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


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.



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.


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.)

Her Majesty Cinnabar

Meet Cinnabar, the Queen of VOKRA’s Operations Centre!

You’d never know it to meet her now, but this darling little cat is lucky to be alive. VOKRA got an urgent call from a woman whose kids found a cat wandering around their property in Agassiz one night. The tiny cat was starving, injured and very weak.

One of our volunteers, Marion, got off work in Langley at 9:30 pm then grabbed her boyfriend and drove to pick the cat up. Now, if you’re not from around these parts, let me explain that this was about an hour drive for Marion. Each way. She didn’t get home until well after midnight so she set up a heater for the kitty to keep her warm and kept her overnight. Her assessment didn’t fill us with much hope. “She’s a mess,” Marion reported. Her fur was almost completely matted and what wasn’t matted was missing. Her lower lip was torn from her jaw. Her breathing was raspy and laboured. Her little belly looked raw and sore; either someone had tried to cut the matts away or the cat had been sleeping somewhere wet that irritated her skin. The poor thing was in very rough shape.

The call went out over our VOKRA channels (the Cat Signal, if you will) for a volunteer to drive her from Langley to Vancouver the next morning and people scrambled to make arrangements. Susan arrived at 8:30 the next morning and brought her into the city. All in all, volunteers drove over 250 KM to bring her into our care. (Because our volunteers are the best.)

She was treated and spent four days on IV therapy at Killarney Animal Hospital in Vancouver (one of VOKRA’s biggest supporters) because she was so thin, dehydrated and weak.

Cinnabar at Killarney

When she was strong enough, she was brought to our Operations Centre where the daunting task of shaving off her matted fur began. The matts were so bad they hung like dreadlocks off her tiny body, pulling uncomfortably at her skin. Her tail was so matted it looked like a stick and, when our crew removed and pulled away the knots, they discovered that part of the tail was missing and maggots were feeding off the remaining infected part.

Cinnabar fur Cinnibar belly 2 Cinnibar belly

You wouldn’t think this would be a very happy cat. You’d be wrong. Named Cinnabar for her resemblance to the beautiful Cinnabar Hawk Owl, she was calm and even purred while volunteers worked to give her a new hairdo. When she was done, she was still a mess, but a vital, grateful and beautiful one. A hot mess, you might even say.

Cinnabar Tail

Photo by Roham Sheikholeslami

It didn’t take long for her to claim the Operations Centre as her kingdom and everyone who enters her loyal subjects. Lucky for us, Cinnabar is a benevolent monarch who loves to play and cuddle with those she rules over. Her favourite perch is at the top of the tower of cat food boxes so she can keep an eye on everyone and everything but she can also be found lounging in her cat tree, lying on people’s coats and trying to break through the gate to get into the Reception area. She’s a handful, our Cinnabar, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Pretty Cinnibar

Photo by Roham Sheikholeslami

Her beautiful fur is growing back and her wounds are healing well. She’s more petite than scrawny now and her eyes positively sparkle. Except when she’s giving you the Cinnabar hawk glare. This usually only happens when she has to wear her cone to keep her from licking at her still-healing skin. We try to tell her how regal it makes her look but this is what we get in response…

Cinnabar Stare

Once Cinnabar is given a clean bill of health she will be ready for adoption. It will be hard to let this one go and the Operations Centre won’t be the same without her but we know that there will be many more special kitties coming to take her place. Because, unfortunately, the need for someone to rescue abandoned, homeless, unwanted and orphaned cats and kittens continues to grow. VOKRA volunteers will be there to meet that need but keeping up with enormous vet bills (like those incurred by Cinnabar) feeding and caring for our hundreds of cats is overwhelming to say the least. You can help.

Every cat deserves to be loved and cared for. No cat deserves to go through what Cinnabar did. Thanks to donations from animal lovers like you, Cinnabar has a second chance and is loving every minute of it. But her bills are far from covered. Please help make sure they are and that we can rescue more special cats like her. Visit the donations page of VOKRA’s website and contribute what you can.

Her Majesty awaits your donation.

Cinnabar Michele


Would You Donate Six for Karen’s Sixtieth?

There is normally a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy around Karen Duncan’s birthdays. VOKRA’s amazing President chooses to celebrate every day rather than marking the passing of the years. Or something like that. All we know is, if anyone dares bring up her birthday, OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

But not this year.

Karen Age 9

This year, Karen is turning sixty. Sure, 30 may be the new 20, and life may begin at 40 and, apparently, it’s nifty to be 50, but sixty…well, sixty is a pretty big deal. How should one celebrate such a momentous milestone in the life of such an amazing woman? By saving the lives of hundreds of homeless, abandoned and unwanted kittens, of course. I mean, that’s what Karen has done every day for the past 14 years. But let’s do this up properly today, shall we?

We’re asking everyone who is a VOKRA supporter, a Karen lover, a cat fancier or just someone who appreciates the number 6, to join us in our Six for Karen’s Sixtieth campaign. Donate $6, $60, $600 or $6000 to VOKRA to honour Karen’s many years of dedication and the thousands of cats’ lives she has saved. If you set up a $6 monthly donation, it will be automagically withdrawn from your bank account each month (you won’t even miss six bucks!) and you’ll get a tax receipt at the end of the year for the total amount donated.

If each of VOKRA’s Facebook supporters donated $6, we could pay off one of our vet bills. If everyone who has ever adopted from VOKRA gave $6, we’d be able to wipe out our debts completely. No matter what the amount, we will put it to good use doing the work Karen loves. If you don’t have $6 to spare, we get it, we really do. Instead, we hope you will share this campaign and help us spread the word. Because every $6 counts.

Karen Duncan has dedicated her life to saving cats and kittens in Vancouver. On her 60th birthday, help us celebrate her by making a donation to her organization and helping her continue her heart’s work for many decades to come.

Karen smiling

Happy Birthday, Karen. We love you.


Click here to donate to VOKRA



Karen Duncan, VOKRA’s president, appeared on CTV Morning Live today to talk about the homeless cat population in Vancouver and what VOKRA is doing to help. She had with her some five-week old kittens who, of course, stole the show. One of those kittens was Farley Mowat, found beside a dumpster in Yaletown on May 6th. Thanks to Ann Luu for helping spread the word about TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) and the importance of spaying and neutering your pets.

Farley Mowat

 Click on wee Farley’s photo to see the video!