Ending Homelessness: One Trap at a Time

At VOKRA our mission is to end cat overpopulation and homelessness. One of the ways we’re helping accomplish this is through to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the process of trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to the location they came from. We’ve seen a lot of success with TNR, but much of our time is actually spent on trapping tame strays. Trapping these cats and kittens is the first step towards finding them their furever homes.

When we receive information about a stray cat, we find out as much information as we can to help us determine the best way to trap. We take into account how long the cat(s) has been hanging around and their lingering behaviour – are they coming at a specific time or are they around all the time? It’s important to know if they’re being fed or eating as well. Getting to know as much about the cats as possible is key to making a quick and successful trap. Behaviours such as skittishness or curiosity help us determine the correct method.

At times, it’s as easy as coaxing the cat into a carrier. Other times, setting up a trap is the only way. Traps are usually set up where the cat is being fed and include fresh tuna at the back of the trap. With feral cats, they’re taken to the vet for sedation and spay/neuter, vaccinations, ear and dental cleaning and flea treatment. They recover at our Operations Centre and are then taken back to their original location. The individual who called about the cat will be provided with food and any follow-up care. With tame cats, after they’re trapped they’re taken to our Operations Centre where we check for a microchip or tattoo. We deflea, deworm and vaccinate these kitties and have blood tests, urinalysis and teeth cleaning completed if they’re more than five years old. These tame cats are then ready for a foster home and, when they’re ready, will go up for adoption.

This is “Woody”, trapper Janet Cox‘s trusty wooden trap. She uses it to trap kitties who refuse to go into a metal trap. It always works like a charm!

It may seem feral cats could be more problematic than tame strays, but it’s just as important to trap these tame cats. Owned cats get lost and abandoned, which is a painful situation. If they aren’t fixed, they breed and female cats will usually give birth to their kittens outside or under garages, or amongst junk in a yard. These kittens will then grow up unsocialized by humans and grow into feral cats. If these kittens are also not spay/neutered, the cycle repeats itself and soon a feral colony will be formed. This is why it’s important for cat owners to spay and neuter their cats by five months old, and for the public to call us if they suspect a tame or feral stray who hasn’t been fixed is lingering around their neighbourhood.

Dedicated Surrey volunteers and trappers, Anne Salomon and Mona Boucher know all the tricks to trapping.

Sometimes, our trappings don’t go as planned, as explained here by VOKRA co-founder and trapper extraordinaire Maria Soroski:

Maria will a mitt-full of kittens trapped by Anne.

“I was called out to an industrial area in Burnaby because the business said they heard meowing coming from under the floorboards of the trailer on their property,” said Maria. “Since I couldn’t remove the floorboards, I crawled under the trailer to where they pinpointed they heard the kittens. When I found the area above me between the floorboards, I heard the noise – they were baby raccoons! I got out of there as soon as possible before the mama raccoon got mad.” 

After trapping for 17 years and counting, Maria’s has countless stories. Here’s one of her most memorable ones (for cats, not racoons!):

“At least twelve years ago, I went to a location in East Vancouver where there were three adult feral cats, two female and one male, and a litter of five kittens that were eight weeks old,” explains Maria. “It was January, bitter cold that night with snow that had fallen on the ground. I set traps by the back lane garage for the kittens first and waited in my car to keep warm. Two kittens went in the traps immediately and as I was carrying the two traps to my car, I was suddenly surrounded by the adult cats. They were hissing so I ran as fast as I could to my car with the kittens in the traps while they chased me. I waited in my car again until the remaining kittens went into the traps. The three adult cats were waiting by my car, so I quickly opened the door and ran to the last traps. As I was bending down to pick up the traps, the two adult females jumped onto my back, growling and swatting. I managed to get them off me and got all the traps to my car. The adults were jumping up at my window, so I threw an open can of cat food onto the grass, started the car and drove off as they ran behind my car.”

5:30 a.m. – Maria’s view as she waits patiently for some kittens, who were dumped in a back alley. to decide to go into the trap.

“I’ve never had this happen to me again, but I felt so bad for the cats as they saw their babies be driven away,” continues Maria. “The next night, I went and set traps for all three of the adult cats and took them to the vet for spaying and neutering. They stayed a couple days with us to recover and I let them see the kittens. It seemed to calm them down, knowing I didn’t cook their babies for dinner. The feral adults were returned to their original location and taken care of outside by the person who called us.”

