Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer charity dedicated to addressing the plight of homeless cats in the Greater Toronto Area by:
- Humanely trapping homeless kittens and abandoned or stray adult cats for placement in our foster and adoption program;
- Feeding and providing medical care for feral cats in designated colonies;
- Curbing population growth in those colonies through trapping, spaying/neutering, and vaccinating;
- Educating the public on the compassionate treatment of homeless cats and responsible pet ownership; and
- Improving urban environments through community cooperation.
- The happy truth about FIV+ cats (hint: they’re totally adoptable)
He might not relish the role but eight-year old Winston could be the global ambassador for FIV+ cats.
That’s because Winston is both a classic example of how most cats come to be infected with the immune deficiency virus and, more importantly, a persuasive example of just how manageable – normal, really – life with an FIV+ cat can be both for its human caregivers and for any potential feline flatmates.
Winston’s story is a handy testimonial for anyone who may encounter an FIV+ cat candidate in an adoption search.
“Winston is very playful and has a lot of energy,” confirms foster Mom Alexandra Cioppa, who grew up with another cat, Baltimore, which was also FIV+. She continues: “Winston is always hungry – he loves to eat. He is super-loving.”
Once homeless, Winston doubtless became infected with FIV via a deep bite wound that occurred during a fight with another male cat over turf or food. FIV almost always presents in males, and transmission is almost always through intense fighting.
FIV – which stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, just as HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus – can be transmitted sexually in cats and through improperly screened blood transfusions. But according to experts, it’s rare. Mother cats cannot readily infect their kittens except in the initial stages of her infection.
Casual contact such as sharing food bowls, grooming or snuggling is unlikely to transmit the virus. Meaning that unless indoor cats have screaming brawls where blood is drawn, FIV negative cats sharing a home with an FIV+ cat won’t contract the virus.
Indeed, veterinarian Dr. Vlad Stefanescu of Toronto’s Yonge-Davenport Pet Hospital says adopting an FIV+ cat and integrating it into a multi-cat household is something he endorses, albeit with a few caveats.
“The only real considerations for FIV+ cat adoption are slightly more frequent vet visits, keeping the cats indoors and avoidance of a raw diet,” he says.
That’s because uncooked foods, meats especially, can include parasites and pathogens that a cat with a normal immune system might be able to handle but an FIV+ cat might not. Leave the fad diets to Gwyneth Paltrow and stick to regular cat food, says Dr. Stefanescu.
All cats should be kept indoors. However, owners of FIV+ cats have a particular obligation to keep their pets away from homeless cats in their community to help contain the virus. As for more frequent vet visits – recommended twice a year for FIV+ cats versus once-annually for non-geriatric FIV negative cats – that’s mainly because “Dental is also a big thing with these guys,” Dr. Stefanescu says.
“They suffer stomatitis [a severe, painful inflammation of a cat’s mouth and gums that can cause ulcers to form]. Some FIV cats just have bad teeth and need a full mouth extraction. The majority of FIV cats need regular dental work.”
Plus, regular vet visits allow owners and vets to monitor small changes such as weight loss that might be more significant in an FIV+ cat. Vaccinations, meanwhile, should be maintained for FIV+ cats just as they are for other cats.
Humans cannot be infected with FIV; FIV is a cats-only infection. Dr. Stefanescu pegs the prevalence of FIV among owned cats at about five percent. “Leukaemia (FeLV) is actually more common,” he says, adding that he has never treated a cat that contracted FIV from another cat in a domestic situation.
Adds Alexandra Cioppa, “FIV has never been an issue with Winston and it wasn’t with my cat Baltimore either. I don’t remember exactly how old Baltimore was when he passed away but he had quite a long life.”
So the takeaway for prospective cat adopters: don’t shy away from an FIV+ cat.
If you are adopting a cat directly from the street, be sure to have the cat tested while he (or she) is at the vet being spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and typically readied for a new life indoors. Remember that cats with FIV do not always appear sick. In the early stages of the disease, many cats show few signs, so the only way to know for sure if they are infected is through a simple blood test.
Should an FIV+ positive cat catch you eye on ACR’s adoption listings, don’t reject the cat in knee-jerk fashion. You can’t catch FIV, your other cats probably won’t either, and you’ll be giving a forever home to a lovely fella who will reward you daily with purrs and cuddles.
Just ask Winston.
— Kim Hughes
Winston is currently up for adoption. Find out more about him.
