|“In fourteen years, VOKRA co-founder Karen Duncan had one vacation – and it took an entire organization of volunteers and a reality television crew to trick her into it. Aside from appearing on Operation Vacation, running a cat rescue out of her renovated basement in Kitsilano rarely gave Duncan a moment of peace. Things are now starting to turn around. With the help of a large donation, VOKRA has opened the doors to an operations centre, and VOKRA’s revolving cat door is now being tended in shifts by smiling volunteers wearing cheeky lab coats with ‘cat slave’ embroidered in purple. “It is not a shelter” specifies Duncan, “the operation centre is an intake space where the cats are assessed, health checked and are entered in our system. Cats are there to be allowed to settle, have their temperament assessed and then sent to the appropriate foster home.”
Back in 2000, Duncan began making a difference as a bottle-feeding volunteer for motherless newborn kittens. “When kittens are newborns, they need round-the- clock care or else they do not survive” say Duncan. As a former doula, she is well versed in the process of prenatal development and birth. She and Maria Soroski, who now runs the TNR program, founded the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association to insure abandoned kittens would live to see a forever home. Not all kittens were adopted right away, and the duo found that older kittens placed in foster care, rather in shelter cages, were not only better protected from illness, but were also much better socialized with people. The two person organization that started with kittens soon found people willing to foster, and extended the foster program to mother cats, and then to cats of all genders and ages.”
“VOKRA is a no-kill organization and has grown every year since its origin. In 2013 they have rescued 1845 cats and kittens, spayed or neutered 1700 adult cats, and adopted out 1502. Entirely volunteer-run VOKRA does not operate a shelter. There is a network of over 300 foster homes that are throughout metro Vancouver. Each cat has a detailed online profile for adopters to browse. A team of matchmakers work with adopters to find cats with compatible personalities and habits, or even cats with specific desired markings or breed characteristics. “Adopting a cat is for life” adds Duncan, “our team of volunteers are an essential link for the hundreds of cats and kittens we place each year. They work very hard to match the right kitten or cat to the adopters’ home and of course, vice versa.” Duncan’s advice to people looking to adopt is to consider an adult cat, “their temperament is known, they are trained, they are not as busy and into things as kittens, and they are so often overlooked. Our adults have often come to us when lost or turned out their homes to the streets and deserve a wonderful home for the rest of their lives.””
– V.I.A.’s Van City Kitty editor, Alexis Baran
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