Looking Out For Street Cats: Kiyon and Lucy

It’s a hard world for homeless kitties, but things are getting better for Kiyon and little Lucy, thanks to the volunteers at VOKRA.

Late last fall, new mom Kiyon was taking care of her very young kittens when she was surprised by a raccoon, a common Lower Mainland predator that can target vulnerable animals like outdoor cats. Kind walkers-by heard the struggle and rushed to help and the kitties were brought to VOKRA.

The attack had a sad ending for three of the little ones, who were too wounded to survive. A similar fate was almost in store for little Lucy who was bitten on the head, face and on her left front leg. Lucky for Lucy there was VOKRA! Volunteer and co-founder Karen started things off, bottle feeding the one-week old and cleaning and medicating her wounds.

Lucy’s paw

Volunteer Andrea stepped up to foster, an experience that involved cleaning Lucy’s hurt paw every day for seven weeks. But even in the midst of treatment, Lucy was bouncing back. She was “playing and purring, happy to be alive,” Andrea recounts. “She was climbing a lot even though she has only two claws on one paw. Just like a normal kitten!”

Poor Kiyon was slower to recover. “It’s hard to describe how Kiyon was,” says Andrea. “She wasn’t interested in being petted, not expressive, obviously scared [and] grieving.”

Kiyon’s a patient mama

Proximity to Lucy was a big help to this caring mom. Despite her shock, Kiyon snuggled with Lucy, licking the kitten’s little face. At Andrea’s house, Kiyon was very protective, watching closely as Lucy’s injuries were tended to. “One little meow from Lucy and Kiyon would stand up and come see what was going on,” smiles Andrea.

And good news! Andrea reports that Lucy recently received a clean bill of health. “We saw a vet and he confirmed her paw is looking healthy!”, Andrea says happily.

Kiyon will take a bit more care, as Andrea notes that mama cat is “still easily stressed out, anxious and figuring out how to live with the trauma she went through.” Nonetheless, progress is being made there too. Kiyon “plays a lot with Lucy and is a very loving mother. She just doesn’t show much interest in humans. I’m working on it!”

It’s tough out there for little cats. Fortunately, there are VOKRA volunteers, helping to keep all kitties safe, warm and loved.

It’s not uncommon for cats to be attacked by raccoons. This is one of the many reasons why VOKRA adopts to indoor only homes and strongly encourages everyone to keep their cats safely indoors.

Volunteer of the Month – January 2019

Some say January is the dreariest month, but at VOKRA we have hundreds of volunteers who continually brighten our days. This month we’re celebrating Sean St. Pierre, a volunteer who brings his heart and soul to VOKRA each time he gets in his car.

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

To be honest, when I was contacted about being selected as Volunteer of the Month I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. Every minute I volunteer at VOKRA is in memory of my two rescue cats who passed in 2015.

Mr. Pickles

Mr Pickles passed on Oct 30th at home in my arms, due to having cancer. He was in my life for more than 13 years and was my best friend and I still think about him everyday. He helped get me through some very difficult times.

Unfortunately two months after Mr Pickles passed, and three days before Christmas, my little guy Ace lost his life due to a tragic accident at the age of two. He was so beautiful and was a major part of filling the gigantic hole left in my heart from the loss of Pickles. I was also injured during the incident and missed six weeks of work. It was during this time when I was off work when I stumbled upon the VOKRA website. At first, I was looking every day for a new addition to bring home, but after some time and discussion with my spouse, we decided that taking on any more cats was not the best move for the time being. We continue to spend our energies on our surviving senior cat Bubba.

Mr. Pickles and Ace

That being said, I still found myself going to the VOKRA website daily and it made me sad that so many beautiful animals were in need of finding the right home. I thought about all the happiness my two rescues brought me and how I could somehow help out at VOKRA. So I checked out the volunteer page….

Due to my super busy schedule with work and chief shop steward duties, I figured starting out as a driver would be best suited for me at the time.

In the two and a half years I’ve been with VOKRA, I’ve done almost 200 rides. Some are just supply runs to fosters, others are rides to get some of our new arrivals fixed, but my favorite rides are bringing cats to their new fosters. It feels good knowing we’re providing a new chapter in these cats’ lives and the fosters always have a big smile waiting for their new temporary family member.

It always tears my heart out when I get the senior cats for transport. I have a soft spot for them. Either they’ve been abandoned or have spent most of their lives on the street and just need a good home. Sometimes they’re beat up and look really rough. They just need a break. Those are tough rides.

I’m hoping there will be a point in my life where I can take on more responsibility at VOKRA, whether it be fostering, cat care or even joining the trapping team. Being a non-profit volunteer-run facility, they really need all the help they can get.

I’m looking forward to the years ahead, not only with the cats but all the wonderful volunteers that I cross paths with.

THANK YOU Sean for all your hard work and dedication and for turning your loss into something positive.

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.

Wanted: Vaccination Team Coordinator & Vaccinators

Have you ever dreamt of working directly with cats and kittens? Well dreams do come true because right meow we’re looking for a volunteer to lead our vaccination team, as well as general vaccinators. We’re looking for experienced vet techs and cat lovers with a healthcare background (such as nurses) to aid in vaccinating our adorable kittens and cats.

