VOKRA 2015 CALENDAR for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association
Love fashion? Love kittens? We do! This year, make a difference in an orphaned kitten’s life by purchasing a 2015 calendar. VOKRA (Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association) has teamed up with Vancouver’s creative force to raise money and awareness for local kittens in need of foster care.
VOKRA’S founder & president Karen Duncan speaks with Alexa Kellee: Tell us a little bit about VOKRA’s history.
When did you start the rescue and what led you to do so?
We started around 1999, and we got our charity number in 2000. We started off with Maria, who found the fosters for the SPCA kittens – I had also been looking after kittens and I went there to volunteer. We did that for a while and decided we would rather do it ourselves and raise our own money, because we were feeding them different food, arranging the adoptions – we were already doing everything ourselves.
What made you decide to just work with cats?
I have worked with both dogs and cats – it’s a whole different ball game, puppies. They’re louder, smellier, take up more space, and we really just felt we should concentrate. When you start spread yourself, you must have all of these different things in place – different types of fosters. I’ve still, over the years, taken the occasional dog to foster myself, but we really just try to relay them to the rescues we know of.
Approximately how many rescued kitties is VOKRA currently caring for?
We have over five hundred in our care right now. There are over two hundred available, and another two hundred or more coming soon (which just means they are not tame enough / old enough yet). Some of the cats are long-term fosters, fosters with feline leukemia or aids. We generally move those on to Katie’s Place. We have an agreement and they go and stay there instead of living with us, which frees up space and allows our fosters to look after more.
So 500 (total cats in care), is that high for you?
It is probably closer to 600 right now, but it has been a very busy year. We’ve adopted out over a thousand cats and kittens since January.
Can you tell us what kinds of things donations pay for?
The majority goes to food and vet costs, those are the main things. There is a chart you can find on the website that shows it really clearly. That is something we have been, right from the start, very open about – where the money goes. No one gets paid. We will cover travel costs sometimes, things like that, but the majority of the money is going to vet care and good quality food.
So you do take donations of items like blankets, food, that kind of thing? Is there anything in particular you are looking for right now?
We can always use little cat scratcher’s. People get little ones when their cats are small, then they grow up and don’t use them anymore. We’ll take them and sanitize them and use them over and over. If people want to buy a bunch of little cat toys or cardboard scratcher’s, we can always use those. People can donate low litter boxes, scoops, towels and sheets. Old meds – I often get insulin from people if their cat has passed on, or fluids that they had for their sick cat but don’t need anymore. Things like that we put to good use. Kennels we need all the time. We run out, we are really low right now because they are all out with the fosters. People come in at the beginning of the year and they’re stacked to the ceilings and ask “what do you need all those for?” and I say just watch! You know? *laughs* By October, they’re all out. So yeah, we can always use the foldable wire kennels.
Tell us a bit about the format you have chosen for VOKRA- what is the value of having VOKRA run purely from foster homes, rather than having one main location?
Yes, we have seen rescues go very bad. The worst thing people can do is get cats into one place and mix them all together. Diseases, colds, ringworm…they don’t fully test before mixing either, so you don’t know if they have illnesses to begin with. Eventually, what you’ve got is a bunch of sick cats in one place, and that’s not rescue as far as I’m concerned. So, here at our intake we’ve got the cages in separate areas. We get them out to foster homes as fast as we can. It’s a lot more work and organization – really hard – and it takes a lot more money because you’re handing out all the supplies etc, but it keeps cats a lot healthier. When they are being fostered you start to learn what each individual cat is like. We know more about them, and we can match them to the right home. That is really important.
So, who would be a good fit to be a foster for VOKRA?
Because we don’t like adopting to people who are too young – (they aren’t settled, they’re going to move, change their jobs, go travelling, etc) we will often talk those people into fostering instead. It gives them an idea of what it’s like to be responsible for an animal. We want people who are going to take it seriously. So a good foster is someone who “gets” what we do, is able to come pick up supplies from our locations so we aren’t trying to find drivers etc. and just really be able to give the cat lots of attention while it’s with them. They should also be observant of any illnesses, and get to us right away if something comes up.
