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.
- 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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
- 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, 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 , 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.
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
- Happy Tails: Daisy
Meet Daisy, a drop-dead gorgeous young calico female and the newest addition to Angèle Morgan’s happy family, which also includes felines Cathy and Ruth. Like her new half-sisters, Daisy is a rescue who so captivated Morgan during her tenure as a foster that the idea of her leaving for a forever home somewhere else seemed… well, impossible.
To hear Morgan tell it, the highly timid Daisy – formerly Daisy Duke, who was found tenuously living with a colony of feral cats before being rescued and placed in foster care last November – couldn’t have landed at a better spot.
“I hadn’t planned on fostering again because I have two cats. But I saw an ad ACR had put out for Daisy specifically looking for a small place to house her that had cats already so she could have some company, which sounded like me exactly,” she chuckles. “So I thought, ‘I’ll just keep her for a while.’”
As Morgan explains, Daisy needed a small place because she was so profoundly shy that a large place would overwhelm her. As for the final decision to keep her, Morgan says, “She had been through so much, I just couldn’t bear to put her through another period of re-adjustment.
“I can’t imagine her fighting for scraps of food among a bunch of feral cats. I’m not sure of the exact details of how she got to Annex Cat Rescue but when she landed with me, everything was terrifying to her.
“The furnace would come on and she was convinced it was something coming to eat her. Getting her to the point where she was comfortable and not cringing at every little noise, I couldn’t imagine having her go through that again,” Morgan says, adding patience was a key component in helping Daisy acclimate to her new surroundings.
“And cuddles, more than food, was a huge motivator for her,” she says.
By early this year, a thoroughly smitten Morgan decided Daisy, Cathy and Ruth should remain a trio. “Daisy is like the quiet one who reads and collect stamps while Cathy and Ruth run around and play cops and robbers,” Morgan laughs. “To some degree Daisy is like a kid from a war zone that doesn’t know what playing is. But they all get along.
“Cathy and Ruth were also rescues and fosters from Annex Cat Rescue. In that case, because they were sisters, I wanted to keep them together. In the end,” Morgan says, “it all worked out. Now we are all stuck with each other.”
- The Claws Are Out: The Hard Realities of Declawing Your Cat
It is no secret that cats love to scratch; they love to claw on their scratching post, the box the post came in, doors, floors, carpets and furniture. Scratching is as natural to cats as purring but has lead many cat owners to declaw their feline for a “quick fix”.
What is declawing? According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.” Yes, you read right, put yourself in your cat’s paws and imagine the pain and discomfort they will feel after a declawing procedure. If that is
not reason enough, declawing can lead to negative side effects:
- Change in personality of your feline companion: some cat owners claim that their cats developed mild to severe case of depression after declawing
- Cats can’t defend themselves: declawing your cat will remove their primary source of defense. Without claws, if your cat accidently gets outside they will be more vulnerable to other species that consider them prey.
- Declawing can lead to litter problems: Declawed cats find it painful when digging in their litter box which often leads them to avoid their tray and opting for doing their business elsewhere – which can mean your nice white sofa or your recently made up bed.
Declawing has been made illegal or considered extremely inhumane in over 25 countries, with advocacy groups in Canada working on legislation to make declawing against the law. Here are some helpful alternatives to keep your cat from scratching your furniture.
- Scratching post – place a few around the house, the more posts the better odds your kitty will play with them instead of your sofa cushions.
- Trim your cat’s claws -If you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, call your vet or your local groomer. It generally cost $10 – $20 and worth every penny!
- Soft Paws – a harmless and fashionable nail cap that can easily be applied to your cats existing nails.
Click here for more information on how to teach your cat where to scratch.
- Happy Tails: Calista
Rachael Smith, a generous lady with a big heart and big apartment, decided that she needed to add a special something to her spacious home. That special something came in a form of a very loveable cat named Calista.
Calista, is now affectionately called ‘Khaleesi’ or ‘The Mother of Dragons’ because of her shiny white hair. However, her hair color is not the only thing Calista has in common with the Queen of the Andals – she is also very loyal, vocal and lively.
Before adopting her fur-baby, Rachael says that she did her research by taking her time and looking at various cat adoption organizations before deciding. Three year-old Calista was previously adopted in 2011, but had issues settling in with the owners’ children. Rachael says, “Her story struck a chord with me and I knew that she would benefit from my quiet lifestyle.”
Now, this purry-princess is active and loves to move around in her new home while chasing ping pong balls down the hallway. One of the many loveable traits that Calista has is meowing Rachael a ‘Hello’ when she gets home from work or a ‘Good Morning’ when she wakes up.
Calista is now happy and comfortable in her home, and Rachael adds that ACR’s adoption process helped with the transition, “Calista’s foster mom was great and provided me with a detailed list of the type of supplies I would need, as well as Calista’s likes, dislikes and routine.” Having a few of her old toys helped Calista settle in as well, “The transition went very smoothly and I think Calista appreciated having familiar things in her new home.”
