Why We Believe in TNR

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.

Maria with one of her (almost) daily catches.

“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.

Maria stops at nothing to get cats off the streets

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.

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.

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.

 

Volunteer of the Month – November 2018

As the last rays of autumn sunshine give way to the rains of winter, we always know things will be bright at VOKRA because of our hundreds of dedicated volunteers. This November we’re celebrating Grace Cullen, a volunteer who shares her love with the kitties who need it most.

Grace has been caring for stray cats for at least the past 15 years in South Vancouver. She took in Niko, who had a damaged leg, Kit Kat, who’d been hit by a car and lost an eye and several others with varying illnesses and injuries. Luckily, she has a large house with several rooms so she can isolate a cat when needed.

Up until recently, Grace had five of her own cats and was also feeding strays in the neighbourhood. After feeding a stray she named Zozo for two years, she was finally able to catch him when he became very ill, and brought him to VOKRA where he’s been in our care for the past several months.

Grace was introduced to VOKRA by a friend and started helping out with the recycling. Grace was visiting Zozo daily and started visiting other cat residents who needed some TLC. She’s developed a special relationship with Tinka, who has a variety of issues, but runs to the door when she sees Grace arrive. They discuss philosophy and world issues together, as well as play string and have treats.

Grace has a special affinity with all animals and, when visiting the cats at our Operations Centre, she purposefully takes on those who need extra attention; besides Tinka, there’s Carmine and Ben, Scotty and Dancer and many others.

THANK YOU Grace for all the love you show the kitties, both indoors and outdoors. We know they love you just as much as we do!

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. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

2018 Board of Directors Election

VOKRA will be holding its 2018 Annual General Meeting on October 18 at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Anyone can attend our AGM, however in order to vote you need to become a society member. Membership is only $10 and is a great way to show your support for VOKRA.

2018 VOKRA AGM
Thursday, October 18
7 to 8 p.m. (doors open at 6:15 p.m.)
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1573 – 18 Avenue E., Vancouver
RSVP & BECOME A SOCIETY MEMBER

Members will receive a full agenda package, but briefly, the points to be covered will be:

  • Minutes of the Previous AGM, October 19, 2017
  • Presentation: 2017 – 2018 in Review
  • Treasurer’s Report: 2017 Financial Statements
  • Motion to set membership fee post October AGM
  • Motions to change the bylaws to align with the new Societies Act
  • Election of board members
  • Thank you to the outgoing board
  • New business
  • Meeting adjourned

We have asked people to indicate whether or not they will be attending the meeting so we can get a rough idea of the number of people who will show up. People intending to run for Board positions must be present for both the nomination and the acceptance of the nomination. Under BC Society Act bylaws, no proxies are permitted.

At the AGM we will be electing six new members of the board of directors to serve a two-year term until 2020. Board membership is a leadership position within VOKRA that guides the organization to achieve its mission. Directors act in a position of trust for the community and are responsible for the effective governance of our organization.

Current board members seeking re-election:

Karen Duncan

Karen, along with Maria Soroski, founded VOKRA in 1999 with a mission to care for kittens that needed around the clock bottle feeding and treatment. With assistance and training from Dr. Brondwin at Arbutus West Animal Clinic, they were able to make their dream a reality and things grew from there. Over the years, Karen has seen VOKRA expand with ever growing teams of people who organize and share the work.  She’s thrilled the organization now has the Operations Centre, which has enough space to allow for safely housing incoming cats, storage and all of VOKRA’s volunteers. She’s also proud of VOKRA’s TNR program that has effectively eliminated the endless flow of tiny kittens from Vancouver streets.

Karen Kohfeld

Karen was elected to the board in 2016 and currently serves as secretary. She’s been involved with VOKRA for more than eight years as a foster, helping at events and the Operations Centre, as well as serving on the Medical Research team. Additionally, she’s encouraged her daughter’s participation in small ways (fundraising through a lemonade stand.) and helped to set up an outreach activity at her daughter’s school. With Karen’s background in science and research, she thinks systematically about problems and operations and approaches issues with an open mind.

