Ending Homelessness: One Trap at a Time

At VOKRA our mission is to end cat overpopulation and homelessness. One of the ways we’re helping accomplish this is through to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the process of trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to the location they came from. We’ve seen a lot of success with TNR, but much of our time is actually spent on trapping tame strays. Trapping these cats and kittens is the first step towards finding them their furever homes.

When we receive information about a stray cat, we find out as much information as we can to help us determine the best way to trap. We take into account how long the cat(s) has been hanging around and their lingering behaviour – are they coming at a specific time or are they around all the time? It’s important to know if they’re being fed or eating as well. Getting to know as much about the cats as possible is key to making a quick and successful trap. Behaviours such as skittishness or curiosity help us determine the correct method.

At times, it’s as easy as coaxing the cat into a carrier. Other times, setting up a trap is the only way. Traps are usually set up where the cat is being fed and include fresh tuna at the back of the trap. With feral cats, they’re taken to the vet for sedation and spay/neuter, vaccinations, ear and dental cleaning and flea treatment. They recover at our Operations Centre and are then taken back to their original location. The individual who called about the cat will be provided with food and any follow-up care. With tame cats, after they’re trapped they’re taken to our Operations Centre where we check for a microchip or tattoo. We deflea, deworm and vaccinate these kitties and have blood tests, urinalysis and teeth cleaning completed if they’re more than five years old. These tame cats are then ready for a foster home and, when they’re ready, will go up for adoption.

This is “Woody”, trapper Janet Cox‘s trusty wooden trap. She uses it to trap kitties who refuse to go into a metal trap. It always works like a charm!

It may seem feral cats could be more problematic than tame strays, but it’s just as important to trap these tame cats. Owned cats get lost and abandoned, which is a painful situation. If they aren’t fixed, they breed and female cats will usually give birth to their kittens outside or under garages, or amongst junk in a yard. These kittens will then grow up unsocialized by humans and grow into feral cats. If these kittens are also not spay/neutered, the cycle repeats itself and soon a feral colony will be formed. This is why it’s important for cat owners to spay and neuter their cats by five months old, and for the public to call us if they suspect a tame or feral stray who hasn’t been fixed is lingering around their neighbourhood.

Dedicated Surrey volunteers and trappers, Anne Salomon and Mona Boucher know all the tricks to trapping.

Sometimes, our trappings don’t go as planned, as explained here by VOKRA co-founder and trapper extraordinaire Maria Soroski:

Maria will a mitt-full of kittens trapped by Anne.

“I was called out to an industrial area in Burnaby because the business said they heard meowing coming from under the floorboards of the trailer on their property,” said Maria. “Since I couldn’t remove the floorboards, I crawled under the trailer to where they pinpointed they heard the kittens. When I found the area above me between the floorboards, I heard the noise – they were baby raccoons! I got out of there as soon as possible before the mama raccoon got mad.” 

After trapping for 17 years and counting, Maria’s has countless stories. Here’s one of her most memorable ones (for cats, not racoons!):

“At least twelve years ago, I went to a location in East Vancouver where there were three adult feral cats, two female and one male, and a litter of five kittens that were eight weeks old,” explains Maria. “It was January, bitter cold that night with snow that had fallen on the ground. I set traps by the back lane garage for the kittens first and waited in my car to keep warm. Two kittens went in the traps immediately and as I was carrying the two traps to my car, I was suddenly surrounded by the adult cats. They were hissing so I ran as fast as I could to my car with the kittens in the traps while they chased me. I waited in my car again until the remaining kittens went into the traps. The three adult cats were waiting by my car, so I quickly opened the door and ran to the last traps. As I was bending down to pick up the traps, the two adult females jumped onto my back, growling and swatting. I managed to get them off me and got all the traps to my car. The adults were jumping up at my window, so I threw an open can of cat food onto the grass, started the car and drove off as they ran behind my car.”

5:30 a.m. – Maria’s view as she waits patiently for some kittens, who were dumped in a back alley. to decide to go into the trap.

“I’ve never had this happen to me again, but I felt so bad for the cats as they saw their babies be driven away,” continues Maria. “The next night, I went and set traps for all three of the adult cats and took them to the vet for spaying and neutering. They stayed a couple days with us to recover and I let them see the kittens. It seemed to calm them down, knowing I didn’t cook their babies for dinner. The feral adults were returned to their original location and taken care of outside by the person who called us.”

Trapping isn’t an easy job, as we can all now see. It requires dedication and commitment to VOKRA’s mission. The trapping of tame strays is especially important as they have socialized with humans before, making them adoptable into a furever home. However, furever homes can’t exist if we don’t have pet-friendly housing. Global BC covers the issue here, making it clear our housing issues are a big cause for the loss of homes and families for too many pets. Sign the Pets OK BC petition here to help make a difference. Our trapping efforts are rendered useless if these kitties have less and less places to go once they’re ready for adoption.

