Goodbye Spring

Spring has come and gone, but the memories remain…

Little Spring, the kitten we’ve been telling you about, has very sadly passed away. Her short life, and her close friendship with bestie Hamburgler, were a heart warming inspiration to us all, say many VOKRA volunteers.

“The most amazing thing about Spring was that her spirit was super strong even though her body was so very frail,” says VOKRA volunteer Susan, who spent a good deal of time with this little kitten. “In her short life she taught us to focus on the positive, make the most of what we have and love unconditionally.”

Spring was born with an inoperable genetic defect, a portosystemic liver shunt, a disorder in which a cat’s blood supply bypasses the liver, leading to increased toxins in the blood. Most kittens with this condition die within weeks of birth, so Spring’s relatively long life (she was 5 months when she passed) is an amazing tribute to VOKRA’s good care.

At first, volunteers at VOKRA’s Operations Centre weren’t sure how long this tiny kitten would be around. At a few weeks of age, Spring wasn’t thriving. She crouched in her cage, too nauseous to nibble on her food or even nudge the hands of volunteers who reached in to pet her cute self.

After a vet visit or two, she seemed to recover and our volunteers made a momentous decision. Another adorable feline had just been rescued from life on Vancouver’s streets. This cat, named Hamburgler as he was found hiding under a McDonald’s dumpster, was paired with Spring.

Spring and Hamburgler

At first, Spring was hesitant. Following some much-needed treatments, Hamburgler had become a happy rambunctious kittie, always wanting to play. He pounced on the little kitten, delighted to spot a new playmate.

But Spring soon learned to give as good as she got. On her healthy days, she and her new bestie chased each other around. On not so good days, Hamburgler began to help his friend, supporting her through her struggles.

Susan tells how he used to help make sure Spring was getting all the attentions she needed. “I was encouraging Spring to eat by getting her to lick food from my finger. It was a bit messy so when we were finished, Hammy rushed over and gave her face a good clean!”

Hamburgler even provided comfort on Spring’s worst days, when her health problems necessitated trips to the vet.

Hamburger in his new furever home

“When Spring travelled to the vet she would cry in the car,” says Susan. “But when Hammy started to accompany her in a shared carrier she was quiet and comforted. He even accompanied her on her last journey and groomed her beforehand to ensure she was respectable before they left!”

Hamburgler now has his own happy ending. He’s been adopted by VOKRA volunteer Leanne, who kindly waited to collect her new companion until Spring was no longer in need and then rushed in so Hamburgler would not have to spend a night alone in the pod he and Spring shared.

Leanne says Hamburgler is settling well into his new home, “He’s playing and giving me all the love and licks of affection.”

Spring’s fighting spirit, and her connection with Hamburgler, will linger in our minds for a long time.

In a final message about Spring, VOKRA co-founder Maria had this to say: “No matter what cards you are dealt, you can walk through life with kindness and love.”

Hamburgler says goodbye to Spring

Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers. Currently we have more than 400 volunteers working hard 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 – Raj Johal. Here Raj tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

 

At the beginning of university, I wanted to get involved and volunteer to not only get experience but to meet others and make an impact. With me wanting to pursue a career in medicine the first thing that came to mind was a hospital. I started volunteering there but felt I couldn’t contribute towards anything significant or make any sort of meaningful impact. Thus, I started searching again and stumbled upon VOKRA. I had always loved animals so as I got to learn more about what this organization did and how they achieved it I knew it was the right fit and I wanted to be a part of it.

I was also fortunate enough to have gotten the position of recruitment coordinator allowing me to talk to a wide range of individuals. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of being a recruiter as I get to talk to and hear from people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve now heard countless stories about how cats or other animals have made a difference in people’s lives which I find to be truly inspiring. All these volunteers and their mutual love of animals and passion for helping is why I believe VOKRA has been able to do such a good job. The fact I get to play a part in introducing them to our organization is instrumental for me and something that always makes me smile.

In terms of my role, I started off as a recruitment coordinator and then in conjunction was also the team lead for over two years. I’ve really enjoyed both roles, as a recruiter I’m responsible for screening volunteer applications which involves interviewing volunteers and ultimately placing them in positions that fill our needs, but most importantly makes them happy. As a team lead, I was responsible for coordinating with other team leads to determine volunteer needs, making and refining volunteer positions along with applications, recruiting volunteers via postings and presentations, and finally ensuring our team was a cohesive unit that worked hard to fill all these gaps.

Over the years, I’ve formed many memories  I believe have shaped me into who I am today. The one that stands out is from last year when Shoaib, one of our recruitment coordinators, and I did a presentation at a senior care home. The purpose of this presentation was to recruit new volunteers. I don’t remember now how many ended up applying but what I do remember is this story of an older lady with her cat. She talked to us at the end about how having her cat was such a huge support network for her when she was severely depressed and without any family or friends. It just goes to show that not only are we helping cats but also indirectly making a positive impact on people. It makes me very proud to be a part of VOKRA when I hear how highly people think of this organization!

I am now volunteering as a recruitment coordinator while Michelle leads this team to hopefully become even better and efficient. However, I have learned a tremendous amount in my time here and met many altruistic individuals. I believe these to be a key part of why I got into medical school and something that I’ll always remember now that I embark on this journey!

