Annex Cat Rescue: Cat Adoption with A Difference

Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer charity dedicated to addressing the plight of homeless cats in the Greater Toronto Area by:

  1. Humanely trapping homeless kittens and abandoned or stray adult cats for placement in our foster and adoption program;
  2. Feeding and providing medical care for feral cats in designated colonies;
  3. Curbing population growth in those colonies through trapping, spaying/neutering, and vaccinating;
  4. Educating the public on the compassionate treatment of homeless cats and responsible pet ownership; and
  5. Improving urban environments through community cooperation.
  • Superheroes — Daniel Bélanger and Josée Pelletier

    Superheroes aren’t the exclusive domain of comic books and blockbuster movies. They walk among us. For proof, witness husband-and-wife dynamos Daniel Bélanger and Josée Pelletier.

    DanielBelanger-JoseePelletier

    Already long-time cat lovers and owners (“I can’t express to you the love my wife has for cats,” Bélanger chuckles) the pair by chance saw a documentary in 2010 called Cat City, chronicling the plight of homeless cats – an estimated 100,000 in Toronto alone – while detailing the tireless efforts of volunteers working to assist and rescue them.

    Made by award-winning Toronto-based filmmakers Maya Gallus and Justine Pimlott under their Red Queen Productions aegis, the heart-wrenching doc at first flattened, and then galvanized Bélanger and Pelletier. In 2012, with a $25,000 investment of their own money, they created the Josée Pelletier Foundation (JPF) to offer financial support to those battling the city’s cat overpopulation crisis.

    Established as a donor-advised endowment fund administered through national charitable foundation BenefAction, JPF annually grants a minimum of 3.5 percent of its value to organizations working the frontlines. In 2013, Annex Cat Rescue received $1,000; this year, Bélanger anticipates that figure might be closer to $2,000.

    The hope now is to grow the fund to allow the JPF to exist in perpetuity – or until the last cat is spayed/neutered and placed with a loving forever home. “BenefAction takes care of the money, liaises with Canada Revenue Agency and there is no way we can get it back… not that we’d want to,” Bélanger explains. “We tell them how to disperse the money, and they manage it.

    “Prior to 2010 I was involved with the Toronto Humane Society walking dogs. I met a lady involved with Annex Cat Rescue who filled me in about cats. Added to what we discovered through the Cat City documentary, we learned cats are in way worse shape than dogs.

    “So many are euthanized unnecessarily,” he continues. “So we felt we had to do something. We don’t have any kids, so the Josée Pelletier Foundation will grow as we die off,” Bélanger laughs. “Hopefully now we can get more people to give to the Foundation so that 3.5 percent donation will grow every year.

    “There are something like 85,000 registered charities in Canada and most of that money goes to non-animal causes. We hope to help fill the gap. We firmly believe the problem we have with animal overpopulation will be solved by grassroots measures. If we can raise that fund, we can solve this problem.”

  • Happy Tails: Jelly

    When stray kitten Jelly came to Annex Cat Rescue after being found under a car by a friend of the organization, everyone knew he was special. Unfortunately, the aggressive behaviour that had helped Jelly survive all alone on the streets made it difficult for potential adoptive parents to understand him. He was adopted twice and returned to ACR both times because of his behaviour.

    As with many cats that get labelled this way, it often means they are uncomfortable in their home setting, such as being around children or other cats. Jelly just needed to find a permanent home that would suit his needs—somewhere he could be calm and happy in.

    Foster mom Cara Bleskie happily took Jelly in while he waited for his forever home. “Jelly is the most kind-hearted animal I’ve ever encountered,” she says. “He’s so full of love and affection, and always there to greet you at the door when you arrive home.”

    Jelly

    Bleskie said that she and her partner had some concerns when they first learned of Jelly’s aggressive past. However, it has now been over a year since the couple brought Jelly home and not once have they seen him lash out.

    Jelly became comfortable in his foster home, and formed a trusted bond with his foster parents, making it hard for the couple to picture him not being there every day.

    “There wasn’t really an ‘ah-ha’ moment when we realized we wanted to keep Jelly forever,” Bleskie remembers. “After awhile it just became really hard to imagine our lives without him.” The pair went from fostering Jelly to officially adopting him, giving him the forever home he had been waiting for.

