A Happy Reunion for Oreo!

Oreo (a.k.a. Esther). When she first arrived we thought her ear had been frost bitten. No one ever guessed she’d been in a devastating fire.

All of VOKRA’s little kitties have stories to tell and Oreo’s is one of the most dramatic. Lucky for her, there’s a happy ending to go along with it.

Oreo and her family suffered a terrifying ordeal last April when their home was devastated by a fire. Oreo, an indoor kitty, was trapped inside.

Fortunately, Oreo has a very caring (and brave!) owner who rushed inside the burning building to rescue her. And when this confused kitty wiggled free and ran back inside, thinking it was safe, owner Marcus ran in a second time, finally managing to get little Oreo out of immediate danger.

Thanks to Marcus, Oreo was alive, but she did need oxygen at the site to help her recover. She was also found to have further injuries—burns on her paws and a partly missing left ear—that required a visit to the vet, followed by a large bill.

Oreo (far left) gets some much needed oxygen.

 

At first all was well, but Oreo’s adventures weren’t over. As their house had burned down, Oreo and her family moved to a house more than 10 blocks away. By accident, on the very day she was schedule to be spayed, she got out of her new place and didn’t know where to go. She tried to go back to her old home and became lost.

Marcus searched frantically for Oreo, even going back to his old house and setting up feeding stations. But he wasn’t able to locate her.

Oreo was rescued in December, but there was a twist. Little Oreo had five kittens in tow! The family was brought to our Operations Centre for assessment and, despite living on the streets, everyone was healthy and in good spirits.

Oreo with her kittens.

Oreo (who was named Esther upon arrival) and her new kittens were sent to live with a foster, but not before their adorable photos were put on VOKRA’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Marcus hadn’t given up on finding his beloved pet and he was delighted to spot pictures of Oreo, and even more delighted to find she was well and cared for.

Earlier this month, Marcus and Oreo were reunited and are closer than ever. “She greets me every time I come home,” says Marcus. “She’s so happy now!”

Not all kitties have stories as dramatic as Oreo’s. But, regardless of how they arrived, the kitties in our care get the happy endings they deserve with the help and care of our many volunteers and fosters.

Oreo and Marcus

Bottle Babies – A Full-Time Job

Once upon a time, VOKRA founders Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski were volunteers at the SPCA and they’d see litters of tiny kittens arrive without moms. Karen and Maria quickly became expert bottle feeders and found their services in high demand during kitten season. Eventually, they branched off on their own and VOKRA was born.

It was then that Karen and Maria realized the reason for all the motherless kittens was that no one had figured out how to trap the feral moms. Once they began trapping them, the need for bottle feeding was greatly reduced.

Abu before & after

Keeping kittens with their mom is always ideal, but at times its necessary to bottle feed them. Some kittens may only be fed temporarily until their mom is located or while she’s recovering from illness or injury. And sometimes there will be extra-large litters so we’ll help out the mama cat by topping up the kittens with a bottle. We always try our best to ensure mom is trapped, deploying an arsenal of tricks, such as using the scent of her kittens’ urine or fur to lure her in. But there are times when mom is never found or she has passed away, making it essential the kittens are bottle fed until they can graduate to solid food.

Being responsible for a litter of newborn kittens may involve loads of cuteness, but it’s a full-time job requiring a lot of work!

“Newborn kittens need to be fed every two hours, which means you don’t get a lot of sleep when they’re tiny,” explains foster mom Lea Tkatch. “You need to make sure they’re always warm and, just like human babies, they need to be burped and bathed. And you can’t forget to stimulate their poop and pee just like their feline mom would do.”

Aladdin before & after

Each year VOKRA receives an average of 10 litters that require full-time bottle feeding so we have a small group of volunteers who are dedicated to keeping these kittens alive. Lea has taken on the responsibility of bottle feeding three litters so far and is about to see her latest bunch head off to their forever homes.

“My latest litter of three kittens arrived at VOKRA when they were only a week old,” said Lea. “They’d been found all alone and were taken to a local vet clinic who then called us. They were all very hungry and had bad colds, so their eyes were full of goop. One of the kittens was clearly the runt of the litter and, at first, we weren’t sure he was going to make it.”

Even with round-the-clock care and attention, bottle fed kittens have a lower survival rate than their counterparts with moms. Just like the kittens in Lea’s litter, they’re susceptible to illness which their tiny bodies have a hard time fighting.

Happily, with lots of TLC all of Lea’s kittens pulled through and they’re thriving today.

Jasmine

“We ended up naming the two bigger kittens Aladdin and Jasmine, and the tiny runt Abu,” said Lea. “Abu has almost caught up in size to his siblings and now it’s hard to imagine he was so small when he arrived. All three of them are so sweet it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”

Because bottle babies receive so much human attention at a young age, they’re almost always very social and adore cuddles. This is certainly the case with her three says Lea, “They constantly want to be with people and run to greet me and my husband when we walk in the door. Aladdin can’t seem to get close enough so often I end up wearing him like a scarf!”

Fostering saves lives and we have more than 350 foster parents to thank for that! In addition to taking care of bottle feeders, Lea also fosters older kittens, moms with kittens and the occasional adult cat.

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.

Volunteer of the Month – March 2019

Iris with her kitty Sweetie

When we say VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers we really mean it! As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we rely on our more than 400 volunteers 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 – Iris Chan.

We recently sat down with Iris to find out a why she volunteers for VOKRA.

How did you start volunteering with VOKRA?

Being able to do something for cats has always been something that I wanted to do, but work has always been so busy before. Now that I’m only working part time, I felt it was time to contribute to my furry friends so I started volunteering with VOKRA about a year ago.

