Bottle Babies – A Full-Time Job

Once upon a time, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA and they’d see litters of tiny kittens arrive without moms. Karen and Maria quickly became expert bottle feeders and found their services in high demand during kitten season. Eventually, they branched off on their own and VOKRA was born.

It was then that Karen and Maria 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.

Abu before & after

Keeping kittens with their mom is always ideal, but at times its necessary to bottle feed them. Some kittens may only be fed temporarily until their mom is located or while she’s recovering from illness or injury. And sometimes there will be extra-large litters so we’ll help out the mama cat by topping up the kittens with a bottle. We always try our best to ensure mom is trapped, deploying an arsenal of tricks, such as using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But there are times when mom is never found or she has passed away, making it essential the kittens are bottle fed until they can graduate to solid food.

Being responsible for a litter of newborn kittens may involve loads of cuteness, but it’s a full-time job requiring a lot of work!

“Newborn kittens need to be fed every two hours, which means you don’t get a lot of sleep when they’re tiny,” explains foster mom Lea Tkatch. “You need to make sure they’re always warm and, just like human babies, they need to be burped and bathed. And you can’t forget to stimulate their poop and pee just like their feline mom would do.”

Aladdin before & after

Each year VOKRA receives an average of 10 litters that require full-time bottle feeding so we have a small group of volunteers who are dedicated to keeping these kittens alive. Lea has taken on the responsibility of bottle feeding three litters so far and is about to see her latest bunch head off to their forever homes.

“My latest litter of three kittens arrived at VOKRA when they were only a week old,” said Lea. “They’d been found all alone and were taken to a local vet clinic who then called us. They were all very hungry and had bad colds, so their eyes were full of goop. One of the kittens was clearly the runt of the litter and, at first, we weren’t sure he was going to make it.”

Even with round-the-clock care and attention, bottle fed kittens have a lower survival rate than their counterparts with moms. Just like the kittens in Lea’s litter, they’re susceptible to illness which their tiny bodies have a hard time fighting.

Happily, with lots of TLC all of Lea’s kittens pulled through and they’re thriving today.

Jasmine

“We ended up naming the two bigger kittens Aladdin and Jasmine, and the tiny runt Abu,” said Lea. “Abu has almost caught up in size to his siblings and now it’s hard to imagine he was so small when he arrived. All three of them are so sweet it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”

Because bottle babies receive so much human attention at a young age, they’re almost always very social and adore cuddles. This is certainly the case with her three says Lea, “They constantly want to be with people and run to greet me and my husband when we walk in the door. Aladdin can’t seem to get close enough so often I end up wearing him like a scarf!”

Fostering saves lives and we have more than 350 foster parents to thank for that! In addition to taking care of bottle feeders, Lea also fosters older kittens, moms with kittens and the occasional adult cat.

At VOKRA we’re always looking for new foster parents to help save more lives. We provide all the food, supplies and other equipment necessary to our foster homes, as well as ongoing support and advice. You simply provide the care, attention and love.

We have a variety of fostering situations as we take in orphaned kittens, feral kittens, pregnant mothers, mothers with kittens and adult cats. Each year we need temporary homes for more than 1,400 kittens and cats! If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, please visit our website at vokra.ca/fostering.

Cyrus and Mika’s Happy Tail Ending

It’s Happy Tails for Ben and Elaine too, as these two cat-parents think it’s they, not their kitties, who’re the lucky ones!  

“We feel so fortunate to have Cyrus and Mika in our lives,” said Elaine. “They’re always around us—always, wherever we are, ensuring we’ll never be lonely again!”  

Loneliness was indeed what Ben and Elaine were feeling, after the deaths of their two beloved 18 year old Siamese brothers last year. Happily, VOKRA had the solution, two more Siamese cats! Both of which are playful and “a delight,” according to Ben. He and Elaine credit VOKRA’s foster parent system with, in Ben’s words, the “loving character of these two sweet cats.”  

“We only know they came from a difficult situation,” Elaine said, “but somehow through that, and with the love of the foster parents, they’re the most gentle, social little creatures.”  

