Volunteers of the Month – June 2019

June is Adopt-A-Cat month so now’s a great time to celebrate our Foster Fail team! What’s a foster fail you ask? Well it really isn’t a fail at all! It’s the term we fondly use when a foster falls in love with their foster cat so much they decide to adopt. They may “fail” at fostering, but every adoption’s a win!

This month we’re honouring Antoniya Hristova and Chie Okumura. When a foster “fails” they step in and to do all the paperwork, etc. that’s involved in the adoption process.

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

I’ve grown up with cats. While still living in Bulgaria I rescued and found homes for several stray cats. When I moved to Vancouver, I searched online to see if I could continue helping cats and stumbled upon VOKRA. I started fostering in December 2016 and have had the pleasure to share my home with 10 fosters so far. I’ve learned a lot more about cats and especially how to interact with timid or semi-feral cats. I love that I have support and access to wisdom about feline care through VOKRA.

Every foster manages to surprise me with his/her uniqueness. One pair of fosters, Mike and Trixie, stayed with us for almost a year as they’re senior cats (10 and 12 years at the time) and very shy. It took Trixie five months to start trusting me and my partner and to admit she actually very much likes to be petted. After two unsuccessful viewings a young couple showed up and gave them a chance (although they barely saw them during the viewing). We became friends with their adopters and were pleased to see how Mike and Trixie (now named Kimchi and Sushi) blossomed into even bigger love bugs and became a lot more confident. There’s nothing more fulfilling and rewarding than seeing this positive change and knowing you had your share in it.

In July 2017 I started doing foster fail interviews which gave me the opportunity to meet the lovely and devoted Chie. It also give me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the vast numbers of cats that have access to VOKRA care.

And here Chie tells us why she’s a VOKRA volunteer:

Joining VOKRA was one of the best things I’ve done since moving to Canada in 1989. I’ve loved cats all my life and thought I knew them well, but I was wrong! I learned a lot more about kitties, thanks to VOKRA. It’s an amazing organization where all volunteers do their parts. There are volunteers for everything – trappers, medical care, the adoption team, cat care, drivers, fosters, foster coordinators, the finance team and event coordinators, to name just a few. We all work hard for one mission – to end cat homelessness.

Chie’s daughter Kiara with her prom date

Our family started fostering with VOKRA in January 2016 after we lost my 19-year-old kitty, Hana, who we had had since she was one. She was a cranky, quick-tempered but quietly loving kitty and the whole family took her loss very hard. The house felt empty without a cat’s presence, but we didn’t feel ready to adopt a new kitty so soon after her loss. This is what led us to fostering with VOKRA, where we could help cats in need while still giving us time to mourn Hana. I’m the primary caregiver, while my daughter takes the role of socializing with the kitties (a.k.a. having fun!) and my husband is the designated driver. Within a year, we had fostered 30 kitties… At one time, we had one mom who gave birth to seven babies in my bedroom, plus four older kittens upstairs = 12 kitties in our house! That was so much fun! And in January 2017, one of VOKRA’s amazing trappers, Janet, trapped a tabby cat from a snowy industrial area and, a few days later, her only surviving kitten was also rescued. Within two weeks, we foster failed and they were named Kinako and Anko (both are Japanese sweets).

Kinako and Anko when they first arrived at VOKRA

What’s a foster fail? Well, you’re supposed to adopt out your foster cats, instead you fail to do so and keep them forever! We say it’s one of the best failures you’ve done!

People often ask me how I can possibly let go of my adorable foster kitties. I think I set my mind firmly to get them ready to find their forever home when I foster. We still foster kittens from time to time as my kitties are okay with kittens, but not adult cats. I must admit fostering is addictive – I’m now learning from another foster, Andrea, how to bottle-feed babies so I can do that full-time when I retire.

Kinako and Anko today

After my own foster fail, I started taking a role in with the Foster Fail team. I thank Sharyn, who used to do everything by herself, for established what we do today. Now Antoniya and I work together as a team. Together we have done roughly 250 adoptions in the last two years. Through working together, we became pretty close despite of our age gap and cultural difference – in fact we’ve learned we have quite a few things in common, beside loving cats!

