Kittens, Kittens, Kittens!

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Kittens, kittens everywhere!

Kitten season may be the cutest time of the year, but it means a lot of extra costs and work for us here at VOKRA.

Each year during kitten season we care for more than 400 kittens, and this year is no exception. As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we can’t do this without the support of people like you.

Kittens in our care have a chance at a happy, safe and healthy life. Kittens like Samuel, Simon, Lily Mae and Ginger McGraw. These little orphans came to us when they were only a couple weeks old. We’ll never know what happened to their mom, but what we do know is they wouldn’t be alive today without our care.

When these kittens arrived they were so young they needed to be bottle fed every 2 – 3 hours. Between the cost of special kitten formula and supplements, nursing kits and medical care it costs more than $250 to raise each kitten. That adds up to more than $1,000 just for this litter alone.

Will you help us today?

Your support today will help us buy extra food and litter, and will also pay for veterinary care and medication.

Please donate today to help save kittens like Ginger and her brothers and sister.

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Bottle Babies – A Reward Like No Other

20160507_Bottlebabies_2950_lowresWM-1If you’ve ever wondered about VOKRA’s origins, you wouldn’t have too look far – it’s right there in our name, specifically in the O and the K, which stand for “Orphan Kitten”. Founded because of kittens that were orphaned and without moms, VOKRA began as a means to provide crucial care that would replicate the feeding and love a mom cat would normally provide.

Though bottle feeding kittens may sound like it’s all purrs, cuddles and explosions of cute, considering that most litters reach upwards of five, it’s no small feat. Newborn kittens require constant tending to and must be fed every two hours. They have to be kept warm at all times through the use of blankets and heaters, they need to be burped and bathed, and you must stimulate their poop and pee. Basically you need to replace their mom in every way possible, short of becoming a cat yourself.

Many years ago, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA when litters of kittens kept coming in without moms. They quickly learned how to bottle feed and fielded requests for their services up to twice a day during kitten season. If you’re picturing an actual orphanage filled with rows of cat beds and endless litters of kittens, you wouldn’t be far off. At times their own beds were piled high with kennels full of kittens requiring 24-hour care. Eventually, Karen and Maria branched off on their own and 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.

While keeping kittens with their mom is always the preference, bottle feeding is at times a necessity. Sometimes it may only be for a short period, temporarily feeding them until their mom is located or merely helping a mom cat with her extra large litter. Other times we may be able to use surrogate moms instead, adding orphaned kittens to another mom’s litter. We trap feral moms whenever possible, using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But in cases where the mom is never found or has passed away, bottle feeding is the only hope of the kittens’ survival.

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Receiving an average of 10 litters a year that require full-time bottle feeding, we have a handful of dedicated volunteers who provide constant care and attention to ensure these little ones survive. Around the clock care is necessary and some volunteers even take their tiny wards to work. In the past Ellen Keiser, a teacher, took her bottle fed babies to school and fed them during recess and lunch as her class looked on for some firsthand lessons in cat rescue. At times, volunteers share the duties between them, “babysitting” if one of them needs a break.

Even with the best possible care, survival rates are a bit lower for bottle fed kittens. They’re more prone to illness and not all of them make it. To be a bottle feeder volunteer requires not only time, patience, flexibility and the ability to do without sleep, but also the strength to handle the potential for heartbreak. Says Ellen, “You need to prepare yourself for the loss, but also for the celebration that so many do make it due to your efforts.” Last year, foster mom Tania Hennessy cared for more bottle feeders than she ever had before and says she becomes especially attached to them. For her, watching them grow up and find their forever homes is worth the undertaking.

Bottle fed kittens sleep a lot and after two weeks you can begin to train them to use their litter boxes. Eventually you’ll find small puddles of poop, which to a seasoned cat rescuer like Karen is “quite exciting”. As the kittens grow, they become among the sweetest and sociable of cats since growing up among humans is all they’ve known. In fact, they consider their bottle feeding human to be their “real” mom.  Says Tania, “My favorite part of caring for bottle feeders is the day when their eyes open and they finally look back at you for the first time. Paired with the happy purrs of a full belly at 3 a.m., it’s heart melting!” Seeing bottle fed babies transform into active and healthy kittens is truly a reward like no other.

Written by Ellen R.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. We’re currently actively looking for cat care and reception volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

TNR Works!

