Volunteer of the Month – May 2019

This May we’re celebrating Robbyn Gulka, a volunteer who dedicates her time to ensuring our Operations Centre is spic and span. With so many kitties in our care, it doesn’t take long for the mess to pile up. Volunteers, like Robbyn, are vital to ensuring the kitties live in a clean and safe environment while they’re staying at Ops.

Here Robbyn tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:

I began volunteering with VOKRA shortly after moving to Vancouver (from Ottawa) in October 2016. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 2.5 years!  I had spent several years volunteering for the Ottawa Humane Society, so when I moved here I wanted to continue with volunteer work in some capacity. I have always been surrounded by cats –  I grew up with them as a child and have adopted cats as an adult.

At VOKRA I work the Ops & Maintenance shift on Saturday afternoons. I undertake a lot of cleaning/washing/disinfecting (dishes, cat carriers, kennels and litter boxes) – as well as laundry and cat trees. I also support VOKRA by regularly mentoring new volunteers. On any given weekend new people will shadow me to review the Ops protocols and procedures. As I’ve been around a while, I’m happy to help in this regard.

The best thing about volunteering is the satisfaction I get from knowing that my time and efforts have a meaningful purpose. Aside from this, I love spending time socializing with the cats and it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting and getting to know the entire VOKRA team.

Rena

This past October, I lost my 16 year old cat, Maeve, to illness. It was a tough transition for me, as we had been together since I adopted her when she was 7. Just prior to her passing, I met Bumble one Saturday at VOKRA. I’m sure many people will remember Bumble. She was born in VOKRA’s care on April 2, 2016 (originally named Lavender) and then adopted by a family along with her sister. The adoption, unfortunately, didn’t work out for Bumble. After more than a year she was displaying behavioural issues and consistently peeing outside her litter box. She was subsequently surrendered back to VOKRA – and this is about the time I met her. Unlike a lot of the cats who arrive at the Ops Centre, Bumble was pretty chill. A little on the big side, she had to maneuver outside her kennel in order to be pet. She loved the attention. I think I was struck by her markings, but also by her stature. Aside from a few extra pounds, she’ very tall and long for a female cat. Anyway, I ended up keeping tabs on her as she transitioned to foster care, and eventually I tracked her down and adopted her in late December. She’s no longer Bumble (although sometimes I affectionately refer to her as such). Her name is now Rena and she has been a treat to have around. She’s a spunky three year old kitty… full of beans and energy. She loves food and her laser toy, and she’s a kneader. When she’s in the mood, she’ll snuggle up with me and knead endlessly. To save my skin, I have to wear heavy sweatshirts or sweaters:)

THANK YOU Robbyn for volunteering and for adopting Rena! All the time and effort you put in at our Operations Centre is very much appreciated.

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

Volunteer of the Month – April 2019

Spring showers bring flowers – and a big THANK YOU to our hundreds of volunteers!

This April we’re celebrating Heather Rossi, a volunteer who’s dedicated to helping ensure escaped kitties are found. A majority of the cats in our care are housed in foster homes and sometimes they manage to get out. Cats are very clever and sometimes they sneak out an open door or window. If this should happen Heather’s there to help.

Here Heather tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:

I started volunteering with VOKRA in the spring of 2010 when I saw a post on their Facebook page. I was hoping for something I could do from home – telephone or computer work. I started out helping with the fundraising team looking for grants to apply for. The first thing I noticed when I started meeting other volunteers was their outright dedication to the cats. This is one of the main reasons I continue to volunteer. VOKRA is such an awesome organization, 100% committed to the cats.

For a few years I helped find barn or farm homes for street cats that had been trapped. I started coming to the monthly meetings and assisted with taking/distributing the minutes and meeting reminders.

One of my favourite memories of my early volunteering is while at a monthly meeting VOKRA co-founder Maria mentioned that she’d received a call about a mom cat and kittens someone had seen near the Port Moody train station. Maria was looking for someone to trap them. I live not far from Port Moody so I said I could, but I didn’t know how to trap. After the meeting, Maria showed me how to set up the trap – at the side of her van on Broadway in the dark! The next day, my kids and I set out to trap the mom and kittens and by supper had managed to trap all four of them.

Because I live in Port Coquitlam and am unable to foster, I had not been able to volunteer directly with cats – until VOKRA arranged to have cats at the Petsmart in Coquitlam. I signed up for cat care there and this was one of my favourite times volunteering. It’s a good amount of work cleaning the kennels and feeding the cats, but the reward was being able to spend time with each of the cats there. I did have a soft spot for Rena, Mouse and Timmy.