- Happy Tails: Douglas
Douglas, now two years old, is nestled amongst a plethora of toys in his Cat Condo. He stretches to show off his soft, shiny tuxedo coat in classic black and white. Half a black moustache marks one side of his handsome face.
Douglas’ rags to riches story began when he was 11 months old. A missing tooth gave him a snaggletooth smile. A ripped ear was just another sign of a hard life on the streets.
However, his luck changed when he befriended an ACR Volunteer dispersing food in the colony. She found his overly affectionate nature surprising since feral cats tend to be skittish and shy around humans. His sweet craving for love opened her heart and the door to a better life for him.
Stephanie fell in love with Douglas after reading his profile on the ACR website. She was adamant about not purchasing a cat from a breeder. “I wasn’t searching for the perfect cat!”
Impressed by the details of his history and temperament, she was confident that Douglas would be a great addition to her family. Although her mind was made up, Stephanie respected ACR’s mandate to wait a week before the official adoption.
“A pet can change your life.” It was a responsibility that Stephanie wasn’t taking lightly.
Douglas settled in the first night without any issues. He explored every inch of the condo that Stephanie shares with her fiancé. They both knew that he approved of his new family when he took turns curling up on their laps.
In true cat style, Douglas ignored the newly purchased comfy cat bed and preferred to sit in shipping boxes from Amazon.
His curiosity with water added to his cuteness. Douglas will sit on the edge of the tub transfixed and fascinated with swirling water down a drain in the shower or water gushing from a tap into the sink.
Stephanie and her fiancé can’t imagine their lives without Douglas. His lively mix of playfulness and need for cuddles chase their workday blues away. His humorous antics make them feel relaxed.
“Douglas is outrageously spoiled! There are so many cat toys!” Stephanie exclaims,
“We often wake up to him sitting on our chests purring and begging for head rubs.” They are still smitten with him despite these early wakeup calls.
“Do your research,” Stephanie advises. “It paid off for us.”
The happy trio frequently play their favourite game of hide and seek. Douglas grew up playing the same game in the cat colony to survive. Today, he’s playing with his humans.
“We really couldn’t imagine our lives without our sweet little Douglas!” Stephanie gushes. “We always take comfort in knowing that we gave him a better life and a loving home.”
- Happy Tails: Sylvester
Five years ago, Catherine decided to be a foster parent. Over the years, her experience fostering has varied greatly. The longest period that an animal was in her care was over a year and the shortest, a couple of weeks. She has been in many different situations – it all depends on the cat and its circumstances. Regardless of any adversity that she might face, being a foster parent is one of her favourite things to do. It is a great way to keep cats constantly coming in and out of her life while helping them at the same time. “[It’s] the best thing ever!”
Partially blind Sylvester was found with his front paws declawed. His date of birth was unknown, but he was an adult cat. Likely, he was someone’s pet at one point.
Post-rescue, Sylvester spent some time with another foster parent who then had to give him up. That’s when Catherine stepped in.
From the start, she found him to be a “funny” cat with a huge personality. He was very chirpy and vocal. Like most cats, Sylvester loved scratches and naps. It warmed Catherine’s heart to see him completely relaxed, all splayed out taking up as much space as possible. Despite his partial blindness, Sylvester is a very healthy and playful cat who likes his toys very much.
To Catherine, being involved with cat rescues is extremely rewarding. Having so many wonderful stories to tell other people is just the cherry on top of the sundae. She is always encouraging her friends to foster.
Catherine strongly advises potential adopters to speak to the cat’s foster parents and visit the cats in their foster homes before adopting. These are valuable additions to the rescue process.
We are happy to report that Sylvester was adopted in October of 2014!
–Risa de Rege
- National Volunteer Week 2016
This National Volunteer Week, we’d like to honour, salute, and thank our 400+ volunteers. Annex Cat Rescue has been a 100% volunteer-run organization since the day it was founded 19 years ago. It is because of the continuous support, care, and dedication of all of our volunteers that ACR has been able to help hundreds of cats over the years. Thank you. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller
- Happy Tails: Cannonball and Lady Day
Lady Day and Cannonball, at ages 14 and 15, were lucky to find their fur-ever home. It’s rare for a pair of senior cats to be adopted together.
Elaine and Jean’s desire to adopt older cats led them to discover Annex Cat Rescue. Elaine didn’t want a cat to be home alone while the couple was at work. Nor did she want to be overwhelmed by the youthful energy of kittens. She knew how demanding her neighbour’s four year old feline could be from when she was the cat sitter. “I must have played with her for an hour and she was nowhere near tired,” Elaine said.
