I realized, from some of the questions and comments on some recent posts, that it’s been a while since I wrote about the rescue I volunteer for! And there have been a lot of changes since I did.
I volunteer for Toronto Cat Rescue. TCR is over twenty years old and is completely volunteer run. The numbers for September 2016, according to our newsletter, are 879 volunteers and 468 foster cats in 371 foster homes! We are (since 2014) partnered with Toronto Animal Services, the department that runs the four animal shelters in the city. These are officially “kill” shelters and TCR stepped up to try and change that. In the first year we were partnered we saved nearly 900 cats from euthanization. We get at lot of the tough cases; the bottle feeding babies, the under-socialized strays, the seriously injured, the emotionally challenged and the seniors. Fosters work with them to get them ready for adoption.
We also partner with a number of pet stores in the city. These stores have permanent cages for adoptable cats and host larger adoptathons on a regular basis.
Toronto Cat Rescue receives no government funding or regular corporate funding. Our work is supported by donations, adoption fees, merchandise, and two annual fundraisers. Fosters are expected to cover food, litter and toys, though occasionally donations are available to them. Specialty foods, medications and vet visits are paid for by TCR. We now rescue nearly 3000 cats a year.
There are many, many volunteer roles other than foster home. We have volunteer drivers (to take cats to foster homes, vet appointments and adoption events), store volunteers (to care for the cats staying in stores), a number of administrative roles, fundraising roles, adoption counsellors, adoption screeners (at events), post-adoption counsellors and more.
I’ve been fostering since March 2013 and Diego is my 82nd foster (including kittens). I’ve had a pregnant queen who later gave birth, orphaned bottