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: Patches
When Patches showed up in Kirsten Niles’ Facebook feed in January 2013, it was love at first sight.
Niles had already adopted another cat, Nyx, a few months earlier. But as a resident at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic, she didn’t feel like she had enough free time to spend with her new furry friend.
That’s when her friend Melissa posted on Facebook that she was fostering the aptly named Patches, whose white fur is covered with patterns of black and ginger.
“She happened to post that she was fostering a cat for adoption and I saw the picture of her and I was like, ‘Ooh, I really like her.”
Plus, according to the Facebook post, Patches was a cuddle fiend. Nyx, while friendly, is a little more standoffish, Niles said. “So that’s a nice balance of personalities.”
While a bit skittish as she adjusted to her new home, Patches quickly lived up to her reputation. After a few days of hiding and refusing to come out, she relaxed and began to charm everyone with her affectionate demeanour.
“Within a few days of having access to the apartment, she was trying to get up and cuddle,” Niles said. “Once she gets to know someone, she cuddles them. When my dad came to visit and was sitting on the couch, she cuddled with him. She’ll cuddle with anyone who’ll cuddle back.”
She even won over the aloof Nyx. Worried they might not get along, Niles introduced them to each other gradually, first giving Patches her own room, then putting up a child gate that only Patches could jump over.
“When I was home, I took down the gate entirely and now they cuddle each other, they clean each other and play,” she said. “I work long hours, so it’s that they have each other to kind of keep each other occupied.”
And when Niles gets home after a long shift, she can snuggle up with Patches while Nyx hangs out nearby, completely unbothered.
“She doesn’t get jealous when Patches is on my lap because she doesn’t want to be there,” Niles said. “She just wants to be in the same room. Nyx is the puppy dog of the two in that sense.”
— by Sheena Goodyear
- Happy Tails: Lucy
It was love at first sight for Lucy and her forever mom Padra McIntosh—but before they met, this kitten had conquered numerous obstacles, all while looking adorably cute. Lucy and her brother Linus were best friends when they were rescued by ACR in 2012. Foster mom Catherine Wood took the pair in after they both tested positive for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). “They both seemed to be in good health,” says Wood. “The only issue I noticed was that they both sneezed a lot.” Linus became extremely ill a few months later because of his FeLV, and sadly did not survive.
Lucy, however, thrived. Wood calls her one of the most memorable foster cats she’s ever had. Lucy has cerebellar hypoplasia, or CH. This causes her to wobble when she walks. Wood remembers how this didn’t slow Lucy down at all. “She was very active and would run across the room to play with toys. Even though she wasn’t at all graceful like other cats, she had a particular sort of charm. I have a few friends who aren’t cat people, but when they met Lucy they were immediately enthralled.”
CH is a non-progressive, non-contagious neurological condition that results in balance problems. While some cats may only have a slightly impacted gait, others may have varying degrees of the condition. It’s important to remember that the cat isn’t sick or hurt; they’re simply uncoordinated. Unless a CH cat has other health issues, their life expectancy is the same as a cat without CH—in some cases, owners have said that their cat became more capable over time.
“One of the great things about CH cats is that they don’t seem to know that they’re any different from other cats,” says McIntosh. Even though they may think they’re normal, depending on the severity of their condition, they may be somewhat limited in their abilies and learn how to do things differently.
One such feat by Lucy was when she taught herself to conquer the couch in Wood’s home. After a lot of practice, she eventually mastered it and would then perch on the end and psyche herself up to jump off. “She’s always got this ‘go for it’ attitude,” laughs Wood.
In November 2012, Padra McIntosh was browsing through Petfinder.com to pass the time, with no intention of adopting an animal. She stumbled across a picture of Lucy and her heart melted. McIntosh read in Lucy’s profile about her wobbliness and viewed the video—she instantly fell in love. “I researched cerebellar hypoplasia and then made arrangements to go and meet her,” says McIntosh. “Once I met Lucy, there was no doubt in my mind that she was supposed to be MY wobbly girl.” Lucy went home with her forever mom on January 2, 2013.
McIntosh is still as smitten with Lucy as she was on day one. “She is the sweetest cat I have ever met or owned,” she says. “She is resilient, affectionate, happy and spoiled. She requires no extra special help for her CH, she eats and uses the litter box by herself and loves to play with toys or a game on my tablet. She has learned to jump up onto the bed and sofa and climbs anywhere else she wants to get onto, like our 4 foot-high cat tree. She is just a regular kitty that happens to wobble.”
It is not uncommon for FeLV tests to result in false positives, so McIntosh decided to re-test Lucy for the disease and it came back negative! Now that it was confirmed Lucy was FeLV free, McIntosh was able to bring three other CH cats into her home with symptoms ranging from mild to severe (including an adorable little guy who can’t walk).
“Because of Lucy and her siblings I was inspired to start a Facebook page to help bring awareness to CH,” she says. “I am also in the process of making a logo and products to help raise funds to help bring awareness to the condition. I believe this is why Lucy came into my life. I would recommend a CH kitty to anyone that is looking to adopt. You won’t regret it.”
For more information on CH, please visit Life with CH Cats.
— by Leah Morrison
- Happy Tails: Charlie (formerly Stumpy)
Charlie’s ability to overcome all odds has finally found him his forever home—he has become an integral part of the Battle family.
In December 2013, a feral cat showed up on Jennifer A’s porch with a badly infected tail and a very unusual walk. Assumed feral, Stumpy—as he was then known was taken to a Toronto TNR clinic and underwent two surgeries to amputate the remaining stump of his tail.
While in recovery, Post-it notes covered his cage to remind volunteers of his ferocity. He was moved to a larger crate to make him more comfortable, when something miraculous happened. The once untamable cat immediately sat up and meowed for attention. Jen took Stumpy home to recover and eventually be adopted but soon the veterinarians discovered he was in dire need for Femoral Head Ostectomy surgery (FHO).
To correct this degenerative hip disease, Stumpy had the first surgery on his right hip in May 2014. This life-changing surgery couldn’t have been done without the overwhelming support of our donors who gave $1,275 towards his care. Stumpy pulled through all the surgeries with astounding success!
He was adopted by the Battle family in October 2014, while still recovering from his hip surgery. Once in his new home, he was left to come out of the crate and explore in his own time. Stumpy (now named Charlie) was cautious and remained under the couch until his love for food and cuddles forced him out of hiding.
Adopting rescue cats has been such a rewarding experience for the Battles. Charlie filled the emptiness in their home after their previous cat, Oscar, passed away. Oscar had been abused before he was rescued by the Humane Society and adopted by Aaron, Jessica, and their daughter D’Arcy. They wanted to honour Oscar, who had been a big part of their lives, by giving another cat a much needed better life. They were inspired by Charlie who, despite facing many obstacles, maintained an overwhelming capacity to love.
Aaron admits Charlie’s not the cutest cat. In addition to missing a tail, the Russian Blue is built like a body builder. After the FHO surgery, Charlie developed strong front legs to compensate for his short back legs.
The days of the Post-it note–covered crate are long over. Charlie sleeps about 20 hours a day, which makes him about as threatening as a koala—but don’t be misled. This gentle giant has a mischievous side. As a foster cat Charlie loved to reach out and trip the kittens in the home, and he now loves to ruin the Battle’s board games night by walking all over the board.
From a feral street cat who could barely walk, Charlie continues to defy all expectations. He is now able to effortlessly jump on the couch and is always in search of cuddles.
— Jillian Kaster
- Happy Tails: Cosette
Sweet Cosette the tabby spent her kitten and adolescent years on the Toronto streets. It’s thought that she was born in a barn and adjusted to outdoor life as a feral cat. When she was found by ACR in 2012, we noticed that she had already been ear tipped. This is commonly used for marking stray cats that have been spayed or neutered.
Cosette had some health issues, but nothing life-threatening. Veteran foster mom Lynn gladly took her in and was excited to get Cosette adapted to indoor life before finding her a forever home. “I think she was my fourth foster kitty, “ says Lynn fondly. “I loved them all. I had made a promise to myself to continue with fostering as it was fun to have a different cat and find them forever homes.”
Cosette adjusted to indoor life right away. Always purring happily, she was nothing but content with her new foster home. “She was so easygoing [while I fostered her]—she was always a total love bug,” Lynn says. Having fostered numerous cats before, Lynn was a pro when it came to meeting potential adopters. She loved talking about cats with them, enthusing over how each has their own personality and traits that make them unique. After two years of fostering Cosette, she realized that she’d become extremely attached. “Over time, when someone inquired about her, I would get upset at the thought of her going elsewhere,” she remembers.
In 2014 Lynn officially adopted nine-year-old Cosette, turning what was supposed to be a temporary friendship into a new forever family. “I guess I was done playing the kitty field,” she laughs.
Cosette is a wonderful example of how a stray cat can be socialized and adopted into a domestic environment. Cats that have a tipped ear have already experienced human interaction, and are sometimes less apprehensive than if they have not been trapped, spayed/neutered, and returned. Some cats have a relaxed personality no matter their living conditions, and take to socialization very naturally. Cosette was at ease with people and adapted well to her life inside. It’s a wonderful thing when it happens, but good foster parents know when to tell the difference between happy and distressed cats. Some cats may seem to enjoy interacting with humans but become stressed and uncomfortable when attempts are made to socialize them.
