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.
- Community Purse Offers Affordable Pet Care to Seniors
Community support projects don’t come much sweeter than the Kensington Kittypants Fund, which helps Kensington Market-area senior citizens access subsidized healthcare for their pets at the Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital through various fundraising initiatives and partnerships with local merchants.
Named for an “elegant, smart” Tuxedo feline owned by Fund founder and long-time Kensington Market resident Barbette (just Barbette), the Kittypants Fund recently hosted its third annual fundraiser, which drew enthusiastic crowds to Scadding Court Community Centre to hear local musicians, eat a First Nations-inspired menu and help raise cash for cat- and dog-owning Kensington seniors.
Prizes at the event were donated by area merchants who Barbette says recognize the value of assisting those community members who have helped shape Kensington Market into the vibrant space it is today. Plans are afoot to expand the program to neighbourhoods citywide.
“It is my hope that other neighborhoods will look to the Kensington Kittypants Fund model and try to create their own within their community,” confirms retired community worker Barbette, who today volunteers with two seniors groups.
“Seniors on a fixed income really struggle with pet care. My cat Kittypants had health issues, so I know first-hand how tough it can be” she says, adding that donations to the Fund are always greatly appreciated and can be directed here to kittypants.ca
“The Kensington Kittypants Fund along with Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital are now in the planning stages of setting up Kittypants Eastbound at the Sherbourne Animal Hospital with Dr. Oscar Albarracin. It is very important that we take care of our seniors on fixed incomes. The relationship between seniors and their pet companions is precious and should be honored in every way possible.”
Though Barbette isn’t sure exactly how many pets have benefitted from the Kensington Kittypants Fund since its 2011 inception, she stresses “It’s really simple. Every year we have an event and the money we raise goes directly to the Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital.”
She continues: “Everybody wants to do this – the bands that perform at the events and the 15-odd merchants that serve as sponsors. Our most recent event was absolutely a success and so many people helped to make it possible. I have lived in the Market off and on for 43 years, and it’s like a village. Kensington really does care.”
- Happy Tails: Sybil (formerly Stripe)
Meet Sybil, a brown tabby down on her luck, living with other similarly downtrodden felines in the streets of Toronto. Reluctant to speak of her past, we don’t know what series of events brought Sybil to the Chester colony, and we can only guess that she’s about six or seven years old. What we do know is that Sybil had never known the warmth and comfort of a safe and loving home. But Sybil was being watched over by those who managed her colony, and a brighter future was yet to come.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, Kevin Wark was preparing to take in his next foster. Kevin began volunteering with ACR by feeding feral cats just like Sybil. One day he thought, “this is a perfectly nice cat, it should have a home too.” This thought prompted Kevin to become an ACR foster home. As his recent foster had just been adopted, he was ready for his next charge.
Back at the Chester colony, and unbeknownst to her; Sybil was soon to be placed in foster care. When she arrived at Kevin’s home she was unsure and shy, initially spending a lot of time under Kevin’s bed. But she also showed signs of enjoying affection and attention, as Kevin notes, “she was always happy to be pet, even while hiding under the bed.” Over the next five months Sybil’s personality blossomed and she started spending time on Kevin’s lap. Kevin recalls that, “in the mornings, when she wanted to be fed, she would jump up on my bed and start licking my face. I would bury my face in the pillow and she would lick my ears, trying to wake me up.” Sybil was starting to shine.
Enter Sam Spady, a PhD student who had just moved to the city. Sam was in the market for a feline friend, so naturally she went “window shopping” online. Sam knew she was looking for the perfect older cat with a quirky personality. When she found Sybil, who was then called Stripe on ACR’s website, she suspected it was the right match. Her suspicions were confirmed when she met with Kevin and he told her “all of Sybil’s funny quirks”.
These days, Sam describes Sybil as a “super funny, super cuddle monster”. Sybil has respiratory issues that cause her to make “weird grumbling noises, then she’ll sneeze and rumble” – all of which is delightfully charming to Sam. Sam goes on to say, “she likes to come around and cuddle. When I come home she meets me to jump on the bed so she can be pet. If I don’t then she’ll make funny little noises to communicate that compliance is required.”
Though Sybil was wary of strangers in foster care, she’s now known to head bump everyone! “She’s a little hesitant at first,” Sam says, “but once they sit down next to her she starts purring like a machine and head bumping them.”