Vaccination Team Coordinator

This is a time flexible position where you work partly from your own home (appointment coordination) and partly at foster homes (doing vaccinations).

This volunteer position requires 4-6 hours/week for coordinating vaccinations with fosters and vaccinators. During that time you’ll also be doing general administrations work (spreadsheets, database) and ensuring emails are promptly responded to and vaccinations are scheduled within 72 hours. Training will be provided

Vaccination Team Member

As a volunteer on our Vaccination Team, you’ll be provided training, supplies of vaccine and follow-up homeopathic treatments. You’ll be provided training and will be able to buddy up with an experienced vaccinator and practice with guidance on one or two foster trips.

Here’s how the process works – When a foster family signs up to have their fosters vaccinated you’ll receive an email from the vaccination team coordinator. You’re given all the information on the kitties and their foster family (such as where they live) and then together with the foster you’ll organize a suitable time for an appointment. Vaccinating at home, as opposed to making a trip to the vet, can save lots of time since most vaccinations for a litter of kittens take about 30 minutes (each injection only takes about 10 seconds). After vaccinations, you’ll follow up with a homeopathic treatment to help the kitties feel fantastic. And there you go – the cats are protected, the foster family is happy and you’ve saved the kitties a (potentially) scary trip to the vet.

Interested candidates are encouraged to fill out our online volunteer application available at http://www.vokra.ca/volunteer.

Talula’s Happy Tail Ending!

Fostering lead to fun and a long-term furry companion for VOKRA foster Mark. Eight years ago, troublemaker Talula was causing extra work for in-house VOKRA volunteers, so Mark kindly offered to help out by fostering… little did he know he’d found his new forever friend!

“She was a feral one year old cat trapped on a reserve,” Mark said. “I was told she was anti-social and had to be put in her kennel when the other cats were in the play area.”

Initially travelling a lot for work, Mark says he liked VOKRA’s fostering program, as it allowed him kitty company without the long-term commitment he wasn’t sure he could provide. Part of the draw was the convenience, but it also helped that VOKRA covers all the cost, including food, litter, a cat carrier and medical care. But the other “bonus” was Talula herself, who quickly won Mark’s heart.

“After three months, someone called to have a visit for adoption,” Mark explained. “I was forced to decide if I wanted to keep my ‘roomie’.”

And the rest is history. Talula was adopted and she and Mark have been together ever since. Talula has come a long way from her feral past. “She’s more relaxed and trusting, but she definitely does things on her own terms. She’ll still hiss, but it’s a mutually agreed non-offensive affair.”

Talula is a great cat/roomie/buddy for Mark and, like all cats with their owners, has her little rituals. “She always ends up in the same room I’m in but she follows me to ignore me. She greets me after work by falling down and stretching (twice) at the front door.”

Mark sums up his life with Talula in one sentence: “Having a cat (or animal of any kind) is the best!”

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

Sushi and Kimchi’s Happy Tail Ending

Would-be cat parents Ella and Mario de Torres were scanning the VOKRA blog when they came across an Adopt Me article featuring two cute kitties in search of a forever home.  After a quick read, Ella and Mario realized they’d found their cats!  Soon Trixie (now Sushi) and her son Mike (now Kimchi) were on their way to a new place.

There was no doubt in Ella and Mario’s minds they’d made the right choice. In their foster home the two cats were coming out of their respective shells, with the small mom meowing chattily and her son showing a marked fondness for pats and playtime with strings and sticks.

But now after eight months with Ella and Mario, Sushi and Kimchi are showing their true and adorable colours. Ella has many “meow-versations” with chatty Sushi. “She sounds like a trilling pigeon!” said Ella.

At first, though, Sushi needed a bit of time to get used to her new home. Ella describes the first few months as being “like a cha-cha – we’d feel like we were making progress, but then something would spook her and she’d be back to hiding again.”  One such spook happened early on when Sushi’s small paw stepped on a remote control that operated Ella and Mario’s bedroom ceiling fan. “Sushi was so frightened she wouldn’t walk past the open bedroom door!” said Ella. Fortunately, Sushi’s now settled in and has become much more confident and cuddly. In Ella’s words, “She’s a serious lap cat. There are times when I have literally just made contact with the couch and her paw is already on my thigh, demanding a lap to sit on!”

Kimchi too has gotten braver and braver the more time he spends living with Ella and Mario. In fact, the (human!) couple have nicknamed their boy “Explorer Cat” and he continues to lives up to that name, always climbing up to a high vantage point to survey his domain. When Kimchi’s down on the ground, he’ll spend time “zooming,” as Ella put it, running around like a “crazy cat”.  In true cat fashion, the zoomies often come in the early morning when Ella and her husband are happily snoozing!  As you might expect from all that activity, Kimchi likes his food. In the mornings he’ll “meeeeeoooooow pitifully as if he’s starving and will continue to meow until someone opens the bedroom door,” said Ella.

All in all, Ella and Mario are delighted with their new snuggle bugs. And we couldn’t be happier to report yet another happy tail!

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

Why We Believe in TNR

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

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

Maria with one of her (almost) daily catches.

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

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

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

Maria stops at nothing to get cats off the streets

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

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

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

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

 

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