After seeing the “super adorable” photos of Lady Day and Cannonball on the ACR website, they both became smitten with the siblings. “They were so cute!” Elaine gushed, recounting their first meeting with the pair at David’s home.
David, the cats’ foster dad, had kindly taken them in when the siblings’ owner suddenly passed away.
During Elaine and Jean’s visit, Lady Day remained hidden. It would take her several weeks to adjust to her new home with her new owners. Over the next few months, the couple would find her hiding in the oddest places. Cannonball, on the other hand, happily lapped up all the attention that they extended to him.
“The thought of being able to give two cats a few more years to bask in the sun made us smile.”
Adopting a pair of senior cats with docile personalities complemented the couple’s lifestyle and Elaine’s first-time experience as a cat owner.
“However, there are drawbacks to owning older pets,” Elaine explained. “There’s a higher chance you might have to take them to the vet [more often]. And you may not get to spend as much time as you’d like with them.”
Ten months after the pair’s adoption, Cannonball developed breathing problems. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to be euthanized.
“We were devastated, but we had a great year with Cannonball!” Elaine fondly remembers how he enjoyed snuggling right up to her to fall asleep. He also loved to show off how far he could stretch lying on your lap. “It’s something I’ll always cherish.”
Lady Day has adjusted to life without her brother. The two were inseparable. However, Elaine is amazed at how Lady Day has come to accept the couple as part of her family. It took her a while but she knows that she is home. “She’s one of us,” Elaine added.
Despite Elaine’s initial trepidation about owning cats, she can’t imagine not having the love and affection of Lady Day in her life.
“She has been an excellent addition to our home.” Although she is not an energetic kitten, Lady Day does not let her age define her. She is super affectionate and always wants a ton of cuddles.
Elaine and Jean are certain that Lady Day will outlive them. “Who knew spoiling old cats rotten was such fun?”
— Gillian Semple
- Happy Tails: Charlie and Leo
When Paul Fleming decided just more than a year ago to bring some furry friends into his life, he decided two cats were better than one – and that those two should be rescues. After a bit of searching, with help from his then 11-year old daughter, Zoe (“a really, really big cat lover”), Paul found what he was looking for.
“I decided I wanted a bonded pair so we could keep them together,” Paul said.
Brothers Charlie and Leo were in a feral colony that had been rescued by ACR and were being fostered by the aptly surnamed Pat Hope. As with the majority of feral rescues, the kittens were leery of humans, especially strangers.
“They were very shy,” said Pat. “We had to spend a lot of time playing with them, cuddling them, getting them used to being handled. But that’s really a pleasure. And they turned out to be really nice lil’ cats.”
Thanks to Pat’s patience and hard work, the meeting between the Flemings and the young brothers was a success and a new family was formed.
“I knew from the get-go that they were rescue cats and it was going to take awhile to get them to come out of their shell.”
For Charlie and Leo, that shell came in the form of Paul’s bed.
“It took about a month before they would come out [when people were around],” said Paul. “But that was fine. We brought them their food and we just let them become socialized on their own terms.”
The first breakthrough came at night, when the home was still and safe.
“They would both come up and lay with me on the bed for a half hour or so, and that was great,” said Paul.
Now, with Leo – the less timid of the two – leading the way, he and Charlie – the “troublemaker” – are full-fledged members of the clan… any time of the day.
“If you’re in a room,” Paul said, “they want to be in the same room with you.”
But as much as you can socialize them, at the end of the day cats are still cats: “They both love to play with their food. They take the kibble to the top of the stairs and let it fall specifically so they can chase it down. They still need to ‘kill’ it,” said Paul with a laugh.
Paul, who, prior to Charlie and Leo, owned a single cat who lived beyond 20 years, doesn’t hesitate to recommend a bonded pair to anyone who was considering it.
“It’s great to know when I’m not home they’re not lonely,” he said, “because they’re going to be hanging out together, playing together and enjoying themselves.
“And it makes me feel good that they have each other.”
And surely Charlie and Leo feel just as good that Paul gave them that chance to be together, forever.
- Happy Tails: Applesauce
“Honestly, I do not understand why somebody left such a beauty outside,” Ilona Tkachyova says of the long-haired, black and white animal that she and her husband adopted in 2013. “She is a really lovely and gentle cat.”
Abandoned in her carrier in front of her foster’s house, Applesauce always erred on the side of caution. When she met Ilona for the first time, she was apprehensive. Fortunately, Ilona was undaunted by Applesauce’s skepticism and approached anyway.