Trapping isn’t an easy job, as we can all now see. It requires dedication and commitment to VOKRA’s mission. The trapping of tame strays is especially important as they have socialized with humans before, making them adoptable into a furever home. However, furever homes can’t exist if we don’t have pet-friendly housing. Global BC covers the issue here, making it clear our housing issues are a big cause for the loss of homes and families for too many pets. Sign the Pets OK BC petition here to help make a difference. Our trapping efforts are rendered useless if these kitties have less and less places to go once they’re ready for adoption.

Thank you to all our volunteer trappers who spend hours and hours watching over traps – be it sunshine or rain, day or night. Due to your efforts thousands of kitties have been taken off the streets and now have homes to call their own!

A mama and four kittens were trapped from under this porch. All the kittens had eye infections, but it was their lucky day. They were transferred to our Operations Centre for assessment and then onto foster care where they received daily treatment. Today mom and kittens are all healthy and have been adopted into loving homes.

Hazel’s Journey to Recovery

Every day the dedicated volunteers of VOKRA go to great lengths to save the lives of homeless cats and kittens from around the Lower Mainland. Little Hazel is one such kitten who may not be here today were it not for our care.

Hazel was born to a semi-feral mom who had recently been brought in to our Operations Centre. Not only was she the smallest kitten in the litter, she was born with one eye swollen shut. It turned out  poor Hazel was born with an eye infection, resulting in ongoing issues with pain and poor vision in her eye.

Hazel didn’t let her vision limitations slow her down though. She played, tumbled and chased her siblings around just like any other kitten. During one particularly active play session, Hazel’s weak eye was damaged and she was rushed to an emergency vet. It was discovered her weak eye was acting as a foreign body and had no chance of recovery, so it would eventually need to be removed.

As the months passed by, all Hazel’s brothers and sisters were adopted while Hazel struggled with recurring infections, leading to her eye being removed at four months old. Unfortunately, her health problems continued and she returned for a second surgery.

After two surgeries, two dewormings, four rounds of antibiotics and many more vet trips, Hazel continues to be a loving, intelligent, playful and overall adorable little ball of fluff. She’s so resilient that even two months of living with a cone around her head hasn’t slowed her down.

Happily Hazel will be available for adoption in the coming weeks. She’s a spirited little trooper who will be make some lucky family very happy. If you have room in your heart and home for little Hazel, keep an eye out for her on our ready-to-adopt page.

And if you’d like to help us pay for Hazel’s medical treatment, as well as the veterinary cost for all the other special kitties in our care, you can donate today at givetovokra.ca.

Cricket and Cookie’s Happy Tail Ending

Maria Von Trapp (now Cricket) and Flossy (now Cookie) had a difficult time on their own before coming to VOKRA. Maria started life as a street cat and Flossy was removed from a household with too many cats. After an unsuccessful adoption, Maria was placed in a foster home with Flossy. The two cats bonded immediately and the decision was made to adopt out the newfound feline friends together.

Having grown up with cats and wanting to adopt for quite a while, Coby was waiting for the right time to bring a cat (or two) into her home. After catsitting for a friend for several weeks, she knew she was ready to adopt and reached out to us shortly thereafter.

Coby immediately felt a connection to Maria and Flossy when she saw photos of them on our website. She knew she wanted to bring them home as soon she met them. Coby remembers how, “they looked so shy and nervous, which made my heart hurt. I wanted to give them a forever home where they could feel secure and loved.”

Maria and Flossy, now known as Cricket and Cookie, came home with Coby and have adjusted to their new life on their own time. Cookie loves to be the centre of attention and was happy to have couch snuggle time from the start. Cricket, however, took a while to accept she was now in a safe place and preferred to keep her distance under a table. “I’d pet her while she was under the table, which she didn’t mind, and I let her come to me on her own time,” said Coby. “For whatever reason, she has never been afraid of me when I’m in bed… she loves a long cuddle in the morning and really gets into belly and head rubs.”

Cricket has recently come around to life in a safe, happy home and has come a long way from that anxious kitty under the table. “I’m so proud of how far little Cricket has come,” said Coby. “In just the past couple of weeks she has started to snuggle in with Cookie and me on the couch. I’m pretty proud of Cookie too, as she used to swat her away, so Cricket’s first attempts to cuddle were thwarted by her sister from another mister.”

Cats are, by nature, creatures of habit and Cricket and Cookie are no exception. They have set the schedule for playtime, bedtime and TV time! Cricket likes to hang out in her ‘kitty cave’ with one eye on the TV and the other on Coby and Cookie. While Cookie likes to remind Cricket of who’s the alpha kitty in the household, they live a peaceful co-existence and have learned to share the attention and toys.

Cricket and Cookie definately hit the jackpot with their new person Coby! Thank you for giving these girls a loving, happy home. We wish them many happy years of couch cuddles and TV time to come.

