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.

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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.

TNR Works!

Mr pochadie trap

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.

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Maria with a bottle baby.

“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.

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It’s estimated there were more than 8000 – 9000 free roaming cats in Vancouver before VOKRA came along, but now that number is down to less than 300 with the remaining colonies under control.

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.

tuffy goodbye

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.

Join us in celebrating National Feral Cat Day October 16.

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.

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Post written by Ellen R.