Mr pochadie trap

It’s hard to keep track of all the acronyms that exist these days, but in the cat rescue world TNR is a big one. TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return and describes the process of trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to the location they came from. According to VOKRA co-founder Maria Soroski, it’s the most effective and humane way to help control the feral cat population.

When VOKRA formed back in 2000, Maria had no idea what a feral cat was, which is hard to believe for someone who is such a strong advocate for Vancouver street cats. She, along with fellow co-founder Karen Duncan, began by bottle feeding kittens that had been brought into the SPCA before branching off on their own to create VOKRA.

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Maria with a bottle baby.

“I had no idea where the kittens were coming from,” says Maria, who wondered what happened to the kittens’ moms. “I assumed they were from owned cats or that they’d been orphaned.” However, as kittens kept arriving from the same addresses, Maria and Karen started to do a little sleuthing. They soon discovered a whole world of feral cats. The mother cats hadn’t been brought in because they were wild – no one could touch them, let alone pick them up and transport them into care.

Maria discovered entire colonies, some with upwards of 50 cats. They were all the moms, dads, aunts, uncles and cousins of all the bottle-fed kittens that had come in. Thanks to the guidance of local rescuers and the resources of Alley Cat Allies, Maria quickly learned to trap and hasn’t looked back since.

VOKRA’s volunteer trappers, spearheaded by Maria, spent eight years trapping seven days a week in Vancouver and Burnaby. It’s estimated there were more than 8000 – 9000 free roaming cats in Vancouver before VOKRA came along. The number of feral cats is now down to less than 300 with the remaining colonies under control. Some of the colonies now consist solely of senior citizen cats, who pass on humanely after living a life on their own terms.

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It’s estimated there were more than 8000 – 9000 free roaming cats in Vancouver before VOKRA came along, but now that number is down to less than 300 with the remaining colonies under control.

For cats that we can’t return to their original site, we try and find them another home – specifically a barn or hobby farm. Janet, who coordinates the barn cat placement program, says “It’s an alternative option for feral cats that are unable to be returned to their original location for various reasons.” The barns are located throughout the Lower Mainland, from Abbotsford to Squamish, and Janet often drives the cats to their new homes herself. Potential placements are interviewed in advance and the cats are guaranteed fresh food and water daily, along with a safe shelter area. In their new “jobs” as rodent control technicians they have a better life than they would out on the streets.

If the cats are young enough or semi-tame, then we’ll try to socialize them so we can adopt them to forever homes.  “We’re not scared of hissy babies,” says Maria. Armed with gloves, towels, treats, and a whole lot of patient love, VOKRA volunteers socialize kittens in their homes.  VOKRA runs workshops and provides coaching to these special families.  Fosters tell us this is an immensely rewarding part of being with VOKRA.  To watch a kitten or adult cat transform from an untrusting and extremely frightened creature to one that seeks out your affection with headbutts to your hand, and who purrs at the very sound of your voice, is a truly amazing experience.

tuffy goodbye

We respond to as many calls we can and trap feral cats, tame moms protecting their kittens and tame adults that are too afraid to trust humans just yet. Sometimes this involves all-night efforts and sometimes it involves walking into an abandoned house in protective gear so as not to be eaten alive by the swarms of fleas. Whatever it takes – the fate of all cats is important to us and those who were never given the chance to live a safe, indoor life deserve the best that we can give them.

Join us in celebrating National Feral Cat Day October 16.

As a non-profit association we rely on the contributions of people like you. If you’d like to support our TNR program click here.

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Post written by Ellen R.

Volunteer of the Month, June 2015!

Have you ever wondered how all the beautiful photos of our VOKRA fosters get on our online adoption gallery? As good as the answer “magic” is, all the recognition must go to Tracey Smith! She uploads all of the photos our fosters submit for potential adoptees to view. For her hard work and efforts, she is our volunteer of the month!

Tracy & her Family getting a rare holiday from all her dedicated VOKRA work!

Tracey & her Family getting a rare holiday from all her dedicated VOKRA work!

Tracey started her volunteering with VOKRA in 2013, but previously volunteered at Pet Smart, caring for VOKRA kitties when we had our adoption centre there. What she loves about volunteering with kitties is being able to spend time with them, to make small and large differences in their lives. Tracey loves how the kitties are appreciative with her presence, and she adores sharing her love, trust, and laughs with each and every adorable kitty. She has encountered countless kitties, but cannot choose a favourite – who can?!