I have helped with trapping, driving, fundraising, events – any time there is a need that I feel I can help with.

In 2015, VOKRA was looking for someone to be the main contact for escaped foster cats so I volunteered for this role. When a foster cat gets out of the house I’m the one who receives the email information. I create posters, send information to the lost pet sites, post on social media, etc.. and provide information to the foster and update the trapping and foster teams. I’m always happy when I receive a message that a cat is back safe and sound. I love helping in this way and I can do all the computer tasks, freeing the trapping team and other volunteers to search for the cat.

I am extremely honoured to be associated with VOKRA and the dedicated volunteers.

THANK YOU Heather! We’re the one who are extremely honoured to have you as a volunteer!

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

A Happy Reunion for Oreo!

Oreo (a.k.a. Esther). When she first arrived we thought her ear had been frost bitten. No one ever guessed she’d been in a devastating fire.

All of VOKRA’s little kitties have stories to tell and Oreo’s is one of the most dramatic. Lucky for her, there’s a happy ending to go along with it.

Oreo and her family suffered a terrifying ordeal last April when their home was devastated by a fire. Oreo, an indoor kitty, was trapped inside.

Fortunately, Oreo has a very caring (and brave!) owner who rushed inside the burning building to rescue her. And when this confused kitty wiggled free and ran back inside, thinking it was safe, owner Marcus ran in a second time, finally managing to get little Oreo out of immediate danger.

Thanks to Marcus, Oreo was alive, but she did need oxygen at the site to help her recover. She was also found to have further injuries—burns on her paws and a partly missing left ear—that required a visit to the vet, followed by a large bill.

Oreo (far left) gets some much needed oxygen.

 

At first all was well, but Oreo’s adventures weren’t over. As their house had burned down, Oreo and her family moved to a house more than 10 blocks away. By accident, on the very day she was schedule to be spayed, she got out of her new place and didn’t know where to go. She tried to go back to her old home and became lost.

Marcus searched frantically for Oreo, even going back to his old house and setting up feeding stations. But he wasn’t able to locate her.

Oreo was rescued in December, but there was a twist. Little Oreo had five kittens in tow! The family was brought to our Operations Centre for assessment and, despite living on the streets, everyone was healthy and in good spirits.

Oreo with her kittens.

Oreo (who was named Esther upon arrival) and her new kittens were sent to live with a foster, but not before their adorable photos were put on VOKRA’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Marcus hadn’t given up on finding his beloved pet and he was delighted to spot pictures of Oreo, and even more delighted to find she was well and cared for.

Earlier this month, Marcus and Oreo were reunited and are closer than ever. “She greets me every time I come home,” says Marcus. “She’s so happy now!”

Not all kitties have stories as dramatic as Oreo’s. But, regardless of how they arrived, the kitties in our care get the happy endings they deserve with the help and care of our many volunteers and fosters.

Oreo and Marcus

Bottle Babies – A Full-Time Job

Once upon a time, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA and they’d see litters of tiny kittens arrive without moms. Karen and Maria quickly became expert bottle feeders and found their services in high demand during kitten season. Eventually, they branched off on their own and VOKRA was born.

It was then that Karen and Maria 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.

Abu before & after

Keeping kittens with their mom is always ideal, but at times its necessary to bottle feed them. Some kittens may only be fed temporarily until their mom is located or while she’s recovering from illness or injury. And sometimes there will be extra-large litters so we’ll help out the mama cat by topping up the kittens with a bottle. We always try our best to ensure mom is trapped, deploying an arsenal of tricks, such as using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But there are times when mom is never found or she has passed away, making it essential the kittens are bottle fed until they can graduate to solid food.

Being responsible for a litter of newborn kittens may involve loads of cuteness, but it’s a full-time job requiring a lot of work!

“Newborn kittens need to be fed every two hours, which means you don’t get a lot of sleep when they’re tiny,” explains foster mom Lea Tkatch. “You need to make sure they’re always warm and, just like human babies, they need to be burped and bathed. And you can’t forget to stimulate their poop and pee just like their feline mom would do.”

Aladdin before & after

Each year VOKRA receives an average of 10 litters that require full-time bottle feeding so we have a small group of volunteers who are dedicated to keeping these kittens alive. Lea has taken on the responsibility of bottle feeding three litters so far and is about to see her latest bunch head off to their forever homes.