Helen Savkovic

Helen has been involved with animal rescue since 2005 when she went down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After returning home, she became involved with a local rescue where she worked on the campaign to ban the sale of puppies in Richmond pet stores and organized their entry in the Pepsi Challenge where they won $25,000. Helen strongly believes in the cause of animal welfare and the no-kill philosophy and brings a wealth of knowledge to VOKRA.

New candidates seeking election:

Ann Peters

Ann is a project management professional with 30+ years experience in business and a longtime supporter of VOKRA. She has a background in business administration, project and change management and has provided management consulting support to major Canadian companies, Crown corporations and private and public sector organizations. Ann was a volunteer executive director to a non-profit environmental education organization from 2000 to 2015 and still actively volunteers with the charity.

Ann has a strong financial analysis background, has extensive experience managing large demanding projects and an excellent track record for getting things completed on time and on budget. She also has excellent operational and human resources management experience and has provided contract senior management support to various organizations moving through change. Ann has provided support in the design and delivery of policy, process and procedure documentation for large to medium sized organization which provided much needed structure to organizations facing change.

Lea Tkatch

Lea has a deep seated love for all animals and is especially passionate about kitties. Over the past two years, she’s fostered more than 35 cats and kittens and also volunteers weekly doing cat care at our Operations Centre. Through her professional life, Lea has extensive experience working as a career  administrator with a focus on office management, executive support, human resources and recruiting, and project and events management.

Lea’s core strengths include being resourceful, detail oriented and diplomatic. She has excellent organizational and leadership abilities that are complimented by a positive attitude, a tireless work ethic and a love of all things feline.

David West

David’s the proud cat dad to three VOKRA kitties and has been volunteering as a foster, driver and receptionist since 2016. David, along with his wife Pat, were named as the VOKRA Volunteers of the Month for December 2017. Prior to his involvement with VOKRA, David spent more than 20 years as a Sail Canada Instructor Evaluator and served on the Learn to Cruise Committee of the Canadian Yachting Association. David also has extensive management experience after spending 15 years as the operations manager for Canada’s largest pleasure craft charter company.

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.

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.

Walk for the KITTENS!

Kittens, kittens and more kittens.

Kitten season may be the cutest time of the year, but it means a lot of extra costs and work for us here at VOKRA. Each year during kitten season we care for more than 600 kittens, and this year’s no exception.

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we count on your support to be able to rescue so many kittens.

Kittens in our care have a chance at a happy, safe and healthy life. Kittens like these cuties who were found living at an industrial site out in Abbotsford. These little guys were lucky enough to be trapped by our dedicated volunteers and will now spend the rest of their lives in loving homes.

And, by taking these kittens off the streets and ensuring they’re spayed and neutered, we’re also breaking the cycle preventing more unwanted kittens from being born. It doesn’t take very long for five kittens to become 35, and for 35 kittens to become 105 and so on.

Kittens like these are just five 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. 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. This 5k fun walk takes place at Jericho Beach on September 16 and all funds raised go directly towards supporting our rescue efforts. Learn more here.

Without your support we wouldn’t be able to afford to rescue all these cats and kittens.

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

Eventbrite - VOKRA Walk for the Kitties 2018

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

 

#FosteringSavesLives

This bunch of semi-feral kittens needed lots of socialization before they were ready for adoption.

Cats and kittens are ready for adoption when they learn to trust and accept us humans. As many of the cats in our care come from the streets they’ve often had limited or negative experiences with people. By caring for them in a stable and safe home environment, our foster moms and dads are helping to charge their view of humans, which is life changing. Fostering allows these cats and kittens to grow and transform into confident kitties who will then find their forever homes.

As each cat or kitten is unique, the way foster parents socialize with them is different. For example, feral or semi-feral kitties see humans as potential predators and so they’ll run away and hide. They may hiss at you when you try to pet them or lash out by swatting or biting. In this situation the caregiver must be slow and patient. You start by sitting wherever they are – close but not too close – and make sure you have some tasty treats. As you have food, they’ll start to associate you with good things. The more they see you as non threatening, the more they’ll warm up to you. Eventually, with patience, love and persistence, an adoptable kitty emerges.