If you happen to stumble upon an affectionate feral cat, it’s important to do what you can for it—but know when it is set in its ways. Remember not to force a cat to live a certain way of life. Some felines are simply happier living in colonies. Cosette continues to be proof that some cats do well in a new home, and it’s something positive for every volunteer/trapper/adopter to remember.
— Leah Morrison
- Happy Tails :Mischief
ACR volunteer Jennifer Ambrose didn’t expect to save lives during the infamous December 2013 ice storm, but that’s exactly what she wound up doing when she rescued three four-month-old kittens, including sweet Mischief. After discovering them in an elderly lady’s garage near Bathurst and Sheppard, Ambrose knew they would need some time to become acclimated to indoor life.
She was thrilled to see that one kitten was brave enough to begin exploring, coming out from under the bed first and wandering around. “It was clear from the onset that Ms. Mischief loved her new home,” Ambrose says. “She was the one who got into the most mischief while exploring, hence the name.”
Meanwhile, in another part of Toronto, Michelle Hilscher and her husband Arthur were looking for a new feline friend for their eight-year-old tabby Lily. Hilscher explains that Lily had been enjoying the company of a friend’s cat, but when the little family recently moved she seemed to become lonely.
ACR came to the rescue! After talking with volunteer Heather, Hilscher and her husband learned about Mischief and contacted foster mom Ambrose, who gave the couple confidence that Mischief would be a good match for their family. The kitten was officially adopted in February 2015, and proceeded to spend a week hiding under the bed or in the basement of Hilscher’s house. “She was pretty shy,” explains Hilscher. “She wouldn’t play with any toys.”
Ambrose was a huge help while Mischief was getting used to her forever home. “Jennifer was extremely supportive and was amazingly accurate at predicting what the milestones of Mischief’s adjustment would be.”
After a long week and a lot of patience, Mischief made the first move. “Our first success was when, after many nights of trying to get her to play, Mischief finally reached for a toy,” remembers Hilscher. “The next night she reached for the toy again and also started to purr while moving around. Her progress has been exponential and we could soon pet her and get to see her personality.”
Mischief has made quite an impression of her new parents. “She’s quite vocal, making lots of chirpy noises in the morning and whenever we come to the door,” Hilscher remarks. “She loves to be brushed and is obsessed with bird-watching. She’s sweet but naughty—particularly at night when she bombs around the main floor like a maniac!” Mischief also may have a future as a yoga instructor: “When she walks it’s like watching a slinky toy move. She likes to be bendy!”
And as for her role as Lily’s new best friend? “They were both very curious about each other and tended to follow each other around the house,” remembers Hilscher. Now they share the cat tree and play with the same toys. “They prefer to hang out in the same room together and are definitely pals.” In fact, in a recent update she wrote to Ambrose, Hilscher was happy to report that the two cats have begun to roughhouse together, gallop around the house, and make lots of meows and coos back and forth. “One evening Mischief even decided to sleep right next to Lily, who has never been a big cuddler with other cats.”
The Hilschers are very happy with how the whole adoption process turned out. They felt supported and had their anxieties eased by volunteers Heather and Ambrose. Mischief is adjusting very well with her new family and her BFF, and Hilscher couldn’t be happier. “The experience of earning Mischief’s trust has been far more rewarding than I’d ever imagined.”
— Leah Morrison
- Happy Tails: Hester & Elsa
Adam Johnson is a lucky man.
Cat owners know that patience isn’t normally near the top of the list of feline qualities, but sisters Hester and Elsa – kittens adopted by Johnson through the Annex Cat Rescue two years ago – aren’t most cats.
“They’re very polite in the morning when they want me to get up and feed them,” said Johnson. “One sits at the end of the bed staring at me and the other waits until my alarm goes off before sitting on my chest.”
And patience isn’t the only standard cat trend Hester and Elsa buck. They also play nice with strangers.
“My friend one time brought over his cat and, it’s funny, having had cats before, I expected them to fight or for them to all run and hide, but they all hung around and played,” Johnson said. “So it was kind of weird.”
These weird – but wonderful – traits don’t surprise Jeff Moon, who fostered Hester and Elsa before they were adopted.
“I remember them being amazingly soft cats who were so well behaved for kittens (never got into anything), but were very sociable and loved being in the same room as me,” Moon recalled in an email.
Those social qualities continue on today. Johnson reports the cats are doing great and he couldn’t be happier with his adopted friends.
