Zoë Knows: Keeping Your Cat Cool in the Summer

Zoë is 11 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook, and swim at the beach. 

Yes, cats like to be warm, and can usually be found sleeping in the sunniest spots of the house, but what many cat owners don’t feel the need to consider is that cats (like humans) do experience discomfort in the heat. So as the temperature rises, it’s your job as a cat owner to know how to keep your cat happy this Summer and for years to come.

My grandparents' cat, Ginny, cooling her belly

My grandparents’ cat, Ginny, cooling her belly

#1. It’s as important for cats to stay hydrated as it is for humans. Some owners like to put ice cubes in their cat’s water bowl, but I prefer to use refrigerated water and sometimes freeze the bowl. You should also make sure to refill the bowls frequently and maybe have multiple bowls around your house.

#2. Another way to keep your cat cool is to give them little “baths”. But don’t worry, you won’t need to dunk your cat in freezing water, a scenario only resulting in scratches and hissing. All you need to do is fill a bowl with cold water and find your cat. It’s best to do this when your cat is lying down, or maybe a bit tired. You definitely don’t want to force this on your cat, certain cats might not like this. Either wet your hands, or wet a small towel and gently rub your cat. If you have a kitten, it may remind them of their mother grooming them.

#3. If you’re cat is longhaired, you might want to give them a small haircut. This will not only make it more comfortable for them, but it will be easier for you to groom them. You should also groom your cat more often since in the summer cats shed a lot.

#4. Your cat needs a cool place to sleep. Keep a few spaces uncovered by carpet or blankets for your cat to lie on. If your windows need to be open, you should have secure screens, of course. But we have had too many VOKRA foster cats push screens out and escape this summer! We recommend that windows be locked in place and not open more than two inches. Consider putting a fan near one of your cat’s favourite sleeping spots. Make sure that shade is available and that your cat is never overheating.

#5. When we’re focusing on what to do, its hard to remember that there are things that we shouldn’t do. First of all is gel packs. We do not recommend using these to keep your cat cool as they may contain toxic ingredients that may be dangerous to your cat if they chew on the pack. Ice packs under towels are okay though.

Any time you see your cat panting, having trouble breathing, (looking like he’s) losing consciousness or even drooling take action and go to a vet immediately. Make sure to keep a close eye on your cat, especially if your cat is a senior.

Though this past week or two our weather hasn’t been super sunny, it’s still important to know the basics. Once you know that your cat is safe, both you and your cat can relax and enjoy the long, hot summer break.

My cat, Libra, considering a cool bath

My cat, Libra, considering a cool bath

Volunteer of the Month, July 2015!

With summer in full swing, VOKRA is in amazing spirits and is once again thankful for all the help that comes from volunteers – especially in this heat! They are dedicated, high-spirited, and full of joy. This month, we’d like to dedicate our Volunteer of the Month post to Elaine Lai, a long-running, devoted VOKRA volunteer.

Elaine first started her volunteering at VOKRA in 2010 as a foster. Elaine cared for and saw many kittens off to their forever homes but there was one that didn’t quite work out that way. Apparently Kaleia’s forever home turned out to be Elaine’s house! We call this a Foster Fail but it’s really a success all around, don’t you think?

Kaleia's and her siblings while in foster with Elaine

Kaleia and her siblings while in foster with Elaine

Kaleia, from foster cat to family cat

Kaleia today,  all grown up and happy in her forever home with Elaine

Since Kaleia made three permanent cats at Elaine’s house, there was now a shortage of room for fostering, which prompted Elaine to join Peggy’s rockin’ Adoptions Team to help interview potential adopters. She described this position as “playing matchmaker for adopters to their meant-to-be kitties” and the role is essentially eHarmony, but for kittens and cats! That’s one fun way to describe the Adoptions Team! Elaine loved being a part of the Adoptions Team, being able to help people find their lifelong partners.

When Elaine had to move to Whistler for a work contract in 2013 she was unable to stay with the Adoptions Team. However, she and her inventive self thought of a way to continue contributing to VOKRA despite not being in Vancouver, through raising money for our organization. She started her Knittin’ for Kittens and Crocheting for Cats at VOKRA Facebook page, in which she knitted items to sell. In 2014, the sales raised over $1000! Now, there’s an entire team behind the page, expanding the catalogue for increasing sales.

Cheeky cat bum coasters, as part of the catalogue.

Cheeky cat bum coasters, as part of the catalogue.

Click here to order your own!

Elaine in a sea of donated yarn  – happy knitting!

Elaine in a sea of donated yarn – happy knitting!

Elaine’s involvement with VOKRA does not stop here though. Having recently moved back to Vancouver, she has joined the Donations Team as an appreciation-giver, personally thanking all of VOKRA’s supporters who have donated through Canada Helps. Morgan from VOKRA’s Board of Directors says,

Elaine is amazing. She is my favourite kind of volunteer – one who takes initiative but always checks in to make sure she’s on track. And she always is. She is dependable, creative, committed and has an infectious enthusiasm. I really love working with Elaine and know that our valued donors are in great hands with her on board.