She adopted her own VOKRA kitty, Bandit, in April 2005, and fell in love with her straight away. When Bandit’s feline companion died, Tracey went on the hunt to adopt another to keep Bandit company in 2010, which prompted her to volunteer with Pet Smart and VOKRA. 

Baby Bandit

Baby Bandit

Bandit All Grown Up

Bandit All Grown Up

Our volunteers are also appreciative of Tracey and all her hard work. After all, it is only from her gallery uploads that our deserving kitties and cats can be viewed and adopted into loving arms! VOKRA Board member Valerie says: 

Tracey is a behind the scenes VOKRA volunteer who uploads all our kitty pictures, and there are many to do especially in kitten season! She is polite, friendly, involved and helps fosters with their photos and other questions that they ask her. Tracey is a very important and valued part of VOKRA, quietly doing a lot of work and helping to get our kitties adopted. A really lovely person.

Once again, we’d like to give our thanks to Tracey. As a behind-the-scenes volunteer, she does not deserve any less recognition than any of our other volunteers. She plays such an important role our organization and the way things are run, so a huge thanks to you, Tracey! Keep up the outstanding work!

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

Compassionate Kids–Felix

We were recently lucky enough to have a visit from the one and only Felix at our Operations Centre! Felix, along with his brother Leo and his mom Jan came down for a tour and to make a very special donation. For his birthday this year, Felix decided he wanted cold hard cash instead of gifts. Now, before you think, “Hey, kid! That’s rude!”, you’ll want to hear why he collected coins instead of presents; so he could donate to VOKRA!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Felix and his family are no strangers to the work VOKRA does as they adopted two cats through us last year and have given them a wonderful home.

Felix and Leo at VOKRA Operations 007

And now, they are helping other kitties too. Kitties like Sudermann.

Our fantastic volunteer, Valerie, told Felix Sudermann’s story and about how lucky this cat is to be alive. She let him know that the money he donated will help with Sudermann’s vet bills so he can get better and find a great forever home, just like Felix’s cats now have.

We loved meeting Felix and appreciate his donation so much. And we think Felix was pretty happy with the visit too. He was so excited, he said that when he gets bigger, he wants to volunteer for VOKRA. We look very much forward to that, Felix. You’re already a great part of our team.

Thanks for supporting VOKRA, Felix, and for being a Compassionate Kid!

Making a Difference in North Surrey

There are an estimated 34,000 free-roaming cats currently living in Surrey. Without intervention, this number is expected to grow as cats and kittens continue to reproduce at an alarming rate. Surrey resident Charlotte Austin recognized the overpopulation of stray cats within the city and the critical need to promote spaying/neutering within her community. With the support of local physician  Dr. Jeffrey Roberts, Charlotte founded the North Surrey Spay/Neuter Project, which provides free spay/neuter services for low-income families.

Overpopulation problem?  Us?

Overpopulation problem? Us?

It began in the fall of 2014 when Charlotte learned that many of the children she works with had unsterilized cats and kittens at home. Many of these children’s families are low-income and could not afford the spay/neuter fees, along with other veterinary care such as vaccination or tattooing. Through her volunteer work with VOKRA, Charlotte would offer to take in kittens that these families needed to find homes for, and would herself pay to have cats sterilized and vaccinated. However, she knew her efforts wouldn’t be enough to address the constant need for free spay/neuter services in Surrey.     

That’s when she remembered a conversation she once had with a doctor in the community (and VOKRA adopter!) Dr. Jeffrey Roberts of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine, a company with a lot of caring cat people working there. Having previously spoken together about cats and VOKRA, Charlotte decided to speak to Dr. Roberts about the need for low-income families to access veterinary care for their cats and kittens.

I approached Dr. Roberts about sponsoring a free spay/neuter project for families in the community where I work. He very graciously agreed to sponsor the project and started the wheels rolling with a hefty donation.

In less than five weeks, the North Surrey Spay/Neuter Project helped spay/neuter thirty-three cats and kittens, with several females awaiting spaying once their kittens have been weaned.

Her kittens are adorable, but Mitsy will be happy not to have any more thanks to the NSSNP

Her kittens are adorable, but Mitsy won’t be having any more thanks to the NSSNP

Charlotte immediately saw the positive impact the North Surrey Spay/Neuter Project has had in her community.