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

PS: Some info about the split screen pic of Cricket. She had just finished having some catnip and was completely spaced out and frozen like that for about 15 minutes. Cookie sat just out of frame staring at her the whole time.

Adopt Me: Trixie and Mike

In typical Vancouver fashion, Mike still lives with his mom Trixie. He loves attention and, when inspired, he wanders over to purr loudly and lean into your hand. He’s always the first to greet you by asking for pets, pumping his head against your hand and weaving around your legs. He’s also very enthusiastic about play and will swat at toy mice and chase sticks and strings moving across the floor. As his confidence grows, he’s even starting to show enthusiasm for rolling balls with bells. A handsome gentleman, Mike likes to saunter around the house with ears relaxed and tail held high. He likes to find cozy perches where he can watch the world go by.

Trixie will sit her little self on your hip or your chest when you lie down, purring contentedly whenever you’re awake enough to rub her ears. She loves a good place to perch or to hide and peek out of when she feels like keeping to herself. Other times she likes to saunter into a room and observe its goings on. An avid foodie, she likes to sit just outside the kitchen to watch and sniff while you cook. She will, of course, offer to test your creations. She also likes little chats and will respond if you meow back at her – be ready for a full conversation! Trixie may put on a bit of a grumpy face at times, but she’s especially quick to purr. Purring begets cuddling, which will result in louder purring and louder purring will result in drooling. It’s adorable!

There’s something quite spectacular about coming home to a pair of sweet cats who just can’t wait for you to come and snuggle up with them! Trixie and her son Mike have slowly been coming out of their shells and showing the depths of their affection and fondness for play. While still inclined to avoid noise, they bloom in quiet places, coming out to seek pets and to check up on you. They aren’t shy about sauntering into the living room and reminding you when it’s time for dinner and time for bed. Evening is their favorite time, as they adore snuggling up in bed with you.

Trixie and Mike are looking for a forever home together with no kids, dogs or other cats. If you’re interested in giving them a home you can apply to adopt here.

All Cats Deserve Love

At VOKRA we believe all cats deserve to have a safe and happy life, regardless of their challenges. We often see and hear about all the cute and cuddly kitties, but never about those who show a little less affection or need a helping hand. Now, the spotlight is on some of VOKRA’s long-term care cats – Charlie, Jorje, Charis and Ashlay.

Charlie

Charlie’s an 11-year old tabby who is in palliative care at our Operations Centre. He was adopted in 2007 and, while a loving cat to his family, Charlie wasn’t very tolerant of visitors and other animals so he was surrendered to VOKRA in 2016. When he arrived at our Operations Centre, our volunteers found it hard to feed him and clean his kennel as he would often attack. He was then moved to a larger room to allow space for us to slowly work with him and gain his trust.

Charlie was on a strict diet as any change in food would cause vomiting. He was sent to the vet for bloodwork and x-rays, but nothing was found that would be the cause of his trouble. Finally, an ultrasound revealed a two to three inch tumour between his liver and pancreas; the thickened intestinal wall indicated lymphoma. Charlie’s now on daily pain medication and is fed high quality wet food four times a day with supplements to help sooth his tummy. While he still has some anxiety, he doesn’t attack as often, most likely because his pain is managed. He has a room at the front of our Operations Centre where he can see outdoors and lay on his heated blanket. Due to unpredictable behaviour and essential daily care, Charlie will live out the rest of his days at our Operations  Centre, monitored by our medical team and with the company of our experienced volunteers.

Jorge

Jorje is a 12-year old cat who showed up crying in the rain back in September 2016. He had hair loss, rotten teeth, severe dermatitis and was starving. VOKRA took him to the vet, where they found he has moderate kidney failure, at first requiring fluids twice a week followed now by medication to manage.

While in foster care, Jorje was found to have ringworm, a persistent skin fungus, and was brought back to our Operations Centre for treatment. There, he caught a bad cold and at one point he had painful ulcers on the corneas of both eyes. While nursing him back to health, our volunteers found Jorje also has food allergies which we manage by a raw diet of either bison or beef. Likely because of his allergies, Jorje also frequently suffers from ear infections.

Jorje stayed at the Operations Centre until October 2017 as his ringworm was particularly difficult to treat. No oral medication was allowed due to his kidney issues, leaving the ringworm to be treated through bathing with a special anti-fungal shampoo. His ringworm kept moving around his body, so we resorted to shaving him to help manage and it seemed to work. Jorje is currently doing well at his foster home and may one day be adopted into a caring and loving home.