What should we do if we would like to become a foster?
There is lots of info on the site about fostering. On the website, there are foster applications, same as there are adoption applications and there is also an email for volunteering. Regarding people who don’t necessarily have the time or capability to foster.
Is there anything else we can do to help?Are you currently looking for volunteers?
Yes! We try to steer them towards something they enjoy doing (for example commerce students, or accountants who can help our finance volunteers). Driving- we always need drivers, and we need them at the drop of a hat. I need volunteers morning and night. So we need people in all sorts of areas. Students I find really enjoy it if they come in here because they want to be around animals. Cleaning , feeding first .. smooching kitties at the end! Especially seeing as a lot of places in Vancouver don’t allow renters to have pets. They don’t, and that is the hard thing for a lot of people in town is they can’t have animals. They come to university and miss their animals at home. People sometimes do short-term fostering, if they are allowed to. A lot of the time, landlords are reasonable if you just say, ‘hey, I want to do this for this group, and they will fix anything if it is broken’, and a lot of the time they will agree. We really want to encourage landlords to rent to people who are good animal caretakers.
So short-term fostering is an option as well?
Yes, there are always emergencies. It could just be a week. We don’t always have them, but spring/ summer is insane. We just want to get them out to a safe home, and we can organize to move them within a week. Or for a pregnant cat, we can send them to a temporary foster for a couple of days.
Great, so with everything we have discussed, is there anything else you would like to add?
Well, we go to schools, we do talks and show pictures. If we have bottle feeding kitten’s, we take them in with us and show them. People say “oh, you’re a cat lady” and I hate the description. I am not someone who is all smelly with cat pee, and I do have lots of cats here, but they’re not mine. It has a “crazy” tone to it, and that’s not what we’re doing. We’re doing a service for the city and for the animals. We’re trying to change things. We’re not just trying to patch things; we’re trying to change them. We want cats to stop being seen as toss away beings, We want people to just get it that cats are here because of us and it’s not fair that these guys (points to a kennel with three kittens) would have lived out their lives outside, feral, having copious amounts of kittens if we hadn’t trapped them and brought them in last week. We want to make a change. We are pushing for things like no pet sales in stores. We work with other groups as much as we can, especially in Surrey, there are three groups working on it out there, and we are all doing the trapping, fixing and spending a huge amount of money.
So donations are even more vital right now?
Yeah. We want to get businesses stepping up, saying “ok, we’d like to donate a hundred dollars a month”. If we got a bunch of businesses doing that, we’d get our rent paid…and they would get big kudos on our sites, and tax receipts. A lot of our stress is money related. There are vet bills waiting to be paid, and you feel bad but you can’t always pay them right away. After our annual fundraising walks each year, we pay every one right down and everyone is happy for a while, but it starts to sneak up again pretty quickly. I think our biggest needs are for fosters – good ones – and donations.
And we are going to do our best to help with that as well, through this article and sales of our gorgeous calendar. Yay!
Styling Assistants: Heidi Theriault and Alison Mogg
Models: Maya & Abigail with Numa, Elizabeth with Lizbell
APRIL Elizabeth Blouse and Skirt by Topshop, Shoes by Aldo, Socks by Aldo Accessories, Sash is Stylist’s own Abigail Jacket by Stella McCartney Kids, Skirt by The Children’s Place, Sandals by MICHAEL Michael Kors
MAY Maya Gown by Pure Magnolia (Worn with H&M Blouse underneath), Sash is Stylist’s own Elizabeth Gown by Pure Magnolia, Sash is Stylist’s own Abigail Dress by Zara
DECEMBER Maya Sweater by H&M, Belt & Skirt by BCBGMAXAZRIA, Necklace by Expression, Shoe by Sam Edelman Elizabeth Dress by H&M, Tights by Nine West, Shoes by Michael Kors Abigail Outfit by H&M
NOVEMBER Maya Romper by Topshop, Lace Bodysuit by Blush, Shoes by Madison, Headpiece is Stylist’s own, necklace by Kate Spade