Fostering’s not only a positive experience for the kitties, but also the foster parents! It’s very rewarding to help cats and kittens get adopted. A little time and patience goes a very long way and watching them grow and learn to accept and love humans is an extraordinary feeling. Foster parents not only have immense love for kitties, but also the desire to put time and effort into giving them the best life possible. Unconditional love is given to each cat and that love changes their lives for the better.

Clawdette’s one of the 26 kittens Erin’s helped save so far by fostering.

Erin, a long time foster parent, shares a memorable story:

“My very first foster turned into my very first foster fail! I took her on while living in Australia. I had some extra time on my hands, so I asked the vet clinic close by if they had a sick or higher-needs cat that needed fostering. They were so happy since they just had a feral kitten brought in. She was extremely hissy and completely terrified of humans, so they needed her to go somewhere else aside from the vet clinic. I brought her home and got her settled into the bathroom. After hiding under the sink in the bathroom for the entire first afternoon through to the night, the next day I went in there to stay with her and do my own thing while being with her. After doing that for the morning, she came out from under the sink, crawled up on my lap, had a bath, curled up on my lap and went to sleep. I knew at that moment that I would not be giving her back at all, ever. The rest is history!

She is very much attached to me (and only me) and not great with other animals. But because of my experience with her we’ve gone on to foster 26 more kittens since then. She was my introduction into fostering and paved the way for all these other kittens to come and be a part of my life. I’m grateful for every day that we have together! And seeing how she has grown from an incredibly hissy and terrified kitten to a much more confident and happy cat, has shown me just what fostering can do for a cat. It is a life changer for them!”

Sarah, a long-term VOKRA foster parent, has fostered two “pee kitties” so far. These are kitties who pee in inappropriate places for seemingly unknown reasons. After checking with a vet to make sure there are no underlying medical issues, she goes through all the other potential reasons, such as stress and anxiety, disapproval of the little box shape or litter type, habits or any other thing she can think of. She notes all the occurrences of inappropriate peeing and the surrounding circumstances to find the patterns and modify the environment as needed. She’s just like a detective!

With one foster, all the kitty required was a larger box with deeper litter. With the other kitty, Zoey, all she needed was to have all enticing soft items, such as towels and bath mats, off the floor so the only target for pee was the litter box. All these “pee kitties” simply needed was a person with the patience to understand what they want and the willingness to create a consistent environment for them.

Sarah weighs in on why being a foster parent is an amazing opportunity:

Ziggy’s one of Sarah’s former “pee kitties”. Happily she was recently adopted and now has a new forever home.

“I started fostering when I was living on my own after having moved to Vancouver by myself. I grew up with cats and adding a cat to my home seemed like a no brainer! However, as a student, I was unsure about my long-term plans so fostering allowed me to have a furry companion without committing before I was ready. It’s also so rewarding to see them improve and go off to new homes with excited new owners! And, of course, I feel like I’m helping with the larger problem of cat overpopulation and reducing strain on VOKRA as a rescue organization so that their main focus can be on those cats with greater medical needs while healthy kitties can enjoy the comfort of a home rather than a shelter environment. It also allows me to help teach others about the importance of fostering and how much fun it is!”

Fostering saves lives and we have more than 350 foster parents to thank for that! Many of our kitties need to socialize with humans and learn to accept them before being adopted and our foster homes offer the best opportunity for them get the fresh start they need. One at a time, fostering produces a transformed, adoptable kitty ready to find a loving furever home!

At VOKRA we’re always looking for new foster parents to help save more lives. We provide all the food, supplies and other equipment necessary to our foster homes, as well as ongoing support and advice. You simply provide the care, attention and love.

We have a variety of fostering situations as we take in orphaned kittens, feral kittens, pregnant mothers, mothers with kittens and adult cats. Each year we need temporary homes for more than 1,400 kittens and cats! If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, please visit our website at vokra.ca/fostering.

Raindrop and Steveston each grew up in difficult circumstances and came to us as semi-feral cats two years ago. They met in foster care where they became fast friends and are a great comfort to each other. They’re both still very shy, but we’re hoping an accepting and patient adopter will come along and open their heart and home to them.