We’re Walking for Finn: Because She Can’t

Finn when she first arrived

Finn was trapped along with her mom Pumpkin and brother Henry at a trailer park in Langley. She arrived at VOKRA covered in fleas and with an infection that made her eyes all gooby. It was also immediately evident something was wrong with her back legs. We suspected she had swimmer syndrome, a developmental abnormality making her unable to stand.

Always a little trooper, Finn wouldn’t let her disability get in her way and would wiggle herself around our Operations Centre looking for cuddles, which, or course, she’d always get!

After several different vet visits, Finn was diagnosed with a spinal issue and it was discovered her right hind leg is significantly shorter than her left. To top it off, because she’s semi-incontinent she’s had to battle several urinary tract infections (UTIs), which isn’t uncommon for kitties with her condition. So today Finn lives with foster mom Corin and gets regular physiotherapy to help her get stronger so she can stand in her litter box and hopefully avoid future UTIs.

Finn gets regular hydrotherapy in the bathtub where she can now stand and take some steps. Corin also does both seated and standing passive manipulation with her to help train her muscles and Finn has some supports she uses to help her get around.

“Finn’s very clever and has figured our how to do pretty much everything without walking like other kitties,” said foster mom Corin. “She’s incredibly intelligent and only needs to see the other kitties in our home do something once and she mimics it.”

Along with her increased strength Finn’s litter box habits are improving so she’s currently UTI-free. If she can remain this way, she’ll head back to the vet to be spayed and will have additionally imaging done to better diagnose her issues. Then she’ll be able to start professional physiotherapy and even perhaps acupuncture.

The reality is only 25% of kittens who don’t receive human care survive. It’s a certainty Finn would not be alive today without help. Unlike many other animal rescue groups, VOKRA is a no-kill organization. This means we will always provide kittens like Finn with a chance at a happy life, no matter the cost.

“An empty lap is an invitation and Finn will fill it in seconds,” said Corin. “But behind those snuggles is a bit of a Rambo kitty. She fears nothing, not even the vaccum!”

Finn is just one of the thousands of reasons why we Walk for the Kitties.

Each year, VOKRA rescues more than 1,400 homeless cats and kittens from around the Lower Mainland. We’re volunteer-driven and our work is made possible through the generous support of people like you – our volunteers, adopters and donors. Walk for the Kitties is our largest fundraising event of the year and we rely on the funds raised to help pay for all the things like food, litter and veterinary care our kitties need.

Please help us help kitties like Finn this September 17 by joining us for Walk for the Kitties, presented by FirstMate.

Eventbrite - VOKRA Walk for the Kitties 2017

Can’t make it on September 17? You can still help when you donate today!

You can also follow Finn’s adventures on her Instagram account at @felinefinntastic

Volunteer of the Month – June 2017

Frankie

With the sun shining (sort of), our volunteers are looking forward to a busy June as we head straight into kitten season! We appreciate how hard our volunteers work to ensure each kitty lives the best life they can, and this month we’d like to celebrate Yana Sabanskis, our Volunteer of the Month!

Yana became involved with VOKRA around eight years ago when she worked at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. There, she was familiarized with the faces of VOKRA – Karen and Maria – through their regular visits to restock supplies. She took the opportunity to understand our non-profit organization and the way we work to continuously provide the best care for kitties. Yana helped out with recycling and other odds and ends and, when our new Operations Centre opened in 2015, she continued recycling twice a week. Along with helping out at our Centre, Yana adopted from VOKRA and also fostered several cats, in which she has made strong, yet adorable memories with.

“The first kitty I adopted from VOKRA was Sammi, an 11-year old pure bred Chocolate Himalayan,” explains Yana. “He adapted very quickly to my other cat, Molly, who I had found in an alley in the West End. After Molly suddenly died, I was asked if I could possibly foster a semi-feral 2-year old. I was up to the task and took on Tommy. He really was a challenge, living in the bathroom for about a month. I slowly introduced him to Sammi by taking food and Sammi into the bathroom and leaving them together. Sammi was very docile and performed a miracle so, about a week later, Tommy followed Sammi out of the bathroom and stayed with him wherever he went!”