This project is unique because it helps both animals and people. The families are extremely grateful for the assistance and the cats do not have to worry about producing more or ever having kittens. As well, it is a shining, real-life lesson in the responsibility of proper pet guardianship to children.

VOKRA and kitten Cookie help kids learn about responsible pet guardianship

VOKRA and kitten Cookie help kids learn about responsible pet guardianship

However, veterinary care is not cheap and there is no end in sight to the cats and kittens in Surrey who need to be spayed/neutered.

We are very proud of how many cats and kittens we have helped, but have basically drained the account. We seriously need help from the public to continue this project. It is a small, but necessary step, in helping reduce the number of stray cats in Surrey.

Cocomo will surely keep getting into trouble, just not THAT kind of trouble anymore!

Cocomo will surely keep getting into trouble, just not THAT kind of trouble anymore!

Charlotte and the North Surrey Spay/Neuter Project have started something great with the support of Dr. Jeffrey Roberts, but with kitten season now in full swing, the project desperately needs your help to continue to address the critical need for veterinary care for cats and kittens in Surrey.

You can help control the number of unwanted cats and kittens. Visit VOKRA.ca to donate, noting North Surrey Spay/Neuter Project, today.

Post written by Kim C.

Volunteer of the Month, April 2015!

It is that time again, when VOKRA would like to thank a special and hardworking individual in our joyous and wonderful group of volunteers. For this month, we would like to announce that the volunteer of the month is… Lucy Hough!

Lucy

Lucy has been with us for nearly three years now, her first interaction with us being our Walk for the Kitties event back in September 2012. She got in contact with us and started her volunteer placement by being a driver, which included driving kitties to vet appointments, to foster homes, etc. She was also superbly awesome for stepping in to care for kitties in foster homes when fosters were away for a period of time. Seemingly, Lucy has volunteered for VOKRA in every way, including helping with fundraising. She joined our Adoptions Team back in December 2012, and has since then only fallen more in love with kitties and VOKRA. Helping rescue, heal, and shelter 1,800+ kitties a year is truly inspirational for Lucy, and the commitment of all of VOKRA’s volunteers is another reason why she loves volunteering with us.

What Lucy loves about being a part of the Adoptions Team is that the role’s duties are so complex, yet so satisfying. Every adoption application has its own unique chapter, and all applications are bound together to create a meaningful novel filled with miraculous and heart-warming stories. She loves being a part of a kitty’s journey to living a vivacious and fulfilling life. Lucy also loves working alongside the rest of the team, developing a good process and always stepping up the game to make everything work better.

The Adoptions Team also adores Lucy. Our Adoptions Team Lead, Peggy, tells us:

She is nonstop about picking up applications; she manages the kitty waitlist like I have never seen. She cares about the kitties, as well as the people she works with. She is a super team player, organized, and always on the ball.

Fellow Adoptions Team member Jen says:

Lucy is an amazing volunteer and we are so lucky to have her as part of our rockin’ Apps Team! She is always willing to lend a hand to new team members learning the ropes, and she works incredibly hard to make sure that all of our adopters are contacted in a timely manner. There was one week earlier this year, when we had an unexpected flood of applications and I think Lucy picked up 14 in one day! During each phone interview, Lucy is passionate about making sure that adopters are educated with the latest information on cat behaviour and health. 

Not only does Lucy volunteer with VOKRA, she has also adopted two VOKRA cats herself: a kitty named Panther first, then a buddy for him named Yoda Bear. Yoda Bear, previously Motza,  was a VOKRA feature story a couple of years ago. The only surviving kitten of his litter, he faced many health issues and no one thought he’d live. Boy, did he prove everyone wrong!

Lucy says Yoda Bear, now almost three years old, is the best kitty in the world. He has liver disease and dwarfism, but neither of those stops him from being playful, inquisitive, and talkative. Yoda has tons of character and is so much fun. He’s what Lucy describes as the perfect example of why VOKRA is awesome – “a no-kill organization that gives kitties a chance when there is every reason to think that they will not survive.”

Yoda Bear being big spoon, and Panther being little spoon. #CuddlesTime!

Yoda Bear being big spoon, and Panther being little spoon. #CuddlesTime!

While VOKRA inspires Lucy, she truly inspires each and every one of us with VOKRA to keep up all the good and hard work. Thank you Lucy for being part of our Adoptions Team, for being committed to making it possible for kitties to find happiness through tough times. You being here at VOKRA makes us 100% more awesome!

Meow!

Meow!

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