“My latest litter of three kittens arrived at VOKRA when they were only a week old,” said Lea. “They’d been found all alone and were taken to a local vet clinic who then called us. They were all very hungry and had bad colds, so their eyes were full of goop. One of the kittens was clearly the runt of the litter and, at first, we weren’t sure he was going to make it.”

Even with round-the-clock care and attention, bottle fed kittens have a lower survival rate than their counterparts with moms. Just like the kittens in Lea’s litter, they’re susceptible to illness which their tiny bodies have a hard time fighting.

Happily, with lots of TLC all of Lea’s kittens pulled through and they’re thriving today.

Jasmine

“We ended up naming the two bigger kittens Aladdin and Jasmine, and the tiny runt Abu,” said Lea. “Abu has almost caught up in size to his siblings and now it’s hard to imagine he was so small when he arrived. All three of them are so sweet it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”

Because bottle babies receive so much human attention at a young age, they’re almost always very social and adore cuddles. This is certainly the case with her three says Lea, “They constantly want to be with people and run to greet me and my husband when we walk in the door. Aladdin can’t seem to get close enough so often I end up wearing him like a scarf!”

Fostering saves lives and we have more than 350 foster parents to thank for that! In addition to taking care of bottle feeders, Lea also fosters older kittens, moms with kittens and the occasional adult cat.

At VOKRA we’re always looking for new foster parents to help save more lives. We provide all the food, supplies and other equipment necessary to our foster homes, as well as ongoing support and advice. You simply provide the care, attention and love.

We have a variety of fostering situations as we take in orphaned kittens, feral kittens, pregnant mothers, mothers with kittens and adult cats. Each year we need temporary homes for more than 1,400 kittens and cats! If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, please visit our website at vokra.ca/fostering.

Cyrus and Mika’s Happy Tail Ending

It’s Happy Tails for Ben and Elaine too, as these two cat-parents think it’s they, not their kitties, who’re the lucky ones!  

“We feel so fortunate to have Cyrus and Mika in our lives,” said Elaine. “They’re always around us—always, wherever we are, ensuring we’ll never be lonely again!”  

Loneliness was indeed what Ben and Elaine were feeling, after the deaths of their two beloved 18 year old Siamese brothers last year. Happily, VOKRA had the solution, two more Siamese cats! Both of which are playful and “a delight,” according to Ben. He and Elaine credit VOKRA’s foster parent system with, in Ben’s words, the “loving character of these two sweet cats.”  

“We only know they came from a difficult situation,” Elaine said, “but somehow through that, and with the love of the foster parents, they’re the most gentle, social little creatures.”  

And Ben thinks Cyrus and Mika are a lot of fun too. “Cyrus is a real clown with his antics!” he said. “He loves sitting on your lap or chest when you’re lying in bed, but that wonderful moment is on his terms, short-lived.”  

“Mika was shyer when we first brought her home, but she’s out of her shell now,” continues Ben. “She loves to be petted and enjoys waking you up by walking on your pillow to remind you that it’s mealtime.”  

“Both cats love their new home,” adds Elaine. Their “all-time” favourite pastime is mealtime, with the cats “often waiting very sadly by their empty food bowls an hour or so before mealtime. They love playtime, with Cyrus our gymnast jumping three or four feet to catch his favourite toy. Mika loves to open every cupboard door, too, so we now have childproof locks!”  

“What has struck us the most is the cats’ relaxed acceptance of not only the chance in their living space but also of their caregivers,” said Ben. “They embraced us from the first day.”

The two kitties, “in summary, have saved us more than we have them,” said Ben. “Thank you VOKRA, and of course Cyrus and Mika.”

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

Joy for Johnathon!

From a cardboard box to cloud nine! It’s a new and much happier life for Johnathon at his foster’s home! This lonely little kitty finally has somebody to snuggle with, thanks to VOKRA volunteers.

It was a hard life for Johnathon as one of Vancouver’s many stray cats. Though a kind stranger was giving the cutie some food, Johnathon’s home was a simple box in the backyard. Worse, he was hurting. After an unknown injury to his ear, this poor little kitty contracted a hematoma, a painful clotting of blood and broken vessels that can lead to tissue damage. Luckily for Johnathon, his feeding friend saw the problem and phoned VOKRA. In volunteers rushed, arranging for medical help and a new home for this little cat.