And Ben thinks Cyrus and Mika are a lot of fun too. “Cyrus is a real clown with his antics!” he said. “He loves sitting on your lap or chest when you’re lying in bed, but that wonderful moment is on his terms, short-lived.”  

“Mika was shyer when we first brought her home, but she’s out of her shell now,” continues Ben. “She loves to be petted and enjoys waking you up by walking on your pillow to remind you that it’s mealtime.”  

“Both cats love their new home,” adds Elaine. Their “all-time” favourite pastime is mealtime, with the cats “often waiting very sadly by their empty food bowls an hour or so before mealtime. They love playtime, with Cyrus our gymnast jumping three or four feet to catch his favourite toy. Mika loves to open every cupboard door, too, so we now have childproof locks!”  

“What has struck us the most is the cats’ relaxed acceptance of not only the chance in their living space but also of their caregivers,” said Ben. “They embraced us from the first day.”

The two kitties, “in summary, have saved us more than we have them,” said Ben. “Thank you VOKRA, and of course Cyrus and Mika.”

Would you like to share your Happy Tail? Email us at communications@vokra.ca.

Volunteer of the Month – March 2019

Iris with her kitty Sweetie

When we say VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers we really mean it! As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we rely on our more than 400 volunteers to ensure the kitties in our care get everything they need and are adopted in loving homes. But how do we find all these volunteers? That’s where our volunteer recruitment team comes in. This month we’re celebrating one of our volunteers who helps us find volunteers – Iris Chan.

We recently sat down with Iris to find out a why she volunteers for VOKRA.

How did you start volunteering with VOKRA?

Being able to do something for cats has always been something that I wanted to do, but work has always been so busy before. Now that I’m only working part time, I felt it was time to contribute to my furry friends so I started volunteering with VOKRA about a year ago.

Tell us a bit about your volunteer role?

I work on the volunteer recruitment team where we recruit for all the various teams and find the right candidates for the right positions. Basically, I talk to candidates and find out why they want to volunteer for VOKRA and listen to their amazing stories with cats.

What’s your favourite part of volunteering?

Being able to connect with so many cat lovers

THANK YOU Iris for all the time and effort you put into helping ensure VOKRA has enough volunteers to keep going!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers, including are members for our volunteer recruitment team. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Joy for Johnathon!

From a cardboard box to cloud nine! It’s a new and much happier life for Johnathon at his foster’s home! This lonely little kitty finally has somebody to snuggle with, thanks to VOKRA volunteers.

It was a hard life for Johnathon as one of Vancouver’s many stray cats. Though a kind stranger was giving the cutie some food, Johnathon’s home was a simple box in the backyard. Worse, he was hurting. After an unknown injury to his ear, this poor little kitty contracted a hematoma, a painful clotting of blood and broken vessels that can lead to tissue damage. Luckily for Johnathon, his feeding friend saw the problem and phoned VOKRA. In volunteers rushed, arranging for medical help and a new home for this little cat.

All better!

What a break for Johnathon! Not only did the sweet kitty get rid of the lump on his ear, but he also got the attention he was obviously craving. Immediately upon his rescue, it was noticed that, even ill, Johnathon was tame and very friendly. (“I luvs hims!” was the verdict of VOKRA co-founder Maria, who spearheaded Johnathon’s rescue.)

Now returned to health and in foster care, Johnathon’s a very cuddly cat, trailing around after foster mom Mika as he tries to get caught up on all the love he’s been missing.

“The moment you sit down on the floor, the couch, anywhere, the first thing [Johnathon] wants to do is curl up on your lap,” says Mika, who started taking care of the fluffy tuxedo early in February. “He’s also very talkative; if he feels he’s not getting enough cuddles, he’ll meow and follow you around until you sit down with him.”

It’s almost a happy ending for Johnathon as he’s close to being forever-home ready. Thanks to VOKRA, a sick and solitary cat has found health and a friend, and he’ll soon find the permanent love he needs.

Johnathon when he first arrived.