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

Here Kitty Kitty! 

The rains have arrived and it’s time for all kitties to come in out of the cold. Here at the VOKRA, we work hard everyday to make sure cats who have no place to go have a roof over their head when the weather takes a turn.

Until recently, if you called “here Kitty Kitty” at our Operations Centre you’d have probably been talking to a single cat, an elderly gentleman named (you guessed it) Kitty Kitty.

This poor guy wouldn’t come running in answer though, as he has several age-related conditions that affect his mobility. He’s hyperglycemic and has arthritis in the lower part of his spine. When Kitty Kitty first came to VOKRA he couldn’t walk very well and our volunteers were concerned he was in a lot of pain. Everyone worked hard to find Kitty Kitty the right meds to help him move more comfortably.

Unfortunately, to make matters worse, Kitty Kitty started out not too relaxed in his temporary home and he had a tendency to nip. But after some medical care, and lots of cuddles and chin scratches from the team at Ops, Kitty Kitty started feeling much better. He’s still not the most agile of kitties, but he’s getting around and any volunteer or visitor who came to the back room where Kitty Kitty was staying was sure to be greeted by hopeful eyes and a little paw reaching out.

After Kitty Kitty’s temporary stay, he’s happier and healthier and has now moved on to a new home. Everyone will miss this super senior, but we’re glad we were able to ensure Kitty Kitty stayed warm, dry and loved while he was waiting for a permanent situation to come along.

If you’d like to help us help more kitties like Kitty Kitty, please donate today at www.givetovokra.ca.

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.

Springtime at Ops

Forget fall; it’s springtime all over again at our Operations Centre. Spring the kitten, that is. This little feline has been getting her fair share of attention here at Ops, with playtime and cuddles galore.

Sweet Spring’s mom was one of the many cats in Vancouver who aren’t spayed or neutered, leading to a lot of unwanted kittens for her owner. VOKRA staff and volunteers helped to spay Spring’s mom, and they’re now working hard to get Spring and her brothers and sisters ready for forever homes.

With her big amber eyes and attractive Bengal-like brown and yellow markings, Spring’s sure to be a hit when it comes time for her to be adopted. But there’s a problem. Spring’s the runt of the litter and she’s been having organ troubles. Her kidneys in particular show some congenital difficulties. Not so long ago, Spring was really nauseated and couldn’t pee or eat. Everyone at Ops spent a lot of time helping with her treatments and giving her some much-needed love.

Right now Spring’s back to her regular self. She loves to chase plastic ball toys around her kennel and afterwards scratch her small nails on her cardboard ramp or snuggle up to her many admirers.

As a no-kill rescue, our volunteers strive to give a fighting change to every cat, including kittens like Spring, whose health problems could have led to her euthanization at other centres. Everyone at Ops is hoping for a long and happy life for little Spring, with a loving friend to take care of her. There may be some colder weather ahead for this tiny kitten as she may still need some special care. But we’re all in her corner and won’t let her down.

Kittens like Spring are 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. 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.

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!

Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers. Currently we have more than 400 volunteers working hard to ensure the kitties in our care get everything they need and are adopted in loving homes. But how do we find all these volunteers? That’s where our volunteer recruitment team comes in. This month we’re celebrating one of our volunteers who helps us find volunteers – Raj Johal. Here Raj tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

 

At the beginning of university, I wanted to get involved and volunteer to not only get experience but to meet others and make an impact. With me wanting to pursue a career in medicine the first thing that came to mind was a hospital. I started volunteering there but felt I couldn’t contribute towards anything significant or make any sort of meaningful impact. Thus, I started searching again and stumbled upon VOKRA. I had always loved animals so as I got to learn more about what this organization did and how they achieved it I knew it was the right fit and I wanted to be a part of it.

I was also fortunate enough to have gotten the position of recruitment coordinator allowing me to talk to a wide range of individuals. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of being a recruiter as I get to talk to and hear from people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve now heard countless stories about how cats or other animals have made a difference in people’s lives which I find to be truly inspiring. All these volunteers and their mutual love of animals and passion for helping is why I believe VOKRA has been able to do such a good job. The fact I get to play a part in introducing them to our organization is instrumental for me and something that always makes me smile.