Charis

Charis was surrendered to VOKRA in November 2016 as she became nervous when the family baby began to move around the house. The family also couldn’t afford to spay her and she was already two years old.  She doesn’t like other cats and was very aggressive on intake; it tooks months for her to settle down at our Operations Centre.

Charis has had five different fosters and the last two returned her for suddenly lashing out. Since October, Charis has also had major hairball issues, along with diarrhea and constipation. She hasn’t been eating well and seems depressed, but is now on a natural anti-anxiety supplement. After coming back to our Operations Centre, she’s calmed down in her kennel as she seems to acknowledge it as her home after having spent so much time there. Charis needs a foster home with no other pets or small children, along with a small space to call her own while she calms down and settles into. She needs a patient person who will learn her fears and work with her to overcome them, before the possibility of being adopted.

Ashlay

Ashlay is a 2-year old cat who came to VOKRA as a stray with three young kittens in December 2016. She was fostered with her kittens for three weeks until she was returned to the Operations Centre for behaviour issues; Ashlay would bite when the foster tried to pet her or clean her litter box. Her second foster worked with her daily to encourage positive interactions and discourage biting. It seems she bites when she isn’t receiving what she wants, whether it be attention, food or playtime. Due to her difficult nature, she’s been waiting for the right foster home since July. She may do well with a buddy cat to keep her busy, or she needs somebody who can establish a routine with her that includes plenty of exercise and playtime.

While our long-term care cats require close monitoring and daily training, we’re confident they have a loving future ahead of them, if not with a foster or forever family, with the devotion of all our volunteers. At VOKRA, kitties will always have a home until their last days. 

If you think you may be the right person to either foster or adopt one of these special cases, please visit our website at www.vokra.ca or contact us at info@vokra.ca

Oliver’s Happy Tail Ending

Oliver’s an adorable furball who met his loving family on a snowy day in November 2016. With a fabulous purrsonality paired with charm, Oliver’s fearless, adventurous, clever and sociable.

Moving to Canada from Brazil, Fernanda quickly found herself volunteering with VOKRA to help what she loves most in life – kitties! She had rescued her cat, Tom, from the streets of Brazil and he also came with her to Canada on a 21 hour of flight. However, it wasn’t easy for Tom to settle into his new home. He behaved strangely and cried nonstop. He would stare at two neighbourhood cats all day, wanting to get their attention. It was clear he was asking for a little brother so Fernanda and her husband then adopted Sam, and the two became the best of friends.

As Fernanda got ready to celebrate her first birthday in Canada, her husband got in touch with VOKRA and wanted to give her a new “son” as a birthday present. Visiting the foster home, they met Oliver who was the biggest of the litter. For a kitten of 3-4 months, he was huge! Fernanda fell in love with Oliver instantly, knowing she had to bring him home and grow her family of kitties from two to three. While slightly doubtful about introducing a third cat to the house, Fernanda’s husband encouraged her to adopt Oliver. It was a good idea, as in two days he won his brothers’ love and affection.

As a cat lover, having three beautiful, healthy, smart and friendly cats is all Fernanda could ask for. Of the three, Oliver’s what Fernanda calls a “tick,” as he’s always with her and her husband and loves to sleep and cuddle with them. He’s always found in the laps of all their visitors too. Fernanda is over the moon and happy to share her love of her furballs with her husband.

“Today, my husband, who didn’t want any cats, now calls himself the daddy of three and it’s hilarious to hear him call Tom, Sam and Oliver to sleep in bed every night,” said Fernanda. “We’ve travelled a bit and he says he doesn’t want to travel anymore as he can’t stay away from his kitties!”

Adopting Oliver was the best thing we did in life,” she adds. “He makes my days much happier along with his brothers and we’re not sure if the family is complete. There may be a fourth one day!”

We are so happy to hear how much joy Oliver brings to Fernanda’s family! Thank you to Fernanda for choosing VOKRA and giving Oliver a furever home and a lifetime of love.

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

Clean, clean, clean!

Post written by Aurora C.

We’re Looking For Volunteers!

We’re looking for volunteers to join our wonderful reception team!

Our reception team works at our Operations Centre in East Vancouver and is the first point of contact for our visitors.

We’re looking for volunteers that want to learn more about VOKRA and help our organization grow. Joining our reception team will enable you to learn about our cats by entering their information into our system, as well as by cuddling them! In addition to supplying guests with general information, the reception team helps with filing, volunteer management, inventory management and selling VOKRA merchandise.

Our reception team ensures the Operations Centre runs smoothly and plays a central role from when kitties enter our system to when they’re adopted, and everything in between.

Reception team volunteers must commit to a minimum of 1 shift a week (2-4 hours each).

If you’re interested in joining our reception team, please click here.