- Why Even Indoor Cats MUST Go to the Vet
Experts agree the best place for kitty is indoors where potentially hazardous encounters with traffic, wildlife and other roaming domestic animals are minimized. But there is one occasion when Mittens should head outside – to the vet, within the comfy confines of his carrier.
You may think indoor cats are exempt from veterinary visits but nothing could be further from the truth. Like you, your cat has complex biology and faces a host of potential health issues over the course of its life, many successfully managed with early diagnosis and ongoing treatment.
Vet care is especially vital in the case of cats adopted from shelters or through Annex Cat Rescue where medical histories are usually best guesses, not matters of record.
“All indoors cats should have the benefit of a veterinary exam,” confirms Dr. Joanna Coote, a vet with Beaches Animal Hospital who also serves with the Toronto Humane Society’s spay/neuter clinic and Toronto Street Cats’ TNR clinics.
She continues: “How is the cat’s weight – too heavy or too thin? What is the dental picture and is there dental disease? Blood work allows us to see what the kidneys, liver and thyroid are doing. These are very compelling arguments for vet care.
“Sometimes owners are having behavioral concerns or maybe they’ve noticed a lump on the cat, which happens. Like dogs, cats can develop arthritis as they age. Also cancer. But we can manage many of these things, making their geriatric years much better. With younger cats, vet visits are about maintaining health; making sure their teeth look good and they’re not getting too fat,” which, like their human counterparts, puts cats at risk of developing diabetes.
According to a fact sheet produced by the Cat Clinic in Hamilton, the cat is Canada’s most popular pet, numbering some 8.5 million. Yet, as the Clinic points out, “In spite of being such cherished members of the household, the average cat does not receive the same healthcare treatment as most dogs. On average, only one out of every two cats benefit from an annual visit to the veterinarian.
“Every year a cat does not see a veterinarian is like a person going seven years without seeing a doctor. Three years without a wellness check is comparable to people going more than 20 years without seeing a doctor.”
Pretty much any argument a cat owner can mount for not taking Mittens to the vet – too expensive, cat doesn’t seem sick, he hates the carrier, vaccination is unnecessary for an indoor cat – can be quashed in short order:
Too expensive? Early diagnosis can detect serious problems in the early stages before costs really spiral.
Cat seems OK? Cats instinctively mask pain to prevent appearing vulnerable. And sometimes even obvious signs of ill-health such as excessive urination or diminished appetite can be missed by harried owners.
Cat hates the carrier? Most do, but here are simple tips for making the trip to the vet less stressful.
Vaccination is unnecessary for indoor cats? Not according to Dr. Coote.
“The FVRCP vaccines – usually given as a series of vaccines in kittens and then once a year or every three years after that – protects against many upper respiratory pathogens. In times of stress – moving to a new house, let’s say, or having new people or animals coming into the home –the animal’s immune system is suppressed and they can get a flare-up of this upper respiratory infection.
“All cats have been exposed to other cats at some point in their life – their littermates and mothers – and over 95 percent of cats will either be exposed to or carry to herpes virus. Similar to humans who get a cold sore when they are stressed, the herpes virus seizes moments of stress to flare up in the cat, causing nasal discharge, sneezing, watering eyes. Those can be prevented with an FVRCP vaccine.”
And though he’ll hate you for it in the moment, Mittens will love you for it in the long run. Now get dialling.
- Is wet food necessary?
The best diet for your cat depends on their individual health condition and discussing with your veterinarian is probably your safest bet to feed your cat the most appropriate food. But while there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, wet food can be a wise choice to ensure that your pet remains well-hydrated.
Dry food offers some advantages that may appeal to pet owners. It is easier to store, it can be left out for hours without spoilage, and it tends to be cheaper. What is more, some brands are formulated to help clean your cat’s teeth. However, the single most important difference between dry kibbles and wet food is the moisture content. Dry food contains around 7 to 12 percent of water, while that proportion can go up to 80 percent in canned food.
Just like with humans, hydration is key to keep your cat healthy. Because our domestic cats are derived from desert-dwelling species, they don’t have a very strong thirst drive. Many cats don’t drink enough water on their own and therefore need an alternative to avoid dehydration and prevent health issues such as urinary tract disease. Wet food can help in providing sufficient moisture to your cat.
You might wonder how to choose the right canned food. The simple answer to that question is: read the ingredients! Meat should be the primary ingredient. Some canned products contain fillers like corn or rice, which don’t contribute to your cat’s health. If you’re not sure, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. To provide even more moisture, mixing the wet food with a bit of water is a good idea. Any leftover should be placed in the fridge. And the same rule applies for your cat’s food as for your own food: throw away any leftover that doesn’t look right or smells weird.
If you are feeding your cat dry food and are considering introducing wet food in their diet, remember that cats can be picky about what they eat, and there is quite a difference in taste and texture between dry and wet food. A sudden change in diet may cause them gastrointestinal upset, which can result in vomiting, diarrhea, or a loss of appetite, so introduce the new food gradually. You can try to mix their old food with the new food, progressively increasing the proportion of the new food. Whatever you decide to feed your cat, make sure they always have access to clean and fresh drinking water.