    Jelly

    Bleskie thinks that Jelly needed stability in his life, and that perhaps a lot of his aggressive history could be attributed to abandonment and constant change in ownership. “There was no way we could put him through that again, so we adopted him,” she says.

    “Every morning we wake up with Jelly stretched out on the bed between us -sometimes I think he believes he is another person. He constantly follows us throughout the apartment, looking to play games, be petted, or just simply to hang out.”

    Jelly

     

  • Happy Tails: Phoebe

    Phoebe the cat wasn’t exactly heaven-sent but the forces of good clearly conspired to place her in the path of grateful forever mom Cherith Muir.

    As Muir explains, her long-time buddy Byron the cat passed away last fall at age 16. Heartbroken, Muir needed some time to mend. Having had a positive experience adopting through Annex Cat Rescue – where she found Byron as a kitten – she decided to return in search of another feline companion.

    This past January, Muir met Phoebe, then called Rice and staying with foster mom Liz Cabral. “At first I was thinking of a kitten but I talked to my vet and was encouraged to think about an older cat, especially since this is a single-cat household,” Muir says.

    Though Phoebe is about age five, both Muir and Cabral report that she is extremely playful. “She loves to chat, cuddle, give head-butts,” laughs Cabral, who took the cat in from her nephew. “He loved her but realized that his job, which took him away for three to five 5 days at a time,” made domestic life untenable for the highly social and socialized cat.

    The nephew’s loss was Muir’s gain. “I love talkative cats and Phoebe is extremely talkative, always communicating with me, which was something I noticed when I went to visit her at her foster home. She was chatty with Liz.

    “I was also very impressed with how affectionate she was. She had obviously formed a good attachment with her foster which augured well for becoming attached to me. So that combined with her big blue eyes, which are very unusual in a cat that’s not Siamese, sealed the deal.”

    These days, when not chasing toys, Phoebe can be found standing outside the shower waiting for Muir to finish bathing. “Strange but very cute,” Muir laughs. As for changing her name from Rice to Phoebe, Muir explains, “I noticed her foster was calling her Rice-ee and I wondered if she would adapt to other names with a similar sound.

    “I thought Phoebe was very melodious and when I started calling her that, she almost immediately responded. She had been in at least two homes prior, and I wondered if maybe that was her secret cat name,” she chuckles. “Her ears would twitch when I called her Phoebe.

    “I’ve had a lot of cats in my life. Most cats put into a new situation will go and hide for a while. When Phoebe first came home with me, she disappeared under my bed but only for about half-an-hour. And I didn’t do anything to coax her out; I let her decide when to show herself. She is very inquisitive. And things have worked out very well.”

    HappyTails-Phoebe

  • Your Child’s First Pet

    Ever since your child learnt what a cat was, you have most likely heard these famous words, “Please, pleeaasse can I have a kitty!?”

    child-cat

    This moment can be difficult for parents. Some parents had a wonderful experience growing up with a pet, while other families have never owned an animal before and don’t know where to begin.

    Studies have shown that interacting with a family pet can encourage a child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. In fact, according to the FDA, a study known as the “Hygiene Hypotheses” states that early life exposure to allergens can boost a child’s immune system and therefore reduce their risk of developing allergies as they grow.

    cat-adopt

    Having a pet can help teach a child about responsibility, such as filling their cat’s water and food bowl. Children also learn to connect on a compassionate level with their pet and see them as far more than just an “animal”.

    As if these reasons weren’t convincing enough, according to WebMD, cats also make for excellent stress relief. The act of petting a cat can raise your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are the “feel good” chemicals in your brain.

    child-pet

    So next time your child promises to eat broccoli in exchange for getting a pet cat, remember the positives. However, it’s important to make sure your family and your children are prepared to welcome a new member into your home. Animal Planet provides a helpful list of tips to make sure everyone gets off on the right foot!

  • Annex Cat Rescue at Veg Food Fest & Cabbagetown Festival this weekend

    It’s a busy weekend for Annex Cat Rescue as we will be at not one, but TWO events this weekend!

    Come by and see us at the 30th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival at Harbourfront Centre or at the 38th Annual Cabbagetown Festival of the Arts! Click on our links to find out more information in our event listings.