Thank you to all our volunteer trappers who spend hours and hours watching over traps – be it sunshine or rain, day or night. Due to your efforts thousands of kitties have been taken off the streets and now have homes to call their own!

A mama and four kittens were trapped from under this porch. All the kittens had eye infections, but it was their lucky day. They were transferred to our Operations Centre for assessment and then onto foster care where they received daily treatment. Today mom and kittens are all healthy and have been adopted into loving homes.

Hazel’s Journey to Recovery

Every day the dedicated volunteers of VOKRA go to great lengths to save the lives of homeless cats and kittens from around the Lower Mainland. Little Hazel is one such kitten who may not be here today were it not for our care.

Hazel was born to a semi-feral mom who had recently been brought in to our Operations Centre. Not only was she the smallest kitten in the litter, she was born with one eye swollen shut. It turned out  poor Hazel was born with an eye infection, resulting in ongoing issues with pain and poor vision in her eye.

Hazel didn’t let her vision limitations slow her down though. She played, tumbled and chased her siblings around just like any other kitten. During one particularly active play session, Hazel’s weak eye was damaged and she was rushed to an emergency vet. It was discovered her weak eye was acting as a foreign body and had no chance of recovery, so it would eventually need to be removed.

As the months passed by, all Hazel’s brothers and sisters were adopted while Hazel struggled with recurring infections, leading to her eye being removed at four months old. Unfortunately, her health problems continued and she returned for a second surgery.

After two surgeries, two dewormings, four rounds of antibiotics and many more vet trips, Hazel continues to be a loving, intelligent, playful and overall adorable little ball of fluff. She’s so resilient that even two months of living with a cone around her head hasn’t slowed her down.

Happily Hazel will be available for adoption in the coming weeks. She’s a spirited little trooper who will be make some lucky family very happy. If you have room in your heart and home for little Hazel, keep an eye out for her on our ready-to-adopt page.

And if you’d like to help us pay for Hazel’s medical treatment, as well as the veterinary cost for all the other special kitties in our care, you can donate today at givetovokra.ca.

Special Kitten Alert!

Lt. Dan is one feisty young lady. Yes, we said lady.

She was born with twisted back legs, and with everyone thinking she was a boy. But in true kitten fashion, she doesn’t let any of this slow her down one bit!

Here you get a good look at Lt. Dan’s back legs. But, as you can see, she has no problem hopping up!

Lt. Dan came to VOKRA with her mom and three siblings after they were discovered living in a barn. We immediately noticed the problem with her legs, but it wasn’t immediately apparent she was a girl (even after her first vet check up!). So she was loving dubbed Lt. Dan, from Forest Gump fame, and the name stuck.

Recently, Lt. Dan went back to the vet for a consultation and, low and behold, it was discovered she’s a she! The vet has also determined Dan’s hamstrings are contracted, likely due to the way she was positioned in the womb, and she’d benefit from exercises to stretch her muscles. As she grows, we’ll keep a close eye on her to determine whether acupuncture or surgery will help.

The reality is only 25% of kittens who don’t receive human care survive and Lt. Dan is a purrfect example of a kitten who wouldn’t make it on the streets. Unlike many other animal rescue groups, VOKRA is a no-kill organization. This means we will always provide kittens like Lt. Dan with a chance at a happy life.

Your support today will help pay for the cost of caring for all the special cats and kittens, like Lt. Dan, who come through our doors each year. Including veterinary care, medication, food and litter.

Will you help us today?

This holiday season, please give to help care for kittens like Lt. Dan.

 

 

P.S. – By becoming a monthly donor you can show your support for the kittens all year long! Just $10 pays for one kitten to be vaccinated each month, while $45 pays the monthly cost of feeding a kitten.

A big THANK YOU to @wagntrailsvancity for all these great pics of Lt. Dan!

Help Save Kittens this Holiday Season

Little Peach was the tiniest of her litter and she was born with a very damaged liver.

After many trips to the vet, medication and a change in diet, she began to heal, but she’s been left with impaired vision and some mental challenges.

At VOKRA we strongly believe every kitty deserves to have a good life and Little Peach is no exception. She and her five siblings were born on the streets and if she would have stayed there she surely would have died.

The sad reality is only 25% of kittens who don’t receive human care survive. As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we wouldn’t be able to help kittens like Little Peach without your support.

Kittens in our care have a chance at a happy, safe and healthy life. Today, Little Peach lives in a loving home where she’s made new friends with the two residents cats and a dog. She couldn’t be happier!

Your support today will help pay for the cost of rescuing more than 900 kittens each year, including veterinary care, medication, food and litter.

