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.
- Volunteer Profile: Sarah M
What’s your story? Why did you first get involved with ACR?
I first fostered in university. My room mate and I were interested in having a cat but knew we couldn’t commit to adopting as our living situation was temporary.
How are you helping now? What volunteer position are you filling? What does your work involve?
I foster and I’m a feral feeder.
I’ve experienced a little bit of everything fostering, from frustration to relief to joy. It can be tough at times when you’ve got a kitty who has behavioural issues. But those are the cats that need you most and that are most rewarding in the end. Seeing them get adopted is such a joyful/sad moment. We provide food, litter, toys etc.
I moved so I now feed on the other side of town. It’s not as convenient, but still rewarding. The route takes about 30 minutes and feeds about 8 cats. Some you see and some you never see, but dedicated ACR volunteers monitor the feeding spots to gauge the need in each area. The weather is sometimes miserable, but I always feel good when I see the little guys waiting. After all, they’re outside in all weather, all the time.
Describe a real winning moment for you as an ACR volunteer.
Probably what I’m most proud of is getting our foster, Fred, to eat cat food again. When he first arrived from the street he was so skinny he was starving, but wouldn’t eat cat food as he was used to human scraps. Using cream cheese and bacon grease we got slowly got him back to a cat food only diet, and back to a healthy weight. He’s now been adopted into a theatre family as Zigfried Dander Stardust.
Why do you think people should volunteer with ACR?
It’s rewarding and such a good organization. I love our no shelter method that lets our cats be matched with the best possible homes (and homes with the best possible cats). And I really think we have an obligation to those who can’t look after themselves, whether human or animal!
In your opinion, what is the most important thing that ACR does?
Getting those kitties off the street! But the trap and spay/neuter program is also so important.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering with ACR? What’s your “real” job?
I’m Manager, Certification for the Canadian Association of Management Consultants.
Besides rescuing cats, what are some of your other hobbies?
Travel! Reading, writing and, honestly, watching Netflix.
Do you live with any ACR cats at the moment? Who and what is their back story?
Our current foster is Iorek. He was picked up on Spadina and has been with us 2 years. When he first arrived he chose “”fight”” in every fight or flight scenario. Ready to defend himself always, and startled by sudden noise or movement, he even growled at the toaster once.
Now he’s as sweet as can be. He loves to have his belly rubbed and is happy to be cuddled and carried around our apartment.
What cat do you dedicate your volunteer work to and why?
That’s a tough one. I couldn’t pick just one, as every cat we’ve had has changed our lives in some way. (16 fosters and counting…)
- My Happy Tail of Adopting an Older Cat – Jasmine
When I first walked in to Jasmine’s foster home a few months ago, I was ready to meet a sweet, shy cat of five and a half years. Her foster mom, Holly, had warned me before my visit that Jasmine would likely hide and may not be as excited to see me at first—as an older cat, she wouldn’t be as outgoing as a young kitten, and might need some time to warm up. I walked into the apartment and sat down with Jasmine in a smaller enclosed room. Within seconds, she crept out of her carrier and snuggled up to my leg, sitting down right next to me and purring softly.
We only had a meet and greet for a few minutes before shyness prevailed and Jasmine scuttled back to her carrier—but I knew that our brief time together was just a glimpse at the affection she had to offer. I went home that night and thought of this beautiful cat with marled grey fur and stunning green eyes. With such a gentle disposition and calm demeanor, how had she not been adopted into a loving home yet?
The next morning I woke up and called Holly. I wanted to give Jasmine a wonderful life and allow her to enjoy the rest of her years in a quiet, cozy forever home. When I went over to sign the paperwork and pick up Jasmine, I learned that she had been visited a few times by prospective adopters over the past year, but her initial shyness and older age contributed to adopters passing her over for younger, more outgoing cats and kittens. This made me very sad, to realize that so many older animals with less initial excitement toward new people were not getting the homes they deserve.