The generosity and kindness of VOKRA’s donors is humbling, and often moves Elaine to tears. Both VOKRA and our kitties appreciate every donation, no matter big or small. Every bit helps, and can definitely make a difference.

Having given so much time and effort to VOKRA throughout the last five years, we really give our biggest thanks to Elaine. She has done so much to help this organization expand, and ultimately help us grow into the best VOKRA we can be. Although it is Elaine’s job to give appreciation, let the roles be reversed this one time to say a huge thank you to you, Elaine! We appreciate all that you do to help us, as well as the kitties. You, empower us. Knit on!

If you would like to get involved with our wonderful VOKRA team, please visit our website for more information, and apply to volunteer today!

Post written by Aurora C

The Story of Hank

cat_large_Hank_09340_1When you meet a Hank you just know he’s going to be a special guy, and our Hank is no exception. A tall brown tabby with rugged good looks, Hank is a true gentleman to all who he encounters, both humans and animals alike.

Gentle, kind, easygoing and never upset or aggressive, he possesses the kind of grace and ease of manner that people pay big bucks to learn how to have. His foster mom Becky describes him as dashing. He has that magical touch that draws people (and animals) to him – he’s basically the Oprah of cats.

Laid back and filled with love and affection, Hank is officially known as the “the gentle giant”, which shows in his calm and unassuming manner. He loves being around people and is happiest with others, especially if belly rubs are involved. This is true even when he’s sleeping – he’ll look up, make eye contact, chirp at you in a pleasant way and then go back to sleep. Could you ask for a more darling boy?

Life, however, hasn’t always been as kind and gracious to Hank as he’s been to others. Hank came to us from a growing colony of cats who visit a volunteer-run feeding station and his genial nature towards humans suggest that he was likely dumped there, or else abandoned nearby. He was living outside and surviving, but just barely. He had bite wounds, an eye infection and his ear was torn down the middle.


X-ray of Hank showing the pellets in his body

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his alert foster soon noticed something strange when she pet him: there were bumps on his legs, bumps on his head and bumps on his chest. Tiny bumps that could only be one thing: pellets. Once at the vet, it was confirmed: Hank had at least 30 lead pellets lodged inside his body – a large amount for anyone, never mind a small animal. They were everywhere: his legs, his chest, his head, his back. In one paw alone, there were 10 pellets and the amount and location of the pellets suggested that someone had cornered this sweet boy and purposefully shot him, multiple times over. There are no words for something as cruel and heartless.


Some of the pellets removed from Hank

At the time of his first vet visit, pellets had started to splinter off and the lead was likely suppressing his immune system, hence the poor condition he was found in. He was also starving, eating two full sized cans of food himself everyday, another side effect of having lead trapped in his body. So far he has had two surgeries and still all the pellets have not been removed. In fact, more are still being discovered. He will probably require at least one more operation and his care has cost more than $1,000 – but this boy is priceless and worth every penny.

Hank is thriving in his foster home, where he plays big brother to shy and nervous cats, teaching them that humans are okay, in spite of the horrific and unimaginable treatment he has received in the past. He has also befriended an anxious dog, teaching her that cats are okay, having calmly rubbed up against her as soon as they met. He loves playing with not only his foster cat brothers, but also the resident foster rabbits – they chase him and he chases back. To say that Hank is awesome and loved by all is an understatement. He also loves food and being cuddled, but who doesn’t?

But the one thing that Hank loves most is to be loved. His ideal life is one that includes lots of windows to bird watch, lots of cuddling and shy animals he can befriend. Happily, all of that is about to come true – after only two and a half weeks on our website, Hank is being adopted and will be living with a shy cat named Malcolm. As soon as Hank met his adopter, Dani, he ran over to her purring – it was love at first sight! Dani says that Hank’s life will be far better than it has ever been, filled with love, cuddles and all the indoor bird watching he could hope for.

According to his foster, if Hank were human he’d still be a friendly giant, using his strength to help others. In spite of the atrocious treatment he has experienced in the first years of his life, he has opened his heart again and again and is a shining example of courage and love. As Becky said, Hank ”deserves to be loved for the rest of eternity”. Nothing could be truer.

You can help VOKRA pay for Hank’s ongoing vet bill, as well as food and medication for the other cats in our care, by donating today.

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Post written by Ellen R.


Update: Mr. Bungo

Mr. Bungo was the face of our 2014 holiday campaign. Here he tells us what he’s been up to since he was rescued.

BungoMy name is Mr. Bungo and since the last time you read about me I’ve changed. I was extremely malnourished after living on the streets of East Vancouver by myself, covered in fleas, freezing cold and sitting in puddles. Thanks to VOKRA and my foster home, I’ve been able to get back on my feet. Little by little I gained weight and slowly regained my energy.