    Vegetarian Food Festival 2014

     

    Cabbagetown Festival of the Arts

  • Happy Tails: Sasha

    Cats like Sasha are the reason so many people gladly invest themselves in feline rescue, foster and adoption even though it can sometimes break your heart. When it’s rewarding – when beautiful, gentle, social cats like Sasha find loving forever homes – everything else is worth it.

    Sasha was found wandering a west-end Toronto street last October by a good Samaritan who turned the black-and-white beauty over to a neighbour, a colony caretaker with Annex Cat Rescue. She eventually landed with foster mom Brianna Gare in mid-November.

    happytails-sasha-sink

    “She was about five months-old at that time,” Gare recalls, “and she was the most social and trusting cat I’d ever met. I tried to separate my cats to let everyone get adjusted but within the first hour, she was out with my cats getting acquainted.

    “Within the first 15 minutes of having her home I trimmed her nails and we snuggled for a nap,” Gare laughs. Though Sasha was diagnosed with feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) – feline herpes, first apparent via a watery eye – Gare says the episode proved no big deal.

    “It was a wonderful learning experience for me,” she says. “Most cats, especially rescues, have or are carriers of feline herpes virus and only a few will have symptoms or flare ups.”

    Meantime, Heidi Ritscher and husband David Smith were mourning the loss of long-time companion, Figgy.

    “We have what we call a ‘three-cat policy’ in our house – we like having three cats,” Ritscher explains. “When Figgy died, we were devastated. He was a rescue, born literally on my sister’s doorstep, and he had a wonderful 15 years with us before he got sick and we had to let him go last November. We took some time to heal, to reflect on all the good times we had together.

    “I started gently looking for another cat last December and came across Annex Cat Rescue. There was Sasha in all her glory – just beautiful. Brianna and her boyfriend Laszlo did an amazing job marketing her; Sasha had her own video on YouTube. And we were sold.”

    happytails-sasha

    Indeed, Gare insists that “making a video and giving a visual of your foster cat’s personality is very helpful in getting them adopted to the right home.” It sure worked for Ritscher and Smith; Sasha became the proverbial third musketeer alongside seven-year-old Polson and nine-year-old Cleo, also rescues.

    These days, the frisky trio are often bunched together by the window watching squirrels scampering about outside. As Ritscher tells it, integrating a newcomer into a household with other cats is “just a matter of patience and understanding.

    “Most cats adapt pretty quickly, and within the first day Sasha was walking around the house. After about a week they were all comfortable and playing together. Plus there are little things you can do to help – pet one and then pet the other to exchange scents or engage them with a common toy.”

    happytails-sasha-gang

    Both Gare and Ritscher confess to being thoroughly smitten with Sasha, so much so they keep in touch. And while she is a huge advocate of adoption for rescues, Ritscher cautions it’s not a commitment to be taken lightly.

    “You must be prepared to meet your pet’s many needs: medical, emotional, food, vet bills and so on. And life can be long.  One of our cats lived to be 21-years-old. You also have to prepare for the unexpected.

    “Because they are rescues, you don’t know their history and there may be problems that aren’t immediately obvious. You have to go into things with an open heart – and at times, an open wallet – because that’s the commitment you’re making.

    “But the love you get back is well worth any little upsets that happen from time to time. If it were up to me,” Ritscher laughs, “I’d have seven cats. I just love them so much.”

  • Happy Tails: Rammy

    Like most cats, Rammy wasn’t meant to live outside, where food and shelter are a daily crapshoot and hazards teem on all sides. But when the beautiful, homeless orange-and-white longhair found his way to the door of Joshua Errett and wife Samantha Grice last March, he won the cat lottery, though that wasn’t apparent right away.

    Happy Tails: Rammy

    As Errett tells it, “Our house is kind of a hotspot for cats. They stop by all the time and we feed them,” he says, confirming that he also manages a cat colony in his area.

    Errett continues: “This really nice-looking blonde cat kept coming to our house. We sent out notes around the neighbourhood to see if we could find his family but no one responded. He was living under our neighbour’s porch and though it was spring, it was still very cold.

    “So we decided to trap him but he just kept turning up for food and was very kitten-like so it became clear no trap was necessary. One day I picked him up and just rushed him inside to our office.”

