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.

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

Volunteer of the Month – October 2018

Paul with Spitfire

October’s the month of Thanksgiving and we couldn’t be more thankful for all of our volunteers. Without the hundreds of individuals who give thousands of hours of their time each month, VOKRA, quite simply, wouldn’t exist. One of those volunteer is our Volunteer of the Month October – Paul Breland.

Paul began volunteering with VOKRA in the spring of 2013 and, since that time, he’s fostered 16 litters, including 15 moms and 67 kittens.

Paul started volunteering after being sent a link to a webcam run by a kitten foster for Purrfect Pals in Seattle. After watching him foster a mom and kittens for a while, Paul thought it looked like fun and there was no reason why he couldn’t do it.

“I had been going through my own kind of midlife crisis at the time, wondering what I was doing with my life besides working and playing PC games,” said Paul. “Helping kittens is a way to do something more meaningful with my spare time.”

As a foster of moms plus their kittens, Paul’s main focus is ensuring the kittens grow up to be healthy, friendly and well-trained. If the kittens are around a week old when they arrive, it’s mostly a matter of making sure mom is well-fed and her litter scooped. As the kittens grow, Paul gets them used to being around people and being handled. He watches for any sign of ill health and weighs them frequently to ensure they’re going in the right direction. At around five weeks old Paul helps transition them to eating wet food and using the litterbox. As they near adoption age, he then submits pictures and bios for the website and answers questions when potential adopters come to view them.

“Obviously, my favourite part of volunteering is getting to sit in a room surrounded by kittens!”, said Paul. “But aside from that, the best part is seeing how happy the adopters are when they pick up their new furry friends. Many have left in tears they’re so happy to be adding a new family member (or two or three).”

It’s hard for Paul to pick a favourite story out of so many, but when pressed he said fostering the “Shovel Kittens” is one of the best. “They were discovered on a cold, rainy November day when their mom was trying to shelter them under a shovel leaning against a house,” explains Paul. “When they came into my care, they were really hissy and didn’t like attention at all. But after weeks of socialisation and handling (and a bit of reverse psychology!), they discovered they loved attention and became purring lap kitties.”

It’s even more difficult to pick a favourite kitty out of the 82 he’s fostered so far, but Paul must go with Hurricane and Spitfire, two kittens he just adopted from his most recent litter as company for his 10-year-old girl kitty. Outside of family bias, one kitty who stands out is Dusty, adopted by a couple of Paul’s friends earlier this year. He’s a friendly little black floofball who became a little brother to another VOKRA kitty. He helped fill the void of a departed kitty and has become a huge part of their lives.

“Another one of my favourites is Elle, a dilute torbie who was over-the-top friendly and loved being held,” adds Paul. “She also went to a family who was having some tough times and immediately lifted everyone’s spirits.”

THANK YOU Paul for all the time, effort and love you put into ensuring all the moms and kittens in your care are set up for success! We can’t wait to hear more stories from the next 16 litters!

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’s always in need of volunteers and fosters. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer or vokra.ca/fostering.

Springtime at Ops Continues

Fall?!  Not at our Operations Centre. It’s still springtime at Ops! Spring, the kitten we first told you about last month, has had her ups and down, but the good news is she’s found a special friend.

Little Spring is still getting her share of human attention, as our staff and volunteers continue to help her with her troublesome kidneys. But now Spring has some kitty love too!  Her new ‘bestie’ and health helper is Hamburgler, an eight-year old cat rescued by VOKRA back in June of this year.

Like Spring, Hamburgler had a bit of a rough time before VOKRA came into his life. As one of Vancouver’s many stray cats, Hamburgler was often hungry and sick. When VOKRA volunteers found him, he was crouched under machinery in a shed behind a MacDonald’s restaurant, covered in fleas and with a serious infection in one eye.

Both Spring and Hamburgler ended up at our Ops Centre where they’re getting the care and love they need, and then someone had a bright idea. The health of both cats was stabilizing, but they seemed lonely. Why not room them together?

At first, Spring wasn’t sure what to make of her new stepbrother. But Hamburgler immediately started nudging her to play and soon brought her out of her shell. It wasn’t long before the pair were tossing toys around, touching noses and snuggling up together.

The sight of the happy twosome cuddled on a cat tree is one of the highlights of a shift at Ops for many a volunteer and staff member. The coming months may still bring some cold weather for these kitties.  Spring is not entirely well and most recently she took another bad turn requiring yet another emergency trip to the vet. She will be returning for another vet visit soon for an ultrasound as we continue to diagnose her issues. And Hamburgler could have more problems due to his years on the streets. But for now they keep each other warm with the help of everyone at VOKRA and each other.

Spring and Hamburgler are just two 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. Unlike many other animal rescue groups, VOKRA is a volunteer-driven, no-kill organization. Our work is made possible through the generous support of volunteers, adopters and people like you.

Medical care accounts for more than 50% of our annual budget. Without your support we wouldn’t be able to afford to rescue all these cats and kittens.

Please help us help kitties like Spring this September 16 by joining us for Walk for the Kitties, presented by FirstMate.

Eventbrite - VOKRA Walk for the Kitties 2018

Walk for the Kitties is our largest fundraising event of the year. This 5k fun walk takes place at Jericho Beach and all funds raised go directly towards supporting our rescue efforts. Learn more here.

Can’t make it on September 16? You can still donate today!

Wet Food is the Best Food

Little Nugget enjoying a snack

At VOKRA, we do our best to ensure all kitties who pass through our doors live the best lives they can. That’s why when we come across issues we always look for a pattern and try to find a solution.

Unfortunately, from time-to-time cats are returned to us due to behavioural issues, and the most common of these issues is peeing outside of the litter box. More times than not, the root cause is diet and stems from the fact the cat is fed primarily dry food.

Cats who eat mostly dry food also tend to have more urinary tract infections. And cats that are free fed, which is when food is left out for the cat to self-monitor their own diet, have it even worse as they’re often fat so they can’t clean themselves properly.

So, why is dry food the culprit?

Little Nugget with his mom Bonnie

Cats are designed by nature to be carnivores and their digestive tract, despite thousands of years of domestication, is not intended to assimilate dry food. Not only so, contrary to popular belief, dry food causes plaque to form on teeth. It’s also highly processed, making the body work anywhere from 12-18 hours to break it down. This means the cat is always half full and in a constant state of digestion. On the other hand, raw food moves through the body within four hours, while wet food takes 8-12 hours for the body to metabolize it.

Karen Duncan, co-founder of VOKRA, has fed a raw diet to all of her animals for more than 20 years and fully recommends a wet or raw diet for all kitties. At VOKRA, FirstMate is our first choice for the cats in our care and Karen explains why:

“We got involved with FirstMate a few years ago. They’re a local company, which beats buying masses of food shipped from the US. Every product is cruelty free as the protein is sourced ethically – all wild salmon and tuna, never farmed. There’s never any guar gum or thickeners. Instead, potatoes or peas are used. Their packaging is also epoxy free and the label is foil laminate, making everything recyclable. VOKRA’s very confident of the quality of FirstMate food and are able to get answers quickly from them if any arise.”

All of these reasons are why we feel so strongly about feeding cats a diet that primarily consists of wet or raw food.

So if your kitty is peeing outside of the box, has frequent urinary infections or stinky breath it will most likely be worthwhile for you to switch their diet away from dry. It will help save their health and will cost you less trips to the vet.

If you’d like to learn more about why wet is best click here.