all a part of me coming close to a cat. I grew up with a dog always in our house but I never thought I would be a cat owner, even though a house cat was something that intrigued me and seemed closer to our family lifestyle. Actually, I loudly proclaimed pets were too much work and we would never have a pet to anyone that would listen!

Fast forward to my eldest son’s grade 2 year. He was experiencing bullying from a classmate. He’s a sensitive dude who often feels his emotions strongly and this relationship in his class was really hurting him. At the same time as we were helping him through this with counselling etc., he was becoming more and more obsessed with cats. He would read up on all the different domestic breeds and he knew things about wild cats (both common and obscure, like “do you know that cheetah’s claws don’t retract because they need to grip on uneven ground for running?”) from a favorite tv show that he would tell anyone who’d listen. Then as he started grade 3 his loving teacher made “cats” an official topic of research for him and he’s been working on a cat project all year. I started to think my baby boy might need a cat to care for and love and to whisper out all the things that were in his busy little mind at the end of a day. It really seemed like a huge leap for our family, and I didn’t tell my kids I was “caving”, but I did feel a little softened to the idea of a family pet IF we could find the right one.

At this same time I became interested in following the young UK artist Iris Grace; a little girl with autism who paints like Monet. Iris’ family found her a Maine Coon cat and they became fast friends. The cat, named Thula, became a therapy cat for Iris and is helping her to overcome fears and even start speaking. It is truly an amazing story!

I started looking into Maine Coons and Siberians. I was willing to pay big bucks for a breed that could be such a buddy to my boy and also perhaps be less allergenic. Long story short, they’re hard to come by and we had a strange dealing with a breeder who wouldn’t let me visit the parent cats (to see if my allergies were very bad) so I gave up on the idea.

Then one day, on recommendation from a neighbour, I started looking at the VOKRA site. I was intrigued because all of the cats are fostered, which meant we could visit the house where they’d been for a while so I could test my allergies. As well, I wanted to make sure any cat we chose would not be too afraid of children, especially my youngest, rambunctious and VERY loving five year old. It all happened very quickly. Once I told the boys we would be visiting cats they were cautiously thrilled! I perused the website and once an adoption coordinator called us we made our first appointment.

At the first house, there were three adult cats who had been feral. We were there in particular to see one who’d been recommended as very gentle and more social. Unfortunately that particular kitty hid from us immediately. We were able to coax the three kitties out with some kibble, but over the 45 minutes we spent there none of the three had let us pet them. As we were about to leave the foster parents were shocked to see one of the kitties laying down in front of my son and baring her belly to him. He was on his stomach nearby and was laying so patiently. They said that cat hadn’t let anyone in the house pet her yet and here she was bonding with my son!

We left that night and ultimately decided we were not the right family to put in all the work that kitty might need to become more social and comfortable. But, I was even more convinced that my son was a cat person and needed a kitty to love.

Luna_2The next visit we made to a foster home was ultimately the ONE. Luna was being fostered in a house with a six year old. When we arrived, Luna lay down and allowed my boys to pet her all over. She purred so loudly! On the recommendation of the adoption coordinator I took a towel with me and rubbed it all over Luna, then took it home with me and kept it nearby. My allergic reaction was very slight with just some sneezing so we decided to bring Luna home. (It turns out my allergies have gone completely now. I did discover that I am very allergic to some litters and it has made me wonder if my reaction all this time has been more to the litter or the airborne litter particles, rather than the cat. Hmmmm!)

Being a reticent cat owner I was at first going through the motions by simply teaching the boys how to change the litter and feeding Luna on a schedule. However, over these past few months Luna has become our little baby. We’re all happy to see her when we get home and her quirky play time amuses us to no end. She sleeps beside my feet and won’t get up in the morning until I do, even if I sleep in on a weekend which is something I find extremely charming. She’s my company.

Luna_3The house is filled with a constant sing-song of “Luna you’re SO lovely, aren’t you? Who is the best girl?” from my little boys and Luna purrs loudly in response. Just yesterday when my youngest and I were on the bus he turns to me and says out of the blue “mommy don’t you just LOVE Luna?!? I do so much!” And nothing fills my heart more than seeing poor Luna, who is not terribly comfortable, wrapped up in my eldest son’s arms as he whispers whatever he needs to into her ears. She seems to listen patiently and always waits until he’s done before letting him know she’d rather like to be put back down:)

All of this was a very long way to say that we’re very, very happy VOKRA adopters and very much appreciate what you do at VOKRA. The process was perfect for our family and we couldn’t be more fulfilled now having Luna in our house.

Stefanie

P.S. Luna was the name given to her by the foster. We had at first decided on other choices, but as we adopted her just before Christmas, and December 25th had the first full moon on Christmas in over thirty years, we thought Luna was rather fitting!

Do you have a Happy Tail to share? Email us at communications@vokra.ca.

Volunteer of the Month – June 2016

Andrea Tremblay_LegendreAnother month has flown by which means it’s time to honour one of our fabulous volunteers. We’ve been taking care of kitty after kitty here at VOKRA and now it’s time to recognize our Volunteer of the Month, Andrea Tremblay-Legendre!

Andrea is a pianist and, after hurting her arm due to excessive playing, she had to go from playing the piano five hours a day to nothing. During this time she discovered VOKRA and thought we’d be the perfect organization to volunteer with because she loves animals, especially cats, and she’s an incredibly helpful person. Almost a year ago, Andrea started volunteering at our Operations Centre before becoming a foster parent in October 2015. At the start of this year she also joined our medical team.

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Andrea with former foster Gino

The best part about volunteering for Andrea is socializing with her foster cats. The two fosters she has had were really shy cats upon arrival and she loved seeing them learning to trust her. She also enjoys watching the cats evolve, from when they first arrive at our Operations Centre as sick, feral or shy, to when they get better and go into foster care and on to finding their forever family and home. Andrea loves being a witness to those happy endings VOKRA helps to provide and knowing she’s a part of their successful recoveries and tamings.

Andrea has many favourite kitties and can’t name a favourite, but here she shares a memorable moment, “Julius is a cat I’ll never forget. When I first started volunteering on the medical team, I didn’t have any medical knowledge, so I had to learn everything! Julius is the cat that I gave subcutaneous fluids (sub-Q) fluids to for the first time and also an injection. That was a gigantic step for me and Julius was the perfect kitty for my first try.”

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Andrea with current foster cat Chevalier.

Like all that are a part of VOKRA, Andrea plays an important role in ensuring all the kitties we care for find their forever homes and neverending happiness. Thank you Andrea for all your hard work and dedication to the kitties!

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.

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.

 

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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.”

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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.