After Sammi passed away, Yana took in little Paula, a geriatric kitty found in an alley in the Downtown Eastside. “She was an absolute joy to welcome in our home,” said Yana. “She slept on my shoulder and only ever wanted to be loved. She was with us for almost six months before she fell asleep one night and didn’t wake again.”

The next cat that came into their home was Frankie, an 18-year old geriatric kitty who came in from the cold and needed a home. “He joined us for two years until he died,” remembers Yana. “He was so grateful to be inside and insisted on sleeping in my lap, on my shoulder or on my head. He was a large cat and would not compromise his needs, so I accepted him doing whatever he wanted.”

Yana goes on to say, “When Frankie passed away, Tommy decided I was his new pet and we’re now bonded, so much so that he sleeps on me at night! During the day he is elusive, but at night he is a cuddle monster!”

Yana has helped VOKRA in so many ways and her connection with all the furballs she cares for is one we admire. We can’t thank her enough and are happy and appreciative to have such a wonderful, kind-hearted person in our organization. You’re the best, Yana!

Post written by Aurora C.

As a 100% 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.

Volunteer of the Month – May 2017

April showers bring May flowers…right? While it has been a rainy April we’re sure hoping for the sun to shine for everyone in May! But at VOKRA we’re lucky because we get sunshine everyday from all our lovely volunteers and it’s time to celebrate our Volunteer of the Month – Marlene Smith!

Marlene has always been a cat lover, having been involved with several cat rescue organizations. She joined the VOKRA volunteer team more than four years ago at an adoption event. She fostered a few cats here and there for a couple months, but decided not to continue due to her resident cats being less than amused by the lack of attention they were receiving. However, over the years she’s picked up short-term fostering again until longer term fosters can be found in Surrey or Vancouver.

Working from home, Marlene takes on many tasks at VOKRA. She enters health and medical information of kitties into our database, handles calendar distribution in Surrey and organizes community and fundraising events. As well, Marlene assists with the collection of donations, preparing tax receipts and documenting payments for online auctions. The volunteering doesn’t stop there! Marlene has also administrated and reported on two spay/neuter grants for VOKRA in Surrey.

“It was a learning experience and brought me in contact with people from many walks of life,” says Marlene. “This involved speaking with cat owners, setting up vet appointments and driving to and from vets to meet surgery times when an owner didn’t have transportation. In addition, I was trying to find carriers, washing carriers and delivering carriers for transport to and from the vet.”

Marlene truly is a hard worker, helping with emergency pick-ups and driving calls for injured cats or kittens that need a fast trip to the vet or our Operations Centre – no speeding tickets so far! She also prepares adoption papers in Surrey and meets with adopters. It’s a great way to meet people and share the information VOKRA provides during the adoption process.

Marlene is happy to volunteer with VOKRA, along with all the great volunteers who are associated with our organization. We too are over the moon to have Marlene as one of our volunteers. So, this month, we’re celebrating Marlene Smith as our wonderful Volunteer of the Month! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to VOKRA!

Post written by Aurora C.

As a 100% 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.

The Rewards of Fostering

katrina_2This beautiful girl is Katrina and, thanks to her foster mom Carrie, she has a chance at a better life.

Katrina came to VOKRA as a stray kitty and when she arrived at Carrie’s home she had a bad cold and was very scared. In fact, she spent the first several weeks hissing and didn’t want to get out of her carrier.

“I felt bad for her,” said Carrie. “She was in the bathroom and I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t leave the carrier, especially since it was not comfortable at all and now smelling like pee! I had to eventually physically tip the carrier over so that she would leave it and go into the covered cat bed VOKRA had given me. At this point, I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into!”

Carrie is an experience foster who, to date, has taken care of more than 20 VOKRA kitties. They’ve always been calm, friendly cats so she wasn’t expecting Katrina to be so timid. Because she was so used to cats who let her drape them around her shoulders, having Katrina at times was very frustrating. There were days when she wanted to give up and send her back to VOKRA because she wasn’t acting like a “normal” cat. But Carrie’s patience was finally rewarded and she was left with a feeling of pure happiness when Katrina finally decided to trust her.

