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 here.

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 vokra.ca/volunteer.

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.

Zoë Knows: Cats & Dogs

Zoë is 12 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.


Zoë’s Aunt Kelly with Oliver, who was rescued when they found him on a hike near Oliver, BC

You’re sure to recognize the expression “fighting like cats and dogs”. That’s because cats and dogs sometimes don’t get along. So can you have a cat and dog together in one household? I wanted to find out. I turned to my Aunt Kelly, whose family is full of animals and animal lovers. Over the years, she’s had so many pets (cats and dogs alike), that it’s almost impossible to count.

The first time she had a cat and dog together was when they were living in Japan. They adopted a stray kitten, Claude, and an abandoned puppy, Byrtnoth, within the same week. The puppy and the kitten were the same tiny size and they cuddled up together from day one, licking one another. They were inseparable.

I interviewed my Aunt Kelly and here’s what she had to say:

Zoë: In your opinion, can cats and dogs live together?
Kelly: Yes, they can. We have done it several times and it has always, with a little work, been a success.


Claude and Byrtnoth shortly after being rescued

Zoë: How did you first introduce your cats and dogs?
Kelly: I had two cats (Reggie, 11 and Oliver, 10) who we were introducing to our new dog (Apollo, 6). Apollo had never seen cats before. We kept the cats in a separate room and let Apollo explore the house. The animals could all see each other through a glass door, though Apollo didn’t care. We waited until Apollo was asleep and quiet and let Ollie in. He walked up and smacked him. Apollo didn’t care and went back to sleep.


Oliver and Jellybean taking a nap

Zoë: How about your new 5-year old adopted cat Jellybean?
Kelly: We put Jellybean in one room and let her get used to the surroundings for a couple days and didn’t let either the cat or dog in. After three days we let Ollie the cat get onto the bed with Jeff (Kelly’s husband) laying between them. Ollie walked over and sniffed the new cat. Jellybean woke up and smacked him in the face. After that we split the house in two with our glass doors. Jellybean had half the house, Ollie and Apollo had the other half. They could see each other through the glass doors and they ate beside them. After a little bit, we opened the glass door as they were eating. We took away the bowls when they finished. Jellybean licked Ollie and got mad because he was so dirty (she’s a very very clean cat).


Their new puppy Hugo out for a walk.

Zoë: You now have a new puppy named Hugo. How did you handle the introductions with him?
Kelly: Both the cats were already used to dogs and Hugo was so young (5 months) that we didn’t think he would have much of a problem, even though he’d never lived in a house before.

Zoë: Did you find better ways to introduce them as you kept doing it?
Kelly: Yes, definitely with the cats more then the dogs.

Zoë: What techniques would you recommend?
Kelly: Definitely introducing through the glass doors was really good. They can see each other but can’t get to each other. And the feeding too. You can do it with a baby gate as well.

Zoë:  Anything else you’d like to add?
Kelly: Really be careful as you don’t want to imprint bad behaviour on them, that will take longer to undo. It may seem like a lot of work but its worth it, now the cats are totally okay with each other and Hugo is… well he’s a work in progress, he’s a puppy after all!