One day, as I was basking in the sun in my foster home, I had visitors. A lovely lady named Shawna and her husband Chris had come to meet me. They seemed very nice and I liked them straight away. I guess they liked me too because they adopted me. I finally have a forever home.


Now I love to sleep at the end of their bed, feeling safe by being close to the people that love me most. One of my favourite things is to lay on either Shawna or Chris and have a good cuddle. It’s good to be able to relax and not worry about anything.

I also like to have some fun though by chasing around my toy mouse around the house. When I catch it I have to make sure to let everyone know I’ve done a good job by parading it around the house in my mouth. And sometimes Shawna’s young nieces also come over to play and they almost always give me treats!

Shawna says I bring so much joy and happiness to their home and I’m a constant source of affection and smiles. Thank you VOKRA, Shawna and Chris for helping me become a bright and joyous cat. I couldn’t be happier!

As told to Aurora C.


Meet Brooks

Three-year old Brooks was hanging around a movie set when he was reported to VOKRA. Perhaps he had his eye on a cinematic career because he certainly has the looks for it. He is, in the words of his foster, “a stunningly handsome cat whose quirky character is what makes him so charming and unique.” She compares him to Johnny Depp.


Brooks is playful and curious and has come a long way in the short time he’s been an indoor cat. He’s a very loyal friend and even likes to act like a guard cat. He may have musical aspirations, or just like being above the crowd, because one of his favourite spots is sitting on top of the piano.

Brooks is very adaptable and is content to be at home by himself, but this doesn’t mean he’s a loner. During parties or social gathering he always want to be at the centre of things. He loves playing with people, especially when it involves a stick with a feather on the end. And, while he isn’t a lap cat, he will sleep on the bed once he gets to know you.

A mighty hunter, Brooks strives to keep the insect population down by catching flies mid-air and eating spiders. He’s an enthusiastic eater and, besides insects, he very much enjoys Feline Greenies treats.

20150606_155947Brooks makes unusual noises and likes having his long body brushed. Patting sessions can go on for half an hour if you have the energy! You must also be sure to scruff him occasionally as you pat him and to massage him decisively. Indecisive patting does not please him.

Brooks would do wonderfully in a home with no other cats or children and will make a loyal companion for years to come. If you’d like to meet Brooks click here.

Post written by Katherine Drabek.


James’ Happy Tail Ending

James2We all know pets are part of our families. Sometimes companion animals come to us at just the right time in our lives. Such is the case for recent adopter Mischa and her mother, Frida. “My mom had wanted a kitten for a while but it just wasn’t the right time,” said Mischa, “the universe pulled some strings and brought my mom and James together…again…and again!”

It all started when VOKRA took in and fostered a litter of kittens that were found in the basement of the community centre that Frida volunteers in. One kitten in particular had caught Frida’s eye. The kitten has cerebellar hypoplasia, which causes him to walk with an unsteady gait. “My mom bonded with a little black and white baby and her heart went out to him,” said Mischa, “he was the runt of the litter and had what everyone thought was a bum leg. So everyday my mom cuddled him and carried him around.”

Frida&JamesAfter the kitten was fostered through VOKRA, Frida was able to take him home. They decided to name him James, after Mischa’s father and Frida’s husband. “My dad passed away January 30, 2015 and he was quite frail and wobbly so naturally my mom became attached to this kitten who reminded her of her husband,” explained Mischa, “that’s how he got his name, James…after my dad.”

James has settled right in with his new family and he and Frida are now inseparable. James is quite the curious kitten and when he isn’t playing or poking around, this cuddle bug can be found purring away in Frida’s lap.

“He adjusted quite well since he already knew my mom. He was just sort of back where he was supposed to be,” said Mischa.

Do you have a “Happy Tail” you’d like to share? Email us with the subject line “Happy Tails” at info@vokra.ca.

Post written by Kim C.

Ask Dr. Waffles


Dr. Waffles (pictured) 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,

I have a problem with my claws. The scratching post bores me. I really can’t be bothered to scritch and scratch at that tedious thing. But because of that, I’ve noticed something quite alarming: my claws have grown so long they have grown out, around and are now starting to pierce back into my paws. I am a really puffy kitty with super puffy paws, and since my paws are so incredible and luxuriously puffy, my people haven’t even noticed that my claws are now ingrown! My beautiful fur covers the whole ordeal entirely! It hurts and I am starting to wonder if my distaste of the scratching post was a mistake.

With sore paws,

Miss Snowball

Dear Miss Snowball,

Personally, I prefer to do my nails myself with the post, but I know several puffy kitties that much prefer a regular manicure. First, don’t be mad at your people; they probably mean well and it can be hard to see past all the puff of your paws! But it is very important that once you get their attention, they take you to a vet right away to have your paws fixed up properly. I bet it’s hard to walk around and even to use the litterbox with such wounds! After your paws are clipped and fixed, they should make sure they give you regular manicures, or find a scratching post that you might want to use. There are a lot of different kinds out there – maybe there is one you’d like.

Dr. Waffles

Dr. Waffle’s apparel provided by Business Catual