When asked what her secret weapon was, Carrie said, “Treats! So many treats. I would sometimes sit with her and try to get her to come out of her little cave that I had created for her in a box. She wouldn’t come out for the longest time. Eventually, she FINALLY came out, after tapping my fingers on the floor for God knows how long.”

katrina_1Today Katrina walks around the house like she owns it, running around all the time after treats and rolling over on her back when she wants you to pet her. There are still set backs – sometimes she nips a bit when being pet, she’s a bit skitterish and she hates being picked up – but she’s come a very long way.

“I’ve gotta say it was a challenge and at many times I thought of her as this troll in the bathroom,” said Carrie. “I would feed her and change the litter every day but not get to see or touch her. It’s such a relief now that she’s out and about, for my sanity and for hers! I hope she’ll find a really nice forever home where she can continue to thrive.”

Thank you Carrie for your patience and willingness to stick in there with Katrina! Thanks to you she’s now on the road finding her forever home where she’ll be safe, secure and loved. Although Katrina’s not quite ready for adoption yet, with Carrie’s continued care we anticipate she’ll be up on our website soon!

VORKA is always in need of fosters willing to work slowly with the scared cats in our care. Because we rescue so many kitties from the streets, we have many who need extra help and patience. So if you’re looking for a rewarding and satisfying way to give back, please consider fostering today. Learn more are www.vokra.ca/fostering.

Poppy & Hazelnut’s Happy Tail Ending

dsc_0650Four years ago I was contacted by a woman named Laura who wanted to meet two semi-feral kittens I was fostering.  They were initially shy but had become playful and vocal companions to my cat and me.  (Soon enough mischievous Hazelnut would do things like pulling bottles out of the kitchen cupboard at 1 a.m.!)

dsc_0655When she came to meet them, Laura and I spent two extended sessions sitting in my bathroom as she tried to imagine if a bond would develop if she adopted the kittens.  After much thought Laura decided to adopt the two sisters and her faith was rewarded since Poppy and Hazelnut have become, in her words, “happy campers, goofy and more confident, extremely communicative with me, giving me lots of love and positive attention and are fun every day.”

When she decided to adopt the two sisters Laura wrote, “So, I’m going to do it!  I feel happy and excited and honoured to adopt these two beautiful little felines! “.

After their adoption Poppy showed an interest in children and Hazelnut began to focus on doing surveillance of the perimeter of her new home through the windows and busily trotted back and forth between them, keeping on top of things.  Poppy and Hazelnut’s new beginning with Laura has meant more love for all three of them,  not to mention a fantastic cat tree for sunny naps.

Post written by Katherine Drabek

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Bottle Babies – A Reward Like No Other

20160507_Bottlebabies_2950_lowresWM-1If you’ve ever wondered about VOKRA’s origins, you wouldn’t have too look far – it’s right there in our name, specifically in the O and the K, which stand for “Orphan Kitten”. Founded because of kittens that were orphaned and without moms, VOKRA began as a means to provide crucial care that would replicate the feeding and love a mom cat would normally provide.

Though bottle feeding kittens may sound like it’s all purrs, cuddles and explosions of cute, considering that most litters reach upwards of five, it’s no small feat. Newborn kittens require constant tending to and must be fed every two hours. They have to be kept warm at all times through the use of blankets and heaters, they need to be burped and bathed, and you must stimulate their poop and pee. Basically you need to replace their mom in every way possible, short of becoming a cat yourself.

Many years ago, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA when litters of kittens kept coming in without moms. They quickly learned how to bottle feed and fielded requests for their services up to twice a day during kitten season. If you’re picturing an actual orphanage filled with rows of cat beds and endless litters of kittens, you wouldn’t be far off. At times their own beds were piled high with kennels full of kittens requiring 24-hour care. Eventually, Karen and Maria branched off on their own and 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.