“I tried to touch her and she started licking my hand right away,” Ilona recalls. It was an instant attraction for both. The lick, according to Ilona, was also very tender.
However, adjusting to her new home wasn’t easy. Applesauce hid under the furniture and cried throughout the first night.
It took time, but Applesauce now welcomes her owners home with loud meows and follows them from room to room. She even waits for them on the bathmat while they take a shower. In fact, the bathmat is Applesauce’s favourite place to be.
As for toys, Applesauce can’t be bothered. Ilona and her husband tried every kind of toy that they could think of to encourage her to play. “The only thing she likes, and it was kind of a surprise, is knitting needles.” The little red ball at the end of Ilona’s needles is, apparently, irresistible.
Prior to her adoption, Applesauce had to undergo surgery to remove a mast cell tumour, which left one of her ears bent forward permanently. Although the veterinarian who performed the surgery felt that the tumour was unlikely to grow back, it returned within six months. Despite this setback, Ilona believes in doing what’s best for the animal regardless of whether she is healthy or sick.
“You have to do whatever they need.”
In Ilona’s case, the vet proposed another surgery that would entirely remove Applesauce’s afflicted ear, followed by chemotherapy. Ilona and her husband ultimately decided not to proceed with the surgery. Applesauce is also suffering from chronic kidney disease and there was a chance that she might not survive such an invasive procedure.
Instead, llona manages Applesauce’s conditions through a combination of herbal cancer and kidney support remedies and a holistic diet. It’s working. Applesauce is 11 years old this year. Her tumour has stopped growing aggressively and the couple hope to have many more years with her.
“She is the joy of our home,” Ilona says. “You cannot look at her without smiling.”
— Leslie Sinclair
- Happy Tails: Elsa
In February 2014, just after the city’s big ice storm, Elsa, a 3 month old kitten, came to Annex Cat Rescue. The tumultuousness of her first months on the streets definitely helped to shape Elsa’s personality and approach to life.
A skittish and wary creature, according to her owner Jamie, Elsa took a while to “warm up”. When Jamie took her home in November, Elsa’s first instinct was to run under the bed and hide, earning her the unofficial title of “ghost cat”.
Jamie would lie on the floor, offering treats and soothing words to Elsa, but to no avail. While Elsa would happily take the treat, she would always retreat back under the bed. Jamie decided that it was time for an intervention!
Elsa was moved to a new room clear of clutter, bed removed, with an awesome make-shift cat cave that Jamie had constructed from a cat bed and a litter box lid.
Elsa would lie in her cave, facing the back, and Jamie would give her soothing pats and offer treats. After a while, Elsa must have decided that life was getting boring and started to play with Jamie. Out came the toys and soon, Elsa was less and less inclined to hide in her cave.
Elsa is not Jamie’s only furry companion.
Petey is a gorgeous male tabby who is incredibly laid back. Despite being Elsa’s polar opposite, Petey became her new best friend and kitty mentor. He was more than happy to show Elsa that life in her new home is pretty swell.
Maxi, a female cat, tolerates Elsa, but they are not the best of friends. Elsa loves to poke Maxi, playing the role of a bratty little sister very well. However, Maxi remains unimpressed.
The dogs, after some time spent smelling and gazing through the baby gate that was the “door” to her room, greeted Elsa with grace and neutrality. Thus, Elsa’s friend circle expanded to include Keeta, aged 13, and Penny, aged 10, both rescues themselves.
Keeta happily tolerates Elsa and Penny likes to provide a bit of a thrill from time to time. One of her favourite games is to rush the cats and watch them run. Elsa, playful thing that she is, is more than happy to oblige.
Since Elsa was an independent street cat before she was brought to ACR, she has her own ideas of how she likes things done. She has developed personalized “rules” for her humans. Mom Jamie is her “play person” and when Elsa feels that it is time to play, she will go to her room and mew for Mom to join her. Elsa loves her wire toy (a long piece of wire with paper attached to the end) and laser pointers.
From Dad Larry, Elsa expects scratches, please. Elsa will mew from her bed until her Dad gives her a scratch. However, if he tries to play with her, she shows zero interest.
Elsa’s journey transitioning from the streets into her loving home had lots of help from outsiders as well. When Jamie and her husband had to go away for a while, they asked the neighbourhood’s “cat lady” Vicky and a gentleman named Doug, of Thunders Run (a pet-sitting, house-sitting company out of Bradford), to come in and cat-sit for them.