“They’re really affectionate and really fun,” he said. “They’re really nice cats.”
While not every cat is happy sharing his or her home with another feline, Johnson believes if you can find a pair that will get along then two is certainly better than one.
“You still only need one litter box,” he said. “It’s easy to take care of them and they’re not as lonely. Getting two is a really great idea.”
Thanks to Johnson’s attitude and his welcoming home, Hester and Elsa are plenty lucky as well.
— Edward Fraser
- Happy Tails: Jackson (formerly Liam)
David and Michelle Watson’s cat, Nina, was the undisputed queen of the house—until Jackson came along! The light grey kitten came into their home like a hurricane; a flurry of energy whose constant mischief and charming personality made him the centre of attention. But Jackson’s attention was always directed at Nina. He continues to admire and look up to her, ensuring her place as queen.
Pairing cats can be difficult and Jackson’s adopters, David and Michelle, were wary after a bad match resulted in a house with two sullen cats. The adopters had good experiences with Annex Cat Rescue in the past because of the knowledgeable volunteers’ commitment to finding each cat the right home.
Jackson couldn’t be more delighted with his new home and playmate. The small age difference is important, and David believes the opposite genders help because there is less competition between the two cats. Jackson loves to play with Nina who, in turn, tolerates his crazy antics. “He follows her around the house; it’s like he has a crush on her,” said David. One of his favourite activities is to sit on a box while Nina is inside and reach in to bat at her through the holes.
Jackson, originally named Liam, was rescued with his two siblings, Josie and Owen, from a feral colony at about six weeks of age. While in foster care, Jackson was known for his outgoing personality and eagerness for adventure. Jackson’s profile was posted on ACR’s website for only a week when he received an adoption referral. He was able to go to his forever home at just three months old because he would be living with another cat.
He continues to learn from following Nina around, and David suspects he mimics his adopters’ human behaviour too. Photos capture him sitting on a chair with his arm propped up on the arm or standing to use the litter box.
Now two years old, Jackson shows no sign of slowing down, but he enjoys his routine of watching the birds at the feeder from the window, jumping on counters to beg for food and spreading joy in his new home.
- Happy Tails: Carling
Carling, or “Carly” as he’s affectionately called, was found wandering around Ossington and Leeds, starving for both food and affection. An ACR volunteer brought him in and the four-year-old cat began his foster life in a small apartment with nine other felines. Being small and slight, Carly worked to hold his ground, especially near the food dishes. Though very affectionate toward his foster mom (think lots of head butts and leg rubbing), he was not about to be pushed around. This cat was going to prove he was worthwhile.
Foster dad Greg Robertson took Carly in and got him comfortable in his new home. Robertson already owned another cat, one who looked very much like Carly, and the two went from unsure acquaintances to best buddies in a week. “There’s lots of snuggling as well as rough housing,” remarks Robertson. He says that the two have been a wild source of entertainment ever since, and their strong bond was the driving factor for him to adopt Carly.
Now in his forever home with a loving dad and a best friend, Carly has been able to welcome new siblings to his family. “I now have two older cats, so four all together,” says Robertson. “One of those is an ACR rescue as a matter of fact.” In addition to showing the new felines the ropes of living with Robertson, Carly has taken on the role of leader. “While he’s by far the smallest he does tend to run the house. His primary interests involve keeping the other cats in line and being a lap cat. In curling up into adorable poses he’s unmatched,” laughs Robertson. “He’s known as ‘Snarly Carly’: full of the devil at any given moment. He is small, feisty, unpredictable, and hilarious.”
Recently Carly has even decided to get involved with home remodelling and has made a habit of thoroughly inspecting the renovations Robertson is having done on his home. “Each night when the workers leave I let the cats upstairs to inspect the work. Carly’s taken a particular interest in construction,” he chuckles. Robertson takes pictures of Carly’s nightly inspections and posts them online, getting a huge response from his friends and family.
Robertson now can’t imagine his home without Carly and is deeply thankful for those who helped make it happen. “I couldn’t be more pleased that little Carly came to live with us. I’m very grateful to the ACR for their work helping vulnerable animals find safe homes.”
— Leah Morrison
- Happy Tails: Franky and Frida
When Aleighsa Abraham and her boyfriend first went to visit siblings Franky and Frida in their foster home, the two felines made themselves scarce.
“When we sat down there were other cats playing in the living room and Franky and Frida were hiding,” the 25-year-old Ryerson student says.
“Then (foster owner) Jennifer got them to come out and play. Once they were playing, the other cats left and it was just Franky and Frida. We felt like the other cats and Franky and Frida knew we were there for them.”