Tell us a bit about your volunteer role?

I work on the volunteer recruitment team where we recruit for all the various teams and find the right candidates for the right positions. Basically, I talk to candidates and find out why they want to volunteer for VOKRA and listen to their amazing stories with cats.

What’s your favourite part of volunteering?

Being able to connect with so many cat lovers

THANK YOU Iris for all the time and effort you put into helping ensure VOKRA has enough volunteers to keep going!

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, including are members for our volunteer recruitment team. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Joy for Johnathon!

From a cardboard box to cloud nine! It’s a new and much happier life for Johnathon at his foster’s home! This lonely little kitty finally has somebody to snuggle with, thanks to VOKRA volunteers.

It was a hard life for Johnathon as one of Vancouver’s many stray cats. Though a kind stranger was giving the cutie some food, Johnathon’s home was a simple box in the backyard. Worse, he was hurting. After an unknown injury to his ear, this poor little kitty contracted a hematoma, a painful clotting of blood and broken vessels that can lead to tissue damage. Luckily for Johnathon, his feeding friend saw the problem and phoned VOKRA. In volunteers rushed, arranging for medical help and a new home for this little cat.

All better!

What a break for Johnathon! Not only did the sweet kitty get rid of the lump on his ear, but he also got the attention he was obviously craving. Immediately upon his rescue, it was noticed that, even ill, Johnathon was tame and very friendly. (“I luvs hims!” was the verdict of VOKRA co-founder Maria, who spearheaded Johnathon’s rescue.)

Now returned to health and in foster care, Johnathon’s a very cuddly cat, trailing around after foster mom Mika as he tries to get caught up on all the love he’s been missing.

“The moment you sit down on the floor, the couch, anywhere, the first thing [Johnathon] wants to do is curl up on your lap,” says Mika, who started taking care of the fluffy tuxedo early in February. “He’s also very talkative; if he feels he’s not getting enough cuddles, he’ll meow and follow you around until you sit down with him.”

It’s almost a happy ending for Johnathon as he’s close to being forever-home ready. Thanks to VOKRA, a sick and solitary cat has found health and a friend, and he’ll soon find the permanent love he needs.

Johnathon when he first arrived.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2019

Bob and Kaspurritto

It may be cold outside, but at VOKRA our hearts are always warm because we’re surrounded by our volunteers. This month we’re celebrating Bob Van Dusen, a volunteer who always brings a smile to our Operations Centre.

Here Bob tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

I’ve been volunteering with VOKRA for almost two years now. I first heard about the organization after the loss of my sweet Pippo after 16 years together. His sister Alexandra was still with us so we were thinking of getting her a little playmate. Our vet’s office suggested going through VOKRA to find a kitty.  We decided not to proceed at that time as Alexandra seemed to enjoy being the only child. Not long after she too passed and left us very sad and empty.

Khloe and Fumee just a few days after being adopted.

It was about a month later and we decided we needed to fill our home once again with kitty love. We of course remembered VOKRA and looked on the website and found the kitties that would become part of our family. Khloe and Fumee are now closing in on seven years with us.

I wasn’t working during the first few years after we adopted them and needed something to occupy some of my time. As I’ve always been a huge cat lover I applied to volunteer with VOKRA and was contacted regarding a position at the front desk which I accepted.

My initial contact with VOKRA was with Monique who spent a lot of time with me getting me up to speed with all the responsibilities of the front desk and how we contribute to the overall smooth running of the VOKRA machine. I can’t say enough great things about Monique. She’s more than a mentor/teacher, she has become a confidant, therapist and friend.

Bob with Poppy

As time passed I took on more responsibility and joined the financial team in a very limited capacity which I enjoy very much. I’ve strived to learn as much as I can about the different areas of VOKRA so I can be of use when a need arises.

Being a part of the VOKRA family has done so much for me as a person. The amazing people who are a part of this organization have welcomed me and I truly feel like I’ve gained a new family.

I have met so many wonderful kitties during my time at VOKRA. Of course, Charis is a particular favourite as she was one of the first kitties I met on my first day. My sweet Kaspurritto stole my heart in a big way. Most recently the darling Poppy tugged at the heart strings and am so happy to see her doing so well in her foster home. So many more I’ve wanted to bring home and all have such a special place in my heart.

C’Fer

One memory stands out right now. One Tuesday morning before my 2 p.m. shift I received a call from the morning receptionist Jennifer to ask me a favour. The vet clinic on Davie Street had been visited by a young man who was wanting to have his 12-year-old kitty euthanized for some behavioural issues. The clinic refused and found out he had been shopping his cat around the downtown clinics, all of whom thankfully refused. The clinic on Davie contacted VOKRA’s Operations Centre to see if we would be willing to take him in as the owner was just going to dump the cat in the wild somewhere. Being VOKRA, of course they said yes. The young man was contacted and surrendered his kitty at the clinic.  My small part was to pick him up and bring him to Ops. None of us saw evidence of the “issues” his former owner had described. It’s a testament to the dedication of VOKRA that C’Fer is flourishing in his foster home and hopefully will find his furever home soon. I just feel so fortunate I was able to contribute in my way to saving this wonderful cats life.

Finally, I want to thank Karen and Maria for creating VOKRA and a place where kitties and humans can become the best they can be. My life has been so enriched by being a part of this organization. So many others inspire me with the dedication and hard work they put forth for VOKRA.

THANK YOU Bob for all your dedication and the time and energy you put towards helping the kitties of VOKRA. We couldn’t be more appreciative!

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.

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.