Elsa had an injury to her cornea and was in need of eye drops. After her drops, Doug would give her lots of pats and love. Vicky also gently befriended Elsa little by little during each visit. Upon Jamie and Larry’s return, they were shocked and elated to find that Elsa had become more confident and social as a result of interacting with her new human friends.
There were challenges but many more improvements. Elsa never used to purr or enjoy being picked up and now she does both! When Jamie picks Elsa up, she always lets her go before she gets antsy. It helps her feel more like it’s “her idea” when she gets picked up and that it’s safe – nobody will force her to do anything she doesn’t want.
If you visited Elsa today, you would find her snuggled up close to her bestie, Petey, playing with Mom, pestering her big sister Maxi, or getting a good old scratch from Dad. This is a vast improvement from the “ghost cat” that she was when they first brought her home.
Jamie’s tips on adopting include being open with the organization about your needs, always ask questions, and take your time finding the right cat for your family.
I think Elsa has found her perfect fur-ever home!
- Happy Tails: Roshi (Formerly Timbit)
When Kathleen first met Roshi in the kitten’s foster home, she knew.
“We visited him once and then, after the visit, decided,” she said.
Under a year old and then-named Timbit, Roshi had interesting markings that caught Kathleen’s eye – white chevron chest markings, with a touch of taupe under his chin. White paws that resemble socks only added to the cuteness.
But it was his temperament that really got Kathleen’s attention.
“He was a happy medium,” she said.
Roshi, whose name is a Japanese honorific meaning “wise, old man”, is Kathleen’s second cat. As a child, her mother had allowed her and her brothers to adopt a stray cat taken in by a neighbour. The cat, who gave birth to a litter shortly before her adoption, went on to live 18 years.
“Having a cat was a big part of my life,” Kathleen said, “but I didn’t want to get my own cat until I was really settled.”
When her and her husband decided that they were finally ready for the responsibility, they found Roshi. Roshi has been with them for about three years.
Bringing him home was not a smooth trek. Since the couple didn’t own a car, Roshi had to be brought home on the subway. It was in the middle of winter but, with a blanket and his favourite toy, he made it to his new home.
After three days of being curious about Kathleen and her husband, Roshi finally settled.
He’s very different from her last cat, who was a quiet lap cat.
“Roshi can get in awkward positions sometimes,” Kathleen said. “He’ll jump up high and it takes him a while to figure out how to get back down.”
In fact, Roshi’s been known to knock things down sometimes, purely by his clumsiness.
“He’s just playing around,” she said. “Sometime’s he’ll be startled and he’ll just jump straight in the air like a cartoon cat… so weird, but it’s hilarious too.”
He used to not be very affectionate and would spend his time sitting on the couch next to the family.
“Now if we pet him, he just sucks it up and immediately falls on his back,” Kathleen said. ”Any time we show him affection, he just laps it up.”
With his playful nature, Roshi is the perfect companion for Kathleen’s son, who the family welcomed about a year and a half ago.
Now a toddler, Leo and Roshi are starting to get along.
“He thinks Roshi’s the best thing ever,” Kathleen said, “I’m sure they’re going to be the best of friends in a couple of years.”
- World Spay Day 2016
World Spay Day is the first and only international day of action to promote the spaying or neutering of pets, community cats and street dogs to save animals’ lives. On World Spay Day and throughout the month of February—Spay/Neuter Awareness Month—veterinary and animal welfare professionals, business owners and concerned individuals join forces to shine a spotlight on spay/neuter as the most effective and humane means of decreasing the number of homeless animals put down in shelters or living on the street.
In 2012, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) released a groundbreaking report on the cat overpopulation crisis in Canada. The report found that the animal sheltering system was at, or dangerously over, capacity to care for the cats that arrive at their doors.
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) gathers data on the number of animals entering shelters and the numbers adopted, returned to their owners or euthanized. The 2014 animal shelter statistics report presents the results of the most recent survey of humane societies and SPCAs and represents the best information about companion animals in Canadian shelters that the CFHS is aware of.
Some key findings from these reports:
- More than 85,000 cats ended up in a shelter in 2014. This number does not include animals rescued by independent groups such as Annex Cat Rescue.
- Cats are twice as likely as dogs to end up abandoned at a shelter or rescue.
- 2 million cats in Canadian homes have not been spayed or neutered.
- 1 unspayed female can result in 25 kittens in just one year.
- 35% of shelter-admitted cats are kittens
- 53% cats in shelters were adopted but 27% were euthanized
Please spay or neuter your cat. Don’t be part of the overpopulation problem.