Frida and Franky were the last kittens to be adopted from a litter of five who’d been born in a Toronto alleyway and taken in by Annex Cat Rescue. Abraham and her boyfriend had already fallen in love with the tiny tabbies’ pictures. Once they met them, it felt like it was meant to be and they took the kittens home.
“They were scared at first and hid for awhile,” Abraham says, “they were already six months old when we got them and were coming from a house that had many other cats for them to play with.”
Frida, who was a little shyer, took a little longer to adapt to her new home – but her brave bro Franky helped her out.
“It was really cute the night we got them. Frankie was more adventurous and kept coming out to see what was going on and exploring, but Frida was hiding. When we went to bed, I looked in the doorway and Franky was standing in front of Frida as if he was saying ‘It’s OK, they’re asleep now!’ ”
Giving Frida and Franky their own room to adjust to the new house helped with their transition. “We would go in and just sit with them and play with them until they felt more comfortable to be around us,” explains Aleighsa, “I would say it took Franky maybe two weeks or so until he started actually coming around and jumping on our bed to be pet while it took Frida about a month or so.”
Patience and love do pay off – three years later, the cats have really come into their own. “Now their personalities definitely shine through. Franky is such a little cuddle monster and Frida loves attention. She is always meowing at us when we’re walking around, wanting some love or food. And when we have people over she will hide at first, then come out and walk in front of the couch as if to say, ‘Look at me! You know I am cute!’ ” Abraham laughs.
As first-time adopters, taking in two kittens was a significant undertaking for Abraham and her partner, but the happy family of four has no regrets. “I know my life wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have them,” Abraham states. “They’re both very special cats.”
— Sheena Goodyear
- Volunteer Profile: Deborah P
What’s your story? Why did you first get involved with ACR?
I was helping an ACR volunteer, Jen, with feedings at a colony near Bathurst and College, which at the time wasn’t her “official” colony to feed, she had discovered the cats near where she lived. We fed up to 11 cats in a vacant lot in a laneway. Eventually, Jen had an opportunity to move out of the country and so I approached ACR about the colony officially being under the guidance of ACR. Jen had already had many of the cats spayed/neutered and so we didn’t have too much to do to catch up.
How are you helping now? What volunteer position are you filling? What does your work involve?
After doing the feedings at Bathurst-College about three times a week for two years (alternating with volunteer Anna D.), the colony became part of ACR and we were able to get more feeders. Currently I do the Friday night feedings there, and I am also the scheduling coordinator for our team.
Describe a real winning moment for you as an ACR volunteer.
There are a few, but I recall how we were able to rescue a neglected young cat who was in severe need of dental care, and have her taken under the wing of ACR. She recovered well and went into the foster system, eventually finding new forever home.
Why do you think people should volunteer with ACR?
If someone really loves cats and wants to make a difference, even in one cat’s life, ACR is a great place to do it. As they say, if you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer in some other way. Not everyone can do the feral feeding, but it is very gratifying to meet the kitties close up and see firsthand how you are helping them.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing that ACR does?
Probably the TNR aspect. As we know, the feral cat population needs to be controlled humanely, and this is the best way to do it. TNR combined with educating the public about the importance of spaying/neutering their pets and trying to encourage them to keep pets indoors are important. Next would be the foster/adoption program, of course – finding homes for the tame cats that are lost or abandoned and find themselves in an ACR colony.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering with ACR? What’s your “real” job?
I work in an office as an administrative assistant, but I still consider that my “day job”. I am also a professionally trained actor; I love to do theatre but recently have been branching out into film.
Besides rescuing cats, what are some of your other hobbies?
As well as being an actor, I enjoy writing, reading, movies/t.v. and am learning how to play the piano.
Do you live with any ACR cats at the moment? Who and what is their back story?
One of my four sweeties was found living with the colony at Bathurst and College about five years ago. Kensington was skinny, slightly injured and looked like he could use some love. He had a scraggy plastic collar on him and was very friendly, so obviously he had been lost or abandoned. The colony cats have always been very good about letting new cats eat with them, so he found a place to have a meal. I was fostering him but after about a month, I was in love so he joined our family! He is a lovely purring lap cat. And much chubbier now!
What cat do you dedicate your volunteer work to and why?
I dedicate my work to all the Bathurst-Colony cats we have lost over the past seven and a half years that I have been feeding there – Black Fluffy, Grey Fluffy, Duchess and Sweetie, and some where I did not know their names. They were all wonderful but sadly each cat’s time came. We are down to two cats in the colony, Lilybell and Tabby, who must each be about eight years old, but they are still there and we will care for them for as long as they need us.