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.

Why Pets Aren’t Presents

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversary. These are just a few of the days in the year when we look to find the perfect gift.

At first blush, giving a pet as a present might seem like an incredibly special and thoughtful gift, whether that be a kitten or a puppy, or a smaller pet like a hamster or a mouse. This is especially true if you know the person you’re shopping for loves animals and would possibly welcome receiving a pet as a gift.

However, giving a pet as a present, even if the person you intend to give it to has stated they’d like one is never a good idea.

People’s personal situations

If one of your friends or loved ones is always saying “Oh, I’d love a cat!” it might seem obvious that presenting them with the object of their desires is a great move to make. However, you should consider why this person who would “love a cat” does not already have one; there are undoubtedly many reasons you might not have any idea about. Perhaps they’re not allowed to have pets in their accommodation or work long hours and have made the responsible decision that pet ownership is not appropriate for them at this time.

They may have allergies or sensitivities that negate their ability to live with the pet they’d choose, they might be financially unable to care for a pet or their personal situation might be in flux and they’re not able to plan ahead sufficiently to consider pet ownership.

“I’d love to own a pet!” doesn’t indicate a meaningful desire to do so.

The choice of pet is personal

Choosing the right pet is a very personal process and every person should select their own animal (or wait for the right animal to select them.) This goes deeper than simply narrowing down what type of animal – cat, dog, bird, gerbil – the person in question would pick and pertains to the choice of individual animal itself.

Even if the person you wish to buy for knows precisely what type of pet and even what breed, age and sex they want, every single animal is different and has its own personality and temperament. They don’t come off a production line in a uniform manner! The potential pet owner should always pick their own pet and find the animal that matches their needs and appeals to them on a personal level, something that can’t be performed for them by a well-meaning third party.

Timing is crucial

As well as all of the other considerations to bear in mind regarding pet ownership, even if someone is actively on the lookout for a new pet, precisely when the time is right for them to get their pet is a personal choice that no one else can make for them. At its most basic, this might simply involve ensuring they have everything they need to take care of their pet and have researched what is involved thoroughly, or that they don’t have any holidays planned soon or any big changes happening in their lives.

But getting a new pet such as a puppy or kitten can also mean the prospective owner might need to take some time off work or rearrange their schedule to accommodate for the immediate needs of their new pet. Only the person planning to take on the ownership of a pet will know exactly when the time is right for them, and even a much-desired new pet can soon become a burden if it’s pushed onto someone who isn’t ready.

Each person needs the freedom to take responsibility for their own choices

Taking on the responsibility of caring for another life is no minor undertaking and it’s up to each and every potential pet owner to make sure they’re ready for this challenge, both in terms of logistics, such as time and money, and emotionally as well.

Again, knowing when someone is ready and making the conscious decision to get a pet and be a responsible pet owner is a personal thing and it’s important every potential pet owner goes through the process of learning, planning and judging themselves to be ready for the challenge. If you present someone with an animal as a gift, they won’t have had the opportunity to do this and both pet and person will suffer as a result.

Pets are not presents and living animals don’t make good gifts. If you know your loved one is looking to adopt, consider purchasing one of our adoption gift certificates by clicking here

Another great alternative is to give a donation in honour of your loved one. You can do this easily by visiting givetovokra.ca. Upon request, we’ll also send the honouree a special card letting them know about your gift.

This post has been adapted from the following article www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice/why-you-should-never-give-pets-as-presents

Volunteer of the Month – January 2018

At VOKRA we have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who dedicate their time to ensuring everything runs smoothly. At our Operations Centre alone there are more than 160 different volunteers who come through the doors on a weekly basis! We’re starting off 2018 by recognizing one of the many teams that are critical to ensuring the kitties in our care are healthy and happy – the Medical Team.

The primary goal of the Medical Team is to improve the overall health of all the cats temporarily staying at our Operations Center – basically to ensure they’re healthy, fed and have a clean environment to live in. The team provides them with medical care and treatments, as well as environmental and social enrichment during their shifts. At the Operations Center we also work very closely with our Cat Care friends whenever a cat requires monitoring. This includes monitoring overall health, cold symptoms, appetite, bowel movements and urine output. In exchange for the help the Cat Care Team provides, the Medical Team also provides assistance to their associates by offering their hands to treating and feeding the more feral cats while assessing and monitoring their behaviours as well.

Ringworm + a cold makes for a tricky combination. But after lots of care and attention Cadbury is now healthy and in her forever home.

Besides monitoring, some of the treatments the Med Team provides include administering oral and topical medications, intramuscular and subcutaneous injections, routine vaccinations, deworming and deflea treatments. Particular infectious cases, such as colds and ringworm, require extra care so the team undertakes extra measures to prevent transmission to healthy cats. This includes gowning up and strict disinfection protocols around the clock. This past year at VOKRA was particularly challenging for the Medical Team as they had a few outbreaks of ringworm (which is a persistent skin fungus). Due to the teams diligence in administering oral medications in conjunction with topical creams and medicated baths, we’re happy to say they successfully treated 22 cases of ringworm in 2017.

Also, we have a few members of the Med Team who are involved with the Management Team. These lovely people assist in many ways, including scheduling, conflict management, error checking medical records, updating health records, organizing and strategizing new treatment plans, researching and writing new operating protocols, and the list goes on. With such large tasks at hand during regular medical shifts, this small cohort of people work together to make things more manageable, largely by creating a less stressful environment to work in.