Will you help us today?

This holiday season, please give to help save kittens like Little Peach.

P.S. – By becoming a monthly donor you can show your support for VOKRA all year long. Just $10 pays for one kitten to be vaccinated each month and $25 pays for a flat of canned food.

A special thank you to Angela McConnell for Little Peach’s portraits!

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

Why we Walk for the Kitties

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BeamerThis adorable guy is Beamer and he’s blind. He was born on a farm and most certainly wouldn’t have survived on his own.

The reality is only 25% of kittens survive without human care and, being blind, little Beamer wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Today Beamer’s in a loving foster home where he’s getting all the care and attention he deserves. He’s visited an eye specialist and his health is constantly being monitored.

Beamer is one of the thousands of reason why we Walk for the Kitties.

Each year, VOKRA rescues more than 1,800 homeless cats in 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. Walk for the Kitties is our largest fundraising event of the year and we rely on the funds raised to pay for the expensive care kitties like Beamer need. Learn more here.

Beamer2Please help us help kitties like Beamer this September 18 by joining us for our 7th Annual Walk for the Kitties. 

Eventbrite - VOKRA's 7th Annual Walk for the Kitties

Be sure to register before the early bird deadline of September 13! After that the registration fee will increase to $40.

Can’t make it on September 18? You can still donate today!

We Love Feral Cats

Venus

Venus is a current resident in our barn shelter

As we told you recently, VOKRA’s TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program is a large part of what we do.  Some might say it’s at the very heart of what we do as VOKRA was founded because of unspayed feral moms and kittens who faced harsh conditions on Vancouver’s streets.  Due to our efforts, the number of feral cats in Vancouver has significantly decreased and those left will live out their lives peacefully without having to reproduce litter after litter of kittens.

At VOKRA we love feral cats.  Whether they be semi-feral or full fledged, we recognize they deserve our love and attention despite not having had the good fortune of being born indoors.  We’ve been lunged at, hissed at and bitten, but we know these cats are only doing their best to look out for themselves the only way they know how.  When feral kittens come in spitting and swiping we tame them and they are eventually adopted out.  We’re often able to tame semi-feral adults too, though it takes a little more time and effort.

For the truly feral cats, the most humane thing we can do for them is spay and neuter them and return them back to their location. Sometimes though, that space isn’t safe or is no longer available and that’s when our barn program comes in handy.  In 2006, thanks to the help of a generous donor, we were able to set up a barn shelter for feral cats who couldn’t be returned.  This shelter has become a sanctuary for some of our ferals who are able to live out their lives peacefully with a warm shelter and enclosed outdoor access, along with the care and dedication of our volunteers.

Karona

Karona was a beautiful, wonderful cat with a temperamental heart of gold. She swatted and yelped at us before learning to love us back.

It’s not always easy working at our barn location as volunteers have to trudge through months of heavy rain.  We currently have 17 volunteers, each of whom monitors the health and wellbeing of the cats in addition to chores and socialization time.  Some cats have even been tamed enough over the years to be placed in foster homes and adopted.  VOKRA barn manager, Mairi Graves, describes the cats as her “18 surrogates” and feels lucky to have met them all, including Mr Washington, Pharoah and especially Karona, who we lost too soon last year.

While we’re fortunate to have that space available for some cats, it can’t house all of them.  Thankfully we have our barn placement program, where we find barn owners who are dedicated animal lovers looking for cats they can employ as rodent population control technicians. In return, they agree to provide food, water and shelter.  This program began about six years ago and we have since placed many feral cats in barns across the Lower Mainland.

Orangies

A group of feral siblings, some of whom have now been tamed and adopted.

Janet Cox, who coordinates the barn program, looks for barns that don’t use pesticides and have a low incidence of coyotes.  Like adopters, potential barn sponsors are interviewed and VOKRA volunteers drive cats to their new homes as far away as Squamish and Mission.  There’s a dedicated “imprint” time of four weeks, during which cats must live inside a large shelter.  This allows them to become used to their new area and mark it as their own.  After this time, the cats are released and Janet follows up with the barn owners.

Feral cats don’t have it easy by any means – they’ve missed out on the happy lives of many a spoiled house cat.  Most feral cats live a short life on the streets and face a death that’s as harsh as their life.  Our barn program helps alleviate such burdens because, as Mairi says, “they’re wonderful and often misunderstood creatures who yearn for the same things humans do: shelter, sustenance and love.”  As much as we help them, they help us too.

If you’d like to support our feral and barn cat program you can donate here.

Written by Ellen R.

Way back in 2008 a story about our barn cat program appeared on Global TV. Unfortunately the challenges we faced back then are still the same challenges we face today. One of the only things that has changed is we now adopt out more than 1,400 cats per year. Click here to watch the story.