    The cat – nicknamed Blondie by Errett and Grice for his colourings – was delightful though in need of care. “He had fleas, cuts and scrapes from fighting, matted hair and he wasn’t fixed which was something Annex Cat Rescue helped out with.”

    Despite his highly social demeanour, Blondie didn’t bond with Frankie or Austin, two other rescued cats adopted into the Errett/Grice home.

    “It just got to be too much having to segregate the cats. Blondie would sleep in our bed and he was so cuddly. We knew he was adoptable – best friends’ material if we could find the right person – but we just couldn’t make it work.”

    A fortuitous series of past work connections led to Corey Lewis, now Rammy’s forever dad.

    “My boss said, ‘Do you want a cat?’ I said I wasn’t sure – I’ve never had a pet before – but my boss said, ‘Just go and visit him.’ I thought the cat was pretty cool and that’s how he came to me,” Lewis says.

    Asked how he came up with the name Rammy, Lewis laughs. “I have a friend who calls me a loveable old goat. So I once said that if I ever got a cat I’d call him Rammy like a goat.

    “Rammy is kind of a party cat and just wants to hang out all the time. He likes to dive-bomb onto my bed from the window sill, he makes lots of noise. He’s just very, very social and very, very active.

    “It’s nice to have an old buddy around who kind of depends on you,” Lewis says when asked how he would describe the benefits of pet adoption to someone considering it. “It’s nice to have the companionship.”

    Adds Errett, “It’s very fulfilling to place a cat, especially one so sweet and friendly and so deserving of a home.”

  • Winter: Old Guy Ready to Bring the Love

    If cats could talk, cat lovers would be an eager audience. Consider the tale of Winter, a spectacularly gentle, loving and beautiful 11-year-old brown tabby found last January hiding beneath a deck in the bitter cold. How sweet Winter became homeless is unknown but from this point forward it’s hoped his story will be one of comparative joy.

    Here is what we know so far. A good Samaritan found Winter and took him to a vet clinic where an untreated hyperthyroid condition was discovered, answering the question of why the cat was so skinny. Once he was put on a prescription diet and given a warm and safe place to sleep, Winter started gaining weight, regaining his status as an affection monster.

    Winter the cat

    As foster mom Carol Song says, “Winter is a sweet and active people-loving cat, who adores his feather wand.” Song confirms that Winter loves to pad along behind her. “The first things you’ll notice about him are his beautiful eyes, fluffy long tail, and the markings on his face that make him look like a cute miniature cheetah! He is very friendly to strangers and he purrs and kneads almost instantly when you start petting him.”

    So Winter is basically awesome. More good news? His vet (a huge Winter fan) has graciously offered to continue to sponsor any care needed for his existing medical conditions. The slightly tricky stuff? Those existing medical conditions also include the early stages of kidney failure, so in addition to needing a special diet, Winter requires IV fluids every other day.

    But as foster mom Song points out, “This takes just a few minutes and his vet would be happy to show you how to do it.” Plus, Winter’s attributes are many. He’s good with kids and other cats though dogs not so much. His advanced age means he won’t be tearing around the house at all hours. And did we mention he is very, very sweet?

    Winter has lived a difficult life but remains optimistic that his golden years can be just that – golden. With a little special care, this old guy with the gorgeous face and gentle purr is guaranteed to transform any forever home into a place of sublime happiness, a place filled with love. Sound like anyplace you know?

  • Happy Tails: Katniss

    If cats could hold jobs, Katniss would be a supermodel. Also an ambassador for peaceful dog-cat relations. And maybe later in life, a politician. The gorgeous tabby has the va-va-voom looks, diplomacy and persuasive personality to succeed in all three roles.

    She’s also not too shabby as a pet, according to both foster mom Veronica Dicerni and forever mom Anita Tang.

    “Isn’t she gorgeous and beautiful?,” chuckles Dicerni. “Of the three kittens we took in to foster, she was the most photogenic and cuddly. And she was just so social.”

    Katniss

    As Dicerni tells it, she and her three daughters – who named Katniss after the heroine in The Hunger Games books – began fostering a trio of roughly eight-week-old, orphaned kittens last May, their first-ever foster adventure. Though the kittens’ provenance is unknown, Dicerni thinks they were spotted living in one of the city’s various cat colonies by Annex Cat Rescue volunteers.

