It Takes a Clowder*

*Clowder = a group or cluster of cats.

When Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski founded VOKRA back in 2000 it was headquartered in the basement of Karen’s Victorian home in Kitsilano. The plan was to care for very young, mostly bottle-fed kittens and, as often happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

Karen & Maria with longtime volunteer Shelley

Back in the day, VOKRA had a “staff” of approximately 10 volunteers and averaged 150 rescues a year. By 2008, that number had increased to 800 cats and kittens and in 2014 that number jumped to more than 1,800. After finding loving homes for thousands of cats and kittens it was about time VOKRA moved out of Karen’s basement and got a new home of its own. So in 2014 we opened our Operations Centre.

Since opening the Operations Centre (a.k.a. Ops), VOKRA has been very lucky to have an amazing amount of truly dedicated volunteers join us and help save the lives of cats and kittens.

Volunteers at our Ops making sure kittens are flea-free

Today, VOKRA currently has more than 400 volunteers working hard either behind the scenes or at Ops. We also have more than 550 foster homes, currently fostering or available to foster.

Just at our Operations Centre alone, there are an average of 168 volunteers a week! Here’s a quick snapshot of what it takes to make Ops tick:

  • Cat Care, Operations Support and Maintenance – 125+ shifts per week.
  • Medical Team – 17 volunteers
  • Reception – 20+ shifts per week

Our Operations Centre is also very busy with a large number of fosters who pick up food/supplies/medications for their foster kitties.

There are also hundreds of VOKRA volunteers “behind the scenes” who make things happen. We currenlty have 261+ volunteers on 48 teams, including:

Our event volunteers are always out in the community

Volunteer Recruitment- Adoption Counsellors – Adoption Contracts – Foster Coordinators – New Foster – Homes Interviewers – Kitty Health Checks – Medical Research – Foster Kitty Vaccination – Cat Behaviourism – Monitoring Health in Foster Care – Post Adoption Health Support – Vet Lab Reports – Fundraising – Events – Volunteer Committee – Communications – Photography – Kitty Biographers – Finance – IT – Database Administration – Foster Website – Trapping – Barn Placement – Drivers – Southlands Barn (where elderly feral cats and disabled kitties live) – and more!!!!

There never seems to be a shortage of cats to rescue

Sometimes it seems like we’re all chasing our tails trying to keep up – we’ve grown in leaps and bounds and, at times, are still going through growing pains. But we’re all here for one thing – the kitties.

Thank you to each and every one of our special volunteers who are a member of the VOKRA clowder. We wouldn’t exist without your dedication and support. Each and every one of you make a difference in the lives of kitties each day.

We’re always looking for new volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 19/2017

VOLUNTEERS AT OPERATIONS CENTRE:

CAT CARE / OPERATIONS SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE   151 VOLUNTEERS

AVERAGE NUMBER — IS 125 SHIFTS PER WEEK FILLED  78%  HAVE STAYED BEYOND 6 MO.

RECEPTION:

19-21 VOLUNTEERS PER WEEK

MEDICAL TEAM:

17 VOLUNTEERS CURRENTLY  *** NEED MORE… 2 X 7 = 14, SOME MEMBERS HAVE TO VOLUNTEER MORE THAN 1 SHIFT

WALL STREET OPS TEAM:

5 VOLUNTEERS

BUILDING – WALL STREET:

1 VOLUNTEER

PROCUREMENT / AND INVENTORY:

1 VOLUNTEER

****TOTAL– AVERAGE NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS PER WEEK AT THE CENTRE: – 168

 

 

 

VOKRA IN GENERAL:

(OUTSIDE THE OPERATIONS CENTRE)

 

AT SOUTHLANDS BARN:

12 REGULAR WEEKLY VOLUNTEERS / 3 CASUAL / 1 BARN MANAGER

FOSTER HOMES THAT HAVE FOSTER KITTIES :

248 HOMES

NUMBER OF CATS CURRRENTLY IN FOSTER CARE:

472 CATS/KITTENS

ADOPTIONS SO FAR IN 2017:

940 / AS OF OCTOBER 17/2017

RECRUITMENT:

9 VOLUNTEERS

FOSTER COORDINATORS:

19 VOLUNTEERS  = 6 NEW FOSTER INTERVIEWERS, 10 CO-ORDINATORS WHO OVERSEE FOSTER HOMES IN VARIOUS AREAS OF GREATER VANCOUVER/SURREY, 3 PEOPLE CHECKING FOR HEALTH UPDATES FOR FOSTER KITTIES

ADOPTION COUNCELLOR TEAM:

5 VOLUNTEERS FULL TIME / 4-5 PEOPLE WHO DO OCCATIONAL APPLICATIONS

APPROXIMATELY 150 APPLICATIONS AT ANY GIVEN TIME BEING WORKED ON

ADOPTION CONTRACTS (PAPERS) TEAM:

17 VOLUNTEERS

VOKRA “RETURN” SURRENDERS:

1 VOLUNTEER

TRAPPING TEAM VANCOUVER:

3 VOLUNTEERS

VOKRA SURREY TEAM:

6 VOLUNTEERS

MEDICAL RESEARCH TEAM:

3 VOLUNTEERS

CAT BEHAVIOUR TEAM:

4 VOLUNTEERS

FOSTER KITTY VACCINATION TEAM:

10 VOLUNTEERS IN THE LOWER MAINLAND ***NEED MORE PEOPLE

POST ADOPTION SUPPORT TEAM:

4 VOLUNTEERS

HEALTH IN FOSTER CARE TEAM:

4 VOLUNTEERS

VET RESULTS ADMIN.TEAM:

2 VOLUNTEERS

CATS IN CARE BIOS TEAM:

3 VOLUNTEERS

PHOTO /VIDEO UPLOADS TO DATABASE/WEBSITE:

3 VOLUNTEERS

BARN PLACEMENT FOR WORKING CATS TEAM:

3 VOLUNTEERS

DRIVERS TEAM:

54 VOLUNTEERS *** STILL NEED MORE

GIFT CARD PROGRAM TEAM:

5 VOLUNTEERS

ONLINE STORE:

1 VOLUNTEER

COMMUNICATIONS TEAM:

2 VOLUNTEERS ***** NEED MORE

FUNDRAISING TEAM:

9 VOLUNTEERS *** NEED MORE

VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE TEAM:

6 VOLUNTEERS

PHOTOGRAPHY TEAM:

19 VOLUNTEERS + 6 BACK UP

CALENDAR COMMITTEE TEAM:

7 VOLUNTEERS

VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH TEAM:

1 VOLUNTEER

FINANCE TEAM:

4 VOLUNTEERS /  + DONATIONS/DEPOSITS – 2 VOLUNTEERS

LEGACY -2 VOLUNTEERS

ADMINISTRATION TEAM:

3 VOLUNTEERS

 

IT /DATABASE TEAM:

1 VOLUNTEER ***** DESPIRATELY NEED MORE PEOPLE

FOSTER WEBSITE MANAGEMENT /UPDATES

 2 VOLUNTEERS

MISSING CATS TEAM:

2 VOLUNTEERS

TRIAL PET INSURANCE:

1 VOLUNTEER

ADOPT A PET DATABASE/ PETFINDER:

1 VOLUNTEER

KIJIJI ADS:

1 VOLUNTEER

CRAIGSLIST ADS:

1 VOLUNTEER

NEWSPAPER ADS:

1 VOLUNTEER

Daisy’s Happy Tail Ending

Daisy’s a black beauty with cerebellar hypoplasia, which means she has a “wobbly walk” and a tendency to fall down, but otherwise is just like other cats. She enjoys the company of people, whether being brushed, pet or just relaxing on the couch. Despite her gentle nature, Daisy spent the first three and half years of her life in foster homes.

Trace is a cat lover who always had cats in the family home growing up. After receiving a promotion at work, she decided the perfect way to celebrate was to open up her home to a special needs cat. Trace arranged to meet Daisy in her foster home after viewing her profile on our website. During the visit, “Daisy leaned into me to steady herself and let me pet her,” said Trace. “I knew then that I wanted to take her home.”