THANK YOU Raj for all your hard work and dedication through the years. We’re so proud you’ve succeeded in being accepted into medical school at UBC and have no doubt you’re going to be a fabulous doctor!

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, especially in the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

You Can Be A Hero Every Month!

Timmy’s a handsome gentleman cat who came to us way back in 2012 after being rescued from a shelter.

Timmy’s diabetic which means he needs a shot of insulin twice a day to stay healthy. It’s very difficult to find someone willing to take on a kitty with health issues, so at some shelters cats like Timmy are often deemed “unadoptable” and end up being euthanized.

At VOKRA we believe every kitty deserves a chance at a happy, healthy life. Whether they’re kittens or adults, feral or tame, healthy or sick – we provide them all with the best care we can. But this does come at a cost.

If you’d like to help, the easiest way for you to provide steady support for the kitties in our care is by joining our monthly giving program.

By choosing to give a monthly gift to VOKRA, you’re providing consistent, reliable resources to help us handle any situation – whether it’s a kitten needing emergency medical care, a cat requiring insulin or a feral tom in need of a neuter.

One donation a month really adds up to a big difference in the life of a cat. Here’s the lifesaving difference you can make:


Will you help a kitty today by joining our monthly giving program?

Donations are processed automatically on the same day each month which helps you budget monthly and annually. And you can change, pause or stop your donation at any time by simply contacting us.

You can also make a one-time gift when you click here.

Timmy’s patiently waiting for a forever home. If you’re interested, you can learn more about him here. Thank you to Angela McConnell for Timmy’s portraits!

 

Zoë Knows: 10 things that can harm your cat

spooky_yawn

Zoë’s cat Spooky

Zoë is 13 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 5) and Spooky (age 15), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.

Cat owners are some of the most dedicated and caring pet owners out there and try their very best to make sure their cat is happy and healthy at all times. But, even the best cat owners can’t know everything about their cat, right? Luckily, you can always learn more, whether it’s a health concern, tip or just advice. Here is a list of 10 things you may not know could harm your cat.

1. Flea treatment

Most cat owners are fortunate enough not to find any fleas on their cat but, if it happens, fleas are easy to treat with a simple flea bath. However, flea and lice treatments meant for dogs or humans can contain a chemical called Permethrin, which is toxic to cats. If you’re worried about harming your cat just make sure to keep treatments or medication out of reach and if your cat does get fleas, consult your veterinarian to make sure the product you intend to use is safe for cats. Many over the counter flea medications can be dangerous. Learn more here.

2. Bones

It’s no secret cats love to eat meat and sometimes they may find a tiny scrap laying on the floor, a little piece of chicken they lick off your finger or even a chunk they stole from the dinner table. This can be pretty harmless, but what isn’t harmless is bones. The bones found in any kind of meat can scratch your cat’s throat and tongues. They can also splinter and puncture their digestive track.

3. Yarn or string

Everyone knows cats love yarn and string and if you see your cat playing with it you may find it adorable or funny, but it can actually be pretty dangerous. Your cat could strangle or choke themselves with the yarn. In this case, it’s best to opt for a cat toy.

4. Human food

We’ve already established cat are meat eaters, but something that isn’t good for them is human food, especially certain foods. You’ve probably heard chocolate is bad for dogs, but it’s actually unhealthy for cats as well. Grapes and onions are also some foods your cat should also definitely not eat. For a list of foods harmful to cats click here.

5. Liquid Air fresheners

Lots of people keep air fresheners around their house, maybe even near a litter box. But air fresheners can actually be harmful to cats, or more specifically, ones that contain cationic detergent. This can burn their mouths or even their digestive system. Try to find natural or nontoxic air fresheners.

6. Scented litter

While on the topic of scents, most cats don’t like scented litter. Cats have super sensitive smell and scented litter smells very strong to them. It can aggravate or annoy your cat and some cats may choose not to use the litter at all. If you don’t want your litter box to smell, be sure to scoop it daily and fully clean it around once a week.

7. Rat poison

Poison is still poison whatever it’s meant for. Rat poison is very dangerous for your cat. Symptoms can include paralysis, little or no appetite or trembling. If you think your cat has come into contact with rat poison immediately take him/her to the vet.

8. Toiletries

Toiletries are not the best for your cat to eat. Shampoos, face cleansers or soap would not rest well in a cat’s stomach, especially if they’re toxic or unnatural. One example is dental floss. Dental floss is like string but smoother and slimmer, so your cat getting a hold of it would be a problem because t’s easy to swallow or choke on. Try to keep toiletries contained.

9. Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets seem harmless right? Actually they’re not. Dryer sheets usually contain benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, a- terpinol and ethyl acetate. These chemicals are harmful to your cat and its best if you keep them out of reach.

10. House plants

Lots of people know plants aren’t always safe for cats, but choose to ignore it thinking that it doesn’t matter. But cats can and will eat plants. They can get really sick too. If you want, you can go to a pet store and buy grass meant for cats for your cat to munch on, but in the meantime, research plants that are safe for cats. You can find a long list of toxic plants here.

Did any of these surprise you? Did you already know any of these? Whether you knew a few or none, I hope you learned something new that could help you become a better owner and your cat happier.

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.

Orange-Daylily

Daylily

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

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-kristin-elmquist

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

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.

Ask Dr. Waffles

DrWaffles

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