The Medical Team removes a tick from the face of a kitten.

Overall, they work as a team to improve the overall health of all cats by providing them with the medical care and treatments they need for placement into foster homes. From bottle-feeders to geriatrics, and semi-ferals to ferals, we’re confident in saying the team is happy in treating them all in order to ensure their happiness in the long-term.

We’re so thankful to have such a talented team with diverse skills sets. We have registered nurses, a registered massage therapist, vet assistants, a veterinarian from Japan, a medical office assistant, a PhD, master’s and bachelor’s of both the arts and sciences, as well as animators and a pianist. THANK YOU to the entire Medical Team for your dedication and love of the kitties!

Management Team: Melissa Glier (volunteer since Aug 2016), Olivia Chorny (Feb 2017), Cheryl Linaksita (Aug 2016), Elisabeth Spielbichler (May 2017), Robyn CQ (March 2017)

Sarah Brown (Nov 2015), Tanita Egger (Jan 2016), Tiana Suadela, Andrea Tremblay-Legendre (Jan 2016), Jane Moira (Jan 2016), Vincent Wong (Jan 2016), Masayo Matsuoka (Aug 2016), Kathryn Melnyk (Jan 2017), Celine Uy (Jan 2017), Rebecca Wieland (April 2017), Amanda Henderson (June 2017), Ashley Crivea (June 2017), Pouya Shafiei (Nov 2017), Shannon Strachan (Oct 2017)

My favorite part working at VOKRA is that I never stop learning. We are so lucky to have Karen and Maria as our mentors. Cat’s are probably the hardest patients in the veterinary world which means we are constantly troubleshooting how to work with feral and unpredictable cats. Oh, and the babies!!!

Melissa Glier

 

I get to make a difference in the world, whether it be small or big. I love seeing the very sick strive to becoming healthier (Like Jorje or Charlie). I love giving kitties love when they have never experienced it. I love spending times with cats that are sad and depressed (like our dear Milo). I love seeing the turn around from semi feral or scared cats to total lap cats. It’s totally rewarding. Most importantly it gives me a purpose in my life. I feel that I belong at vokra. I feel part of something. And it helps me with my anxiety that I carry in my day to day life.

Elisabeth Spielbichler

 

My favourite thing about volunteering on the Medical Team is building relationships with the cats over time and bringing them joy. I also love seeing “complicated” kitties thrive and grow, Charlie and Ruther in particular. They both came in aggressive, terrified, and upset, but with trust and time, their behaviour did a 180°! Turns out they’re both cuddle bugs!

Jane Csiszar

 

My favourite part of volunteering has been meeting new people and witnessing all the effort every volunteer puts in at VOKRA!

Kathryn Drury-Melnyk

 

My favorite part of volunteering is to witness all those happy stories. To see the cats off the streets, sick or feral, healing at ops and then going to a foster home all recovered and ready for a better life.

Andrea Tremblay-Legendre

 

My favourite part of working with VOKRA is the community. It’s a group of people all working to empower each other to achieve one huge goal – help cats in whatever capacity they can. From the medical team, where it’s a delight seeing all of these kind people spending their limited spare time discussing the best ways to get a pill in a particularly difficult cat (shout out Charis), or what fun surprise they found in someone’s litter box that day, or even just supporting each other in their day to day lives. It’s a group of people fervent to learn and support each other.

This seems to be the case across the board for all the VOKRA teams. It’s definitely evident when I work with cat care. No matter how difficult the cat, every shift I see cat care volunteers patiently working to ensure that each cat is safe, secure, healthy, and, if the particular feline allows it, loved.

Olivia Chorny

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!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Vela & Pyxis’ Happy Tail Ending

Vela and her kitten Pyxis are two black beauties who came to VOKRA as the result of a hoarding situation. Despite having a rough start in life, these two adjusted well to foster care, having enjoyed exploring their surroundings and investigating the comings and goings of their foster home. Their first adoption fell through, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because they found their perfect match in Brian and Gerry.

After losing their three wonderful cats due to illness and old age in a span of only seven months, Brian and Gerry were ready to welcome new feline family members into their home. Having adopted black cats in the past, they saw Vela and Pyxis’ profiles on VOKRA’s website and knew they were the perfect kitties for them.

Pyxis

It’s now been one year since their adoption and Vela and Pyxis are doing well in their new home. The cats have their regular routine of 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. treat time, as well as watching the bird feeder and squirrel activities from the closed-in deck. Pyxis is the more outgoing of the two, always greeting Brian and Gerry after they return home. Vela is a little more reserved, but always welcomes a scratch or two behind the ear.

The cats have also become seasoned travellers! They recently returned from a two week RV trip to the BC Interior with Brian and Gerry. This was their fourth trip and according to Brian, “they are super travellers and campers. They of course remain in the RV and spend a great deal of time watching for wildlife at each location.”

Vela

It certainly has been a happy ending for cats and humans alike. Brian put it best when he said, “it has been a pleasure giving them a forever home and they reward us by making sure we know they are part of our family….they are truly gentle souls.”

Thank you so much Brian and Gerry for providing a loving home to Vela and Pyxis!

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