Although shy at first, with time and patience Daisy slowly learned to trust Trace and embrace her new life as a pampered housecat. She loves playing with cloth measuring tapes and clean, empty pill bottles. Trace thinks Daisy likes the way the bottles move in unpredictable ways – just like her! She also loves sleeping in Trace’s lap or leaning her head on her palm with at least one foot on her person. “I think she feels safe that way,” Trace said. “It’s very cute.”

Daisy’s wobbly mechanics sometimes make mealtimes messy. Like a good cat mom, Trace keeps an eye on her so she doesn’t fall into her food. As a writer Trace spends several hours a day working on her computer, which makes Daisy a little jealous! She’s a vocal cat and not shy about voicing her displeasure at not being the center of attention.

We’re so glad Daisy was able to find such a doting, patient guardian in Trace. Thank you for opening up your home to a special needs kitty.

Trace said it best when she told us, “I like to think the universe was waiting for us to find each other. I love my new fur roommate.”

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

Volunteer of the Month – April 2018

April showers may bring flowers, but they also bring us our Volunteer of the Month, Cynthia Reed!

Cynthia first started volunteering with VOKRA back in the summer of 2010 when we were still headquartered in co-founder Karen’s basement. Since then she’s witnessed the amazing growth of the organization and our move into a shiny new Operations Centre.

Within Cynthia’s first week of volunteering Karen, one of our master persuaders, had also talked her into fostering two small feral kittens.

“It was the height of kitten season and Karen’s basement was overflowing with kitties needing a home,” explains Cynthia. “How could I say no to Karen?”

Like many fosters, Cynthia “foster failed” on her first try and became a pet parent to fur-babies Tony and Cleo, who will be eight years old this month.

Cynthia has many memories of kitties she’s fallen in love with during her time volunteering with VOKRA. One of the cats who will stay in her heart forever is Chance the Wobbler, a cat with mobility issues who lived at Karen’s for a long time.

Jorge is patiently waiting for a new foster to come along

There’s also Charlie, who lived at Ops after being diagnosed with cancer, and Jorge, a sweet senior who is patiently waiting at the Centre for a new foster home. And there’s also Beamer, a blind and deaf kitten who Cynthia spent many hours playing with when he first arrived.

“There are way too many to count them all,” said Cynthia. “Everyone is special.”

Since VOKRA moved into our Operations Center, Cynthia has spent most of her cat care time in the T-N-R room.

“My experience with feral cats has been very rewarding and I have certainly learned a lot from (co-founder) Maria when helping her with some the wilder cats,” Cynthia explains. “I have done my best to adopt Maria’s calm and patient nature with the cats and now I look forward to caring for those ‘terrible’ cats other people might be afraid to approach.”

Cynthia goes on to say, “Being with VOKRA for so many years has given me the opportunity to work with and get to know some great people and I have been able to pass on what I have learned by mentoring several new volunteers.”

Volunteering for VOKRA has been a fantastic experience and I hope to be around for many years to come.

Cynthia  Reed

Thank you so much Cynthia for all your dedication to the kitties and the many, many hours you’ve spent volunteering. We truly appreciate your support and also hope you’ll be around for many years to come!

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!

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

Maeve’s Happy Tail Ending

Louisa, her son and their kitten Bailey were left with a hole in their family when their beloved dog passed away at age 15 from old age. Having grown up with him from six weeks to 11 months old, Bailey was particularly attached to his canine friend and was distraught after his passing. After a few months Louisa decided Bailey needed a friend. When she looked up the available kittens on our website she quickly came across Maeve, a special needs kitten with feline cerebellar hypoplasia (CH).

CH is a neurological condition that results in walking and balance problems and is caused when the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls fine motor skills and coordination, is underdeveloped at birth. Maeve didn’t let her CH slow her down and was quite the busy kitten in her foster home! She spent her days playing, exploring or just watching the action from afar, waiting for that special someone to come along and make her a part of their family.

Louisa quickly booked an appointment right away to meet Maeve. “I watched her brother and sister running around and I watched her try to keep up and decided with that tenacity and spirit she was mine!” said Louisa.

While it took Bailey a few days to get used to having another kitty in the house, he soon came around. Now he and Maeve are BFFs (best feline friends). “Bailey is not a real cuddler except with Maeve,” said Louisa. “She head butts for attention and gives her little squeaky purr sounds. Her wobbly demeanour is adorable and it does not impede her running at breakneck speed after Bailey.”