All better!

What a break for Johnathon! Not only did the sweet kitty get rid of the lump on his ear, but he also got the attention he was obviously craving. Immediately upon his rescue, it was noticed that, even ill, Johnathon was tame and very friendly. (“I luvs hims!” was the verdict of VOKRA co-founder Maria, who spearheaded Johnathon’s rescue.)

Now returned to health and in foster care, Johnathon’s a very cuddly cat, trailing around after foster mom Mika as he tries to get caught up on all the love he’s been missing.

“The moment you sit down on the floor, the couch, anywhere, the first thing [Johnathon] wants to do is curl up on your lap,” says Mika, who started taking care of the fluffy tuxedo early in February. “He’s also very talkative; if he feels he’s not getting enough cuddles, he’ll meow and follow you around until you sit down with him.”

It’s almost a happy ending for Johnathon as he’s close to being forever-home ready. Thanks to VOKRA, a sick and solitary cat has found health and a friend, and he’ll soon find the permanent love he needs.

Johnathon when he first arrived.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2019

Bob and Kaspurritto

It may be cold outside, but at VOKRA our hearts are always warm because we’re surrounded by our volunteers. This month we’re celebrating Bob Van Dusen, a volunteer who always brings a smile to our Operations Centre.

Here Bob tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

I’ve been volunteering with VOKRA for almost two years now. I first heard about the organization after the loss of my sweet Pippo after 16 years together. His sister Alexandra was still with us so we were thinking of getting her a little playmate. Our vet’s office suggested going through VOKRA to find a kitty.  We decided not to proceed at that time as Alexandra seemed to enjoy being the only child. Not long after she too passed and left us very sad and empty.

Khloe and Fumee just a few days after being adopted.

It was about a month later and we decided we needed to fill our home once again with kitty love. We of course remembered VOKRA and looked on the website and found the kitties that would become part of our family. Khloe and Fumee are now closing in on seven years with us.

I wasn’t working during the first few years after we adopted them and needed something to occupy some of my time. As I’ve always been a huge cat lover I applied to volunteer with VOKRA and was contacted regarding a position at the front desk which I accepted.

My initial contact with VOKRA was with Monique who spent a lot of time with me getting me up to speed with all the responsibilities of the front desk and how we contribute to the overall smooth running of the VOKRA machine. I can’t say enough great things about Monique. She’s more than a mentor/teacher, she has become a confidant, therapist and friend.

Bob with Poppy

As time passed I took on more responsibility and joined the financial team in a very limited capacity which I enjoy very much. I’ve strived to learn as much as I can about the different areas of VOKRA so I can be of use when a need arises.

Being a part of the VOKRA family has done so much for me as a person. The amazing people who are a part of this organization have welcomed me and I truly feel like I’ve gained a new family.

I have met so many wonderful kitties during my time at VOKRA. Of course, Charis is a particular favourite as she was one of the first kitties I met on my first day. My sweet Kaspurritto stole my heart in a big way. Most recently the darling Poppy tugged at the heart strings and am so happy to see her doing so well in her foster home. So many more I’ve wanted to bring home and all have such a special place in my heart.

C’Fer

One memory stands out right now. One Tuesday morning before my 2 p.m. shift I received a call from the morning receptionist Jennifer to ask me a favour. The vet clinic on Davie Street had been visited by a young man who was wanting to have his 12-year-old kitty euthanized for some behavioural issues. The clinic refused and found out he had been shopping his cat around the downtown clinics, all of whom thankfully refused. The clinic on Davie contacted VOKRA’s Operations Centre to see if we would be willing to take him in as the owner was just going to dump the cat in the wild somewhere. Being VOKRA, of course they said yes. The young man was contacted and surrendered his kitty at the clinic.  My small part was to pick him up and bring him to Ops. None of us saw evidence of the “issues” his former owner had described. It’s a testament to the dedication of VOKRA that C’Fer is flourishing in his foster home and hopefully will find his furever home soon. I just feel so fortunate I was able to contribute in my way to saving this wonderful cats life.

Finally, I want to thank Karen and Maria for creating VOKRA and a place where kitties and humans can become the best they can be. My life has been so enriched by being a part of this organization. So many others inspire me with the dedication and hard work they put forth for VOKRA.

THANK YOU Bob for all your dedication and the time and energy you put towards helping the kitties of VOKRA. We couldn’t be more appreciative!

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