During Jasmine’s first two to three weeks with me, she hid a lot in my front closet, only coming out at night to jump up on the bed and gently paw for some attention. I gave her the time and space that she seemed to want by setting out her food and toys, gently patting her and talking to her when she decided to come out, and letting her get comfortable in her new home on her own terms. The process of giving Jasmine time and space was a little bit hard at first for an owner who was so eager to spend time with her new cat, but it truly paid off.
Three months later, Jasmine has completely come out of her shell. Not a morning goes by that she isn’t waiting at my door to greet me with lots of “good morning!” meows and leg rubs. Every morning and night she will reach up for a kiss on the nose to say good morning or good night. Throughout the day she rolls around playing with her favourite catnip toy, loves to be brushed, sleeps in the sunny spot on my bed, and enjoys looking out the window and having quiet, peaceful moments. As an older cat, she isn’t interested in scratching my furniture, and she is happy to enjoy downtime when I am at work—cheerfully running to the door and greeting me when I get home after enjoying a restful day. When I am around, she is with me every step of the way. Within seconds of sitting down on the couch with a book, she jumps up beside me and wants to snuggle down for quality time together—much as she did on the day we met.
I wanted to share this story about Jasmine because it demonstrates that when given a little bit of time, patience, and love, an older cat can really let their personality shine and find comfort in a forever home. Jasmine may not have been the most outgoing cat upon first glance, but her gentle approach and willingness to come over and sit next to me was what mattered most. She wanted the connection just as much as I did. At five and a half years of age, Jasmine is a youthful, playful, and loving cat that clearly enjoys her life.
Adopting an older cat doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal will not want to play or enjoy your company. It doesn’t mean that they are past their prime and won’t be loving or fun pets. I think the exact opposite is true: these animals are so patient and grateful to be given a forever home that they demonstrate love and companionship as often as they can when someone gives them a chance. When Jasmine rests her head on my lap and drifts off to sleep, her age doesn’t matter to me. We have a special bond that I feel every day, and no fewer or extra years would change that.
Thank you for reading Jasmine’s story. I truly hope it encourages more adopters to consider giving an older cat a home. Jasmine is one of many older cats that wait patiently for someone to bring them home. Whether a cat is one year old, five, ten, or fifteen, their desire for love and companionship is unwavering. They will find a special place in your heart if you give them a chance.
— Amy Ellen Soden
- Donor Appreciation – Arty Basinski
It’s not every day the Annex Cat Rescue gets a gift from a donor like Arty Basinski. But Arty is not your every-day type of guy. And he’s certainly not your every-day real estate agent.
Arty, who’s been in the real estate game for five years, gives 10 percent of all his earnings to animal charities (half of which are chosen by his clients), and his most recent donation was a very generous $500 gift to ACR.
“I wanted to do something local and I’ve always been a cat person,” said Arty, “so this was a perfect fit.”
“I feel very privileged to be in the position that I am and I want to give back to those who are less privileged. And especially with animals, whether trapped in cages or performing in a circus or out on the street as strays, they don’t get a voice to change their situation and they need help from people…so I’ve always had a special place in my heart for them.”
While Arty’s name may not be familiar, if you live in the GTA there’s a good chance you’ve seen him on the streets: he’s known as “The Real Estate by Bike Guy,” riding his emblazoned pedal-powered machine to locations all over the city. And while the advertising is great, it also gives him unique information he can pass on to his clients.
“You get to see neighbourhoods with a different perspective,” said Arty. “You get to go through parks and down paths that you wouldn’t while driving. While you’re cycling it’s a little more laid back and you can really absorb the area.”
Arty’s connection to cats comes in several forms. Not only is he the caretaker of Naboo, whom he adopted through the Toronto Humane Society two years ago, Arty also provides unique housewarming gifts to those he works with. He takes a Maneki-Neko (commonly known on this side of the world as a Happy Cat or Lucky Cat) and paints a version modelled after his clients. It’s an extension of an artistic side that also includes music (he’s an avid drummer) and acting (he performs in clown and improv troupes).
Needless to say, ACR was beyond thrilled with Basinski’s gift, which allows ACR’s volunteers to assist even more cats in need.