While keeping kittens with their mom is always the preference, bottle feeding is at times a necessity. Sometimes it may only be for a short period, temporarily feeding them until their mom is located or merely helping a mom cat with her extra large litter. Other times we may be able to use surrogate moms instead, adding orphaned kittens to another mom’s litter. We trap feral moms whenever possible, using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But in cases where the mom is never found or has passed away, bottle feeding is the only hope of the kittens’ survival.

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Receiving an average of 10 litters a year that require full-time bottle feeding, we have a handful of dedicated volunteers who provide constant care and attention to ensure these little ones survive. Around the clock care is necessary and some volunteers even take their tiny wards to work. In the past Ellen Keiser, a teacher, took her bottle fed babies to school and fed them during recess and lunch as her class looked on for some firsthand lessons in cat rescue. At times, volunteers share the duties between them, “babysitting” if one of them needs a break.

Even with the best possible care, survival rates are a bit lower for bottle fed kittens. They’re more prone to illness and not all of them make it. To be a bottle feeder volunteer requires not only time, patience, flexibility and the ability to do without sleep, but also the strength to handle the potential for heartbreak. Says Ellen, “You need to prepare yourself for the loss, but also for the celebration that so many do make it due to your efforts.” Last year, foster mom Tania Hennessy cared for more bottle feeders than she ever had before and says she becomes especially attached to them. For her, watching them grow up and find their forever homes is worth the undertaking.

Bottle fed kittens sleep a lot and after two weeks you can begin to train them to use their litter boxes. Eventually you’ll find small puddles of poop, which to a seasoned cat rescuer like Karen is “quite exciting”. As the kittens grow, they become among the sweetest and sociable of cats since growing up among humans is all they’ve known. In fact, they consider their bottle feeding human to be their “real” mom.  Says Tania, “My favorite part of caring for bottle feeders is the day when their eyes open and they finally look back at you for the first time. Paired with the happy purrs of a full belly at 3 a.m., it’s heart melting!” Seeing bottle fed babies transform into active and healthy kittens is truly a reward like no other.

Written by Ellen R.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. We’re currently actively looking for cat care and reception volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Wanted: Foster Coordinators

_MG_8142Who wants to help our kitties find their forever homes?!

We’re looking to grow our team of foster coordinators and are looking for cat lovers like you. What does being a foster coordinator mean? You get to manage a group of foster homes and make sure each kitty gets matched with the right foster to best help them get adopted!

We know your heart breaks when you see a lonely cat or kitten. You just want to scoop them up into your arms and tell them they deserve all the love in the world. Foster coordinators are the key to giving that kitty a family.

So, let’s get a little more into the details of what tasks a foster coordinator takes on. In general, foster coordinators oversee foster homes and their assigned kitties.  They interview new fosters, match suitable kitties to the foster home and follow up with fosters to address any issues. Overall, the end goal is to make sure kitties get put up for adoption as soon as they’re ready.

Now, what is there to take away from this position? Sarah, our lovely Burnaby foster coordinator elaborates:

My biggest fulfillment in this role is being able to help so many cats at once. Although it’s an indirect role, I’m able to help so many more cats than I would be able to otherwise. It’s also great to know that I am giving joy to the foster families who want to have a furry friend. As well, I’ve learned a ton about cats. It is a very rewarding role.

Valerie, the North Shore foster coordinator speaks on working with foster homes:

The relationships I’ve built through managing foster homes and kitties is strong and good. I’m always available to help when they need kitty advice and it’s definitely an interactive relationship. I love being a foster coordinator because the role is dynamic – it’s constantly evolving. Every concern, issue and happy experience is different for each foster. I learn something new every day.

The role of a foster coordinator is perfect for every cat lover. Although it can be an unseen role, it’s extremely crucial. Without all our existing foster coordinators, VOKRA’s unique foster program would not be successful. We want to grow this team and we want you to know you can make a huge impact on the lives of countless kitties, as well as their fosters!

Are you ready to take on the task of helping our kitties get adopted? If you’re interested, email volunteervokra@gmail.com. Please be sure to include your experience with kitties, the number of hours per week you’d be able to dedicate to this role and why you believe you’re the perfect addition to our foster coordinator team. It’s your time to shine!

Written by Aurora C.