In terms of my role, I started off as a recruitment coordinator and then in conjunction was also the team lead for over two years. I’ve really enjoyed both roles, as a recruiter I’m responsible for screening volunteer applications which involves interviewing volunteers and ultimately placing them in positions that fill our needs, but most importantly makes them happy. As a team lead, I was responsible for coordinating with other team leads to determine volunteer needs, making and refining volunteer positions along with applications, recruiting volunteers via postings and presentations, and finally ensuring our team was a cohesive unit that worked hard to fill all these gaps.

Over the years, I’ve formed many memories  I believe have shaped me into who I am today. The one that stands out is from last year when Shoaib, one of our recruitment coordinators, and I did a presentation at a senior care home. The purpose of this presentation was to recruit new volunteers. I don’t remember now how many ended up applying but what I do remember is this story of an older lady with her cat. She talked to us at the end about how having her cat was such a huge support network for her when she was severely depressed and without any family or friends. It just goes to show that not only are we helping cats but also indirectly making a positive impact on people. It makes me very proud to be a part of VOKRA when I hear how highly people think of this organization!

I am now volunteering as a recruitment coordinator while Michelle leads this team to hopefully become even better and efficient. However, I have learned a tremendous amount in my time here and met many altruistic individuals. I believe these to be a key part of why I got into medical school and something that I’ll always remember now that I embark on this journey!

THANK YOU Raj for all your hard work and dedication through the years. We’re so proud you’ve succeeded in being accepted into medical school at UBC and have no doubt you’re going to be a fabulous doctor!

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, especially in the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

It Takes a Clowder*

*Clowder = a group or cluster of cats.

When Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski founded VOKRA back in 2000 it was headquartered in the basement of Karen’s Victorian home in Kitsilano. The plan was to care for very young, mostly bottle-fed kittens and, as often happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

Karen & Maria with longtime volunteer Shelley

Back in the day, VOKRA had a “staff” of approximately 10 volunteers and averaged 150 rescues a year. By 2008, that number had increased to 800 cats and kittens and in 2014 that number jumped to more than 1,800. After finding loving homes for thousands of cats and kittens it was about time VOKRA moved out of Karen’s basement and got a new home of its own. So in 2014 we opened our Operations Centre.

Since opening the Operations Centre (a.k.a. Ops), VOKRA has been very lucky to have an amazing amount of truly dedicated volunteers join us and help save the lives of cats and kittens.

Volunteers at our Ops making sure kittens are flea-free

Today, VOKRA currently has more than 400 volunteers working hard either behind the scenes or at Ops. We also have more than 550 foster homes, currently fostering or available to foster.

Just at our Operations Centre alone, there are an average of 168 volunteers a week! Here’s a quick snapshot of what it takes to make Ops tick:

  • Cat Care, Operations Support and Maintenance – 125+ shifts per week.
  • Medical Team – 17 volunteers
  • Reception – 20+ shifts per week

Our Operations Centre is also very busy with a large number of fosters who pick up food/supplies/medications for their foster kitties.

There are also hundreds of VOKRA volunteers “behind the scenes” who make things happen. We currenlty have 261+ volunteers on 48 teams, including:

Our event volunteers are always out in the community

Volunteer Recruitment- Adoption Counsellors – Adoption Contracts – Foster Coordinators – New Foster – Homes Interviewers – Kitty Health Checks – Medical Research – Foster Kitty Vaccination – Cat Behaviourism – Monitoring Health in Foster Care – Post Adoption Health Support – Vet Lab Reports – Fundraising – Events – Volunteer Committee – Communications – Photography – Kitty Biographers – Finance – IT – Database Administration – Foster Website – Trapping – Barn Placement – Drivers – Southlands Barn (where elderly feral cats and disabled kitties live) – and more!!!!

There never seems to be a shortage of cats to rescue

Sometimes it seems like we’re all chasing our tails trying to keep up – we’ve grown in leaps and bounds and, at times, are still going through growing pains. But we’re all here for one thing – the kitties.

Thank you to each and every one of our special volunteers who are a member of the VOKRA clowder. We wouldn’t exist without your dedication and support. Each and every one of you make a difference in the lives of kitties each day.

We’re always looking for new volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.