“We rely almost entirely on donations to cover the costs of our rescue work,” said Jacqueline Chan, Chair of ACR’s Board of Directors, “particularly the costs of providing veterinary care to the feral cats in our colonies and the formerly-homeless cats in our foster program. The vet bills are substantial, but always worthwhile. And there are always more cats that we would like to help, and our donors allow us to do that.
“We love anyone who can find it in their heart to give to ACR, but when people do something unique, cool and creative like Arty we give them a huge thank you.”
And Chan will appreciate this even more: Arty says that if any business comes his way via this article, he’ll donate a portion of it back to ACR in order to help more cats: “That’s something I would be more than happy to do!”
Find out more about Arty on his website at realestatebybike.com.
— By Edward Fraser
- Happy Tails: Georgia and Gloria (formerly Peggy Sue and Betty Ann)
Peggy Sue and Betty Ann, now referred to as Georgia and Gloria, were adopted by Elizabeth and her family as tiny kittens from Annex Cat Rescue. Gloria, assertive and forthright in her position as queen of the house, is the dominant one of the pair. In contrast, Georgia is rather laidback and relaxed in roaming the house.
On first sight, the two can easily pass as identical twins. The secret to telling them apart is to know their unique markings. Georgia looks like she is wearing a uniform. In fact, soon after adopting the two kittens, Elizabeth’s kids began referring to Georgia as “Worker Pants,” because the markings on her hind legs look like she’s wearing white pants.
Both are extremely gentle—they even share a bed with the kids each night. In short, the kitties are simply inseparable from their owners. Thanks to their foster mom Liz, the cats are sociable and friendly, especially with strangers. According to Elizabeth, “Our cats are quick to snuggle up to visitors. They purr and jump up on to their laps in hopes of some tummy rubs—which they always receive without fail! They are all about receiving attention and lots of it!”
Having previously owned cats, Elizabeth says that Gloria and Georgia are quite unique because of their highly protective nature. These two kitties immediately show up when any family member falls sick, ready to shower them with love and snuggles. Furthermore, if one of the kids is feeling down, they are quick to investigate and do everything possible to cheer them up.
To top it off, these two cats are easy on the eyes—they are very beautiful and, as you can see in the accompanying photo, extremely photogenic. Seems like these two truly are the full package!
— By: Vidya Srikanthan
- Happy Tails: Ted (formerly AK)
As Axl Rose once said: All we need is just a little patience. (Apologies to anyone under the age of 20.)
But as it turns out, patience was the key in the bond formed between Kate Forest and her ACR adopted cat, Ted.
Ted, formerly A.K., was a feral kitten, about six to eight weeks old, captured in the Kennedy and Sheppard area of Toronto. Kate took him in as a foster. Ted’s transition from life on the streets was not a pleasant one. After he spent the first two days under Kate’s couch, she decided it was time for a “faceoff.”
“He didn’t eat, he didn’t use the litter, and I was getting very worried,” said Kate. “So I literally had a faceoff with him. I just lied there in his space, face-to-face, for about five hours. After that, he came around and was a lot more trusting of me.”
Kate, originally from the U.K., had no intention of keeping a cat of her own. She was worried she may return home and not be able to take a feline friend with her. But as time went by, the tie between her and Ted became too strong to sever.
“It took a lot for him to let his guard down and to trust,” said Kate. “He put that faith in me and he was happy and contented. It would have been a big upheaval for him to leave.”
While Ted, now two years old, hasn’t seen his reticence towards strangers completely wash away, he’s doing much better.
“He’s still a little nervy compared to other cats,” said Kate, “but as soon as he knows it’s safe he’ll come up to see them and greet them.”
And part of making acquaintances is introducing guests to his favorite part of the house: Ted has developed an affinity for laying on top of the radiator in Kate’s washroom and when a visitor makes his or her first trip to the commode they often find Ted racing ahead to claim his perch and welcome them.
“He’s the official bathroom greeter,” said Kate with a laugh. But even with his new social skills, Ted’s patient savior Kate will always be No. 1 in his heart. And vice versa.
“He’s great,” said Kate. “He’s my best friend, my snuggle buddy.
“I couldn’t imagine life without him.”
- 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