When asked why she was drawn to an older cat, Sam replies, “I liked the idea of already knowing what kind of cat I was adopting… I wanted a cat who was already out of the play all the time phase, but one that I knew would like to cuddle! Syb was the perfect fit.”
And if Sybil could speak in words, Sam says her catchphrase would be “I love you”.
- Happy Tails: Hazel
In 2012, a feral litter of kittens were born in a backyard belonging to an owner of an animal hospital. When Annex Cat Rescue was notified, volunteer Rohanna trapped kittens Hazel and Cashew, naming them after nuts because of their wild personalities.
Foster mom Navjit Gill slowly introduced Hazel and her brother Cashew into her home with four other ACR foster cats, allowing them to be socialized. Hazel always preferred her brother’s company whether during nap or grooming time.
“She was always more reserved compared to Cashew,” Gill says. “She would always run and hide and took longer to bring around. She was actually the last kitten to go to a home, so we spent months alone together.”
When Hazel met her soon-to-be adoptive family, she was a little hesitant. “When I first met her she hid under the bed almost the entire visit,” remembers Mark Stanleigh. “Navjit had to coax her out for me to meet her. But I could tell she was an easy-going cat and that once we adopted her that she would warm up to us.”
Stanleigh and his partner Colette loved the pattern on Hazel’s face so much that it inspired her new name. “It looked like the shape of a skull—that’s why we named her Castle Greyskull.”
Castle warmed up to her new owners very quickly. “Sometimes she plays fetch with us using an old pair of winter gloves. She’s very affectionate and active,” Stanleigh says. “She’s super gentle, she never hisses or bites unless she’s playing. When it’s just us, she’s very loving and has become very hungry for attention and petting. She sits with us in our laps or behind us on the back of the couch while we watch movies and relax.”
Castle still has a fear of strangers, but Stanleigh notices that it gets better each day. “She used to get so scared that she would hide in her litter box or her play tunnel for hours,” he says. “But she doesn’t get as scared as she used to. She just kind of does her own thing for a bit or sits off to the side on her scratching perch.”
Gill and Stanleigh have remained in contact since Castle found her forever home. “I could go on for days about her,” laughs Gill. “She’s done really well in her new home, and they really love her.”
“She’s doing great,” agrees Stanleigh. “I think she’s really happy.”
- Happy Tails: Tilly
If Tilly had a fan club, it would be jammed with platinum-level members: forever family George and Deb Lloyd and cat brother Sebastian, plus former foster dad Jeffrey Moon and cat sister Matilda.
Really, if the adorable tuxedo’s twinkling eyes don’t melt your heart, her wily playfulness and curiosity should do the trick.
“I never thought I was a cat person,” says George Lloyd, who laughingly cops to daily brushing Tilly and Sebastian’s coats and teeth, even giving gum massages (!). “It’s our little ritual.”
Lloyd continues: “Anyway, last October, our daughter Karen asked if she could get her mom a cat for Christmas. I told her to be sure and check with her mom as it would be her cat. So Karen got a cat from a rescue in Kingston, and that cat – Sebastian – immediately took to me and started following me around.
“We figured we should get another cat to keep him company because both Deb and I work. We found Tilly last February through Annex Cat Rescue – interestingly, both cats are tuxedos born just a few days apart in July 2013. Tilly has taken to Deb like you wouldn’t believe. She’ll sit and stare at her in adoration.”
“So yes,” Deb Lloyd allows with a chuckle, “through no design of our own, we have his-and-hers cats.” Where Sebastian is “a docile character,” Deb Lloyd describes Tilly as “active and brave. We have to watch her. If she sees an open door she’ll gun for it.
“Our guess is that she spent a lot of time outside at some point because she seems very keen to return.” Wisely, the Lloyds are ensuring that Tilly henceforth remains a strictly indoor cat.
Though Tilly’s background is largely unknown, foster dad Jeff Moon adds some detail, confirming that he took her in as a kitten to keep his then-foster cat Matilda amused.
“Matilda was really energetic and needed way more attention than I could give her, so I decided the best thing for her was a companion. They hit it off right away,” Moon says, adding that Matilda found a loving forever home shortly after the Lloyds adopted Tilly.
“We are so enjoying having the cats,” Deb Lloyd confirms. “Tilly was petrified when we first brought her home, and we were very concerned. But by the third day, I enticed her to eat and at that point she turned the corner and improved exponentially. They factor in our everyday lives in a major way, and they are great fun.”
- Special Needs Promotion
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
- 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.”
- 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!?”
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.
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.
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!