Bailey and Maeve make a purrfect pair. She has a habit of pecking at her food, leaving her with a messy face after mealtime. Bailey helps her out by cleaning her face and, in return, she cleans his ears. Maeve also plays fun cat games with Bailey and they keep each other company during naptime. Louisa says Maeve has, “made a wonderful addition to our home and a great companion for Bailey. She is very, very sweet.”

Thank you Louisa for giving a loving home to a special needs cat. We’re glad Bailey has a new friend and Maeve has a forever home with kind guardians to care for her.

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

 

 

Volunteer of the Month – March 2018

Spring is in the air! At VOKRA, sunshine and cherry blossoms can only mean one thing – the kittens are coming! Soon our Operations Centre will be even more of a hive of activity than it already is. One of the people who help pull it all together is Monique H. who is one of the smiling volunteers you’ll find manning the front desk. Monique does a wonderful job and also ensures all the new receptionists know the ropes when they start. Here she tells us in her own words why she volunteers for VOKRA:

I took a very serendipitous route to VOKRA…the universe was trying to tell me something. I first heard of VOKRA when I binge-watched the locally shot TV show Fringe and Googled lead actress Anna Torv. She was a foster to some very adorable VOKRA kittens and talked about them in interviews. Naturally my next step was to search for “VOKRA kittens”, which led me to a gigantic cache of cute. I followed the kitten video trail until I found an article talking about VOKRA’s new Operations Centre in East Van, which just happened to be a few blocks from my house. It was meant to be!

I think I was one of the first group of receptionists, as Ops had only been open for around 6 months when I started volunteering. We hadn’t even taken over the space next door yet, which was a doggy daycare, although I’m sure they sensed the cats were going to win their territory when van-loads of mamas and babies started arriving. It all looked so organized and efficient, although co-founder Karen gave quite a laugh years later when I told her those initial impressions.

Minda

My main motivation for wanting to help rescue cats was how much of an impact my own kitty has had on my life. I was always an animal lover, but my parents were not cat people, to say the least. Even when I moved out on my own I wasn’t able to take the leap. That changed when my partner and I adopted Minda. We found her through the SPCA and she was so sad and scared in her kennel that it broke my heart. She quickly became “my” kitty and I learned the joy of waking up to a cat cuddled on my stomach (I also learned the “joy” of being trained to dish out earlier and earlier breakfasts). When I developed health problems and couldn’t participate in a lot of my former activities, Minda was there to purr beside me and keep me company. Not only is every cat worth saving, doing so may save a human as well. That’s why my very favourite part of working the front desk is filing adoption papers, as each contract represents a wonderful new relationship forming.

I’m keeping it a secret from Minda, but other kitties have won my love as well. My very first “VOKRA crush” was sweet little Mei-Lei with her long coat and jaunty jackets. When she got injured and lost while in care I was among the many, many folks having a quiet heart attack desperately hoping she would be all right. I obviously have an “M” problem, because Meep was also very special to me around the same time. She would fall asleep in a blanket in my lap and she was around Ops for so long that we had a regular Saturday date to zone out after my shift before I went home.

Bottle feeding Little Dude

Last summer I got to bottle-feed a kitten for the very first time, thanks to Little Dude. It’s really an incredible feeling, I think I’m addicted now. Help! And of course, the kitties that are no longer with us like Stewart and Charlie. I was working my shift when Charlie first was surrendered by his family and got to see his pain and confusion turn to confidence and chattiness as he outlasted all predictions on how long he would be around. I miss you so much Charlie – every time I see those little dried fish I think of you.

My favourite memory of VOKRA itself is a night I spent at Ops in the days before we installed air conditioning. With the bay door open and warm summer air coming through, I got to witness all of the cats wake up from their after-supper naps and become the little lions that they are. Shy ferals came out of their hiding places and sleepy cats started to play recklessly with their toys. Kittens squeaked and pounced. It was like visiting the tiniest jungle and I feel honoured to have had an invite. Thank you so much, Karen and Maria, for creating a place where cats can be themselves and where we humans get to see them do so.

THANK YOU Monique!!! Your dedication to VOKRA and all the kitties is truly inspiring!

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!

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

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.