    A month later, Katniss made her way to an adopt-a-thon at an uptown Toronto pet store where Tang – acting on a tip from a friend who worked there – met and was immediately enchanted by the cat. The deciding factor was whether Katniss could thrive among other animals in the home shared by Tang and girlfriend Alissa Fu, notably a German Shepherd named Koda and an adult cat named Vito.

    “We’d been thinking of adopting a kitten,” Tang says. “Vito we got as a shelter cat when he was about two but I’d never had a kitten. When I went to the pet store, Katniss was very calm, responsive and my friend said they had had a couple of dogs nearby and Katniss was really good with them. That was a big thing.”

    These days, Tang confirms that “Vito is surprisingly gentle with her. Katniss steals his food all the time but he lets her. And the dog is in love with her and follows her everywhere. Katniss is amazing – we have been trying to harness-train her, and she just takes in everything very well.”

    Both Dicerni and Tang enthusiastically testify to the benefits of fostering and adopting rescues. Says Dicerni, “I am 52, I have three daughters and it’s not like I don’t have enough to do. But fostering is a joyful thing.

    “For me, it’s a bit selfish because I just love cats but I can’t really afford the time commitment of caring for any more animals – we have two cats and two dogs already. So in the long-term, a new pet wouldn’t work out for us but in the short-term, it’s fantastic.”

    Adds Tang of the decision to adopt, “It’s really worth it. It’s always good to give a cat a forever home. So far, we have nothing but love for our newest addition.”

    Katniss

  • Cat Heroes

    Contrary to popular belief, cats are more than lazy gluttonous furballs. People who have a cat know that while some may show it on their own terms, cats are loveable, charismatic and most of all caring. Here’s a collection of hero cats honoured by Purina and the Cat Fancier’s Association – whose acts of selflessness saved the lives of their humans.

    Meskie

    Photo Credit: lifewithcatsTV

    Meskie, a 17 year-old Calico-Angora mix saved her owner Chyrl from a house fire. Chryl had fallen asleep in her reclining chair and was awoken by an agitated Meskie, who is usually calm and gentle. Following Meskie to the kitchen, Chryl noticed smoke and an orange glow. Quickly grabbing Meskie, she rushed out of the house and called 911. By the time the fire department arrived on scene, Chryl’s house was engulfed in flames.

     

    Monty

    Photo Credit: lifewithcatsTV

    Monty , an orange tabby, woke his owner Patricia in the middle of the night by persistently nibbling her left hand. Patricia was recently diagnosed with diabetes and took that subtle hint to check her blood sugar. As she struggled into the kitchen, Monty instinctively sat in front of her diabetes test kit. Patricia’s blood sugar level registered at a low 2.7, prompting her to take her sugar pills. Once her blood sugar rose to a safe level, Monty ran back into the bedroom to signal that it was okay to go back to bed.

     

    Geppeto

    Photo Credit: lifewithcatsTV

    Gepetto, the Sjorgen’s family cat is always mild-mannered and calm. Phyllis woke in the middle of the night to what she can only describe as a ‘terrible sequence of yowls’ coming from the basement. The sense of urgency in Gepetto’s voice got Phyllis to get out of bed to see if her cat was in trouble. On her way to the kitchen, she felt nauseated and dizzy and was met by Geppeto’s troubling wails. After calming him down, she decided to call her husband about her sudden symptoms and Geppeto’s odd behaviour. Phyllis’s husband, Martin Sjogren, told her to leave the house immediately and had a friend call the gas company. When emergency crews arrived, they found that Phyllis was suffering from stage two carbon monoxide poisoning – with stage three being death. Thanks to Geppeto’s cries that night, Phyllis survived what could have been a lethal amount of carbon monoxide.

    And lastly, who can forget Tara, the Triantafilo’s family cat who fought off a dog from attacking the family’s 4 year-old son Jeremy while he played in the front yard. Her selfless action has made her into an internet star which you can view here.

    So the next time you think your cat is all about treats and chin scratches, just remember these intelligent felines and be thankful yours haven’t had to spring into action

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