A lot of foster fails are kitties who have medical/behaviour issues or are too old and stay with fosters for longer periods as many people consider them “un-adoptable”. It’s heart-warming to learn that someone’s unwanted cat can be loved and treasured by someone, and he/she decides to give the kitty a forever home.  Although we do all processes electronically and I never meet the kitty or adopter, those special ones stay in my heart. One of them is Beamer, who was blind, deaf and had mobility issues. And even though Beamer is no longer with us, his short life was made better when he was adopted by his fosters Jen and Andrew.

I also do in-person adoption contract 1-2 times a week, through which I meet adopters and go through the contract and payment. It’s so nice to see happy and excited adopters, hear their stories of cats and share my knowledge with them. I get so emotional when senior cats or cats with medical needs are adopted I have to hide my happy tears in public.

I look forward to meeting more adorable kitties, great volunteers and adopters though VOKRA.

WOW! Thank you so much to Antoniya and Chie for all your dedication to VOKRA! We’re so fortunate and grateful to have volunteers like you who care so much for the kitties.

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.

The Kittens Are Here!

When sweet Saturna arrived at our Operations Centre she was very pregnant.

Barely out of kitten-hood herself, Saturna soon became a mom to eight gorgeous babies. But eight mouths is a lot to feed, and some of the kittens were much smaller than their siblings, so bottle-feeding was in order.

With some extra TLC, all the kittens survived and are thriving today!

Each year we rescue more than 100 moms, just like Saturna. 

Not to mention all the kittens – last year alone we rescued more than 750 kittens, and we’re sure this year will be no exception. As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we wouldn’t be able to save all of these babies without your help.

All the cats and kittens in our care have a chance at a happy, safe and healthy life. Mama cats are worry free and their kittens will grown up without a care in the world.

Will you help us today?

Your support today will help pay for the cost of rescuing more than 100 moms and 750 kittens each year, including food, litter and medical care.

This kitten season, please give to help ensure families like Saturna’s are safe.

P.S. – By becoming a monthly donor you can show your support for the cats and kittens at VOKRA all year long. Just $10 pays for one kitten to be vaccinated and $25 pays for a flat of canned food. Will you chip in and help today?

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

Come run with us on June 23!

On June 23, Team VOKRA will be participating in the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and 5k run/walk and we want you to join us. It might not change your life, but your support will definitely help change the lives of the more than 1,400 kitties we rescue each year.

Abu – before and after

Kitties like Abu, a tiny orphaned kitten who arrived at VOKRA hungry and with a bad cold. He, along with his brother and sister, needed round-the-clock care and bottle feeding. As the runt of the litter, we weren’t sure if Abu would make it, but with the care and attention of his foster mom he’s thriving today and has gone to his new home.

Whether they’re kittens or adults, feral or tame, healthy or sick – VOKRA provides them all with the best care we can. But this does come at a cost.

You don’t have to be an athlete to join. And few on our team have ever fundraised before either (you only need to commit to raising a minimum of $50). All you need is a love of cats. This love is what unites us as a team and carries us all over the finish line!

It’s super easy to get started. To join Team VOKRA simply click here to register. And, as a bonus, each team member is entitled to a special preferred rate. To get the preferred rate be sure to enter one of the following charity codes in the charity code field at the bottom of the registration page:

Half-Marathon discount code: 19VOKRA21K
5K discount code: 19VOKRA5K

Don’t forget to indicate you’re joining the VOKRA official charity team and add “Team VOKRA” as the name on your bib!

Once you’re registered you’ll receive a link to your personal fundraising page so you can get started right away. And to help ensure you achieve your goal, Team VOKRA will provide you with a motivational emails to help you fundraise. We’ll also invite you to join the Team VOKRA Facebook group so you can connect with your fellow team members. So there’s no excuses! Sign up today and join Team VOKRA!

Be sure to reserve your Team VOKRA spot as soon as possible so you don’t miss out!

Don’t want to run? You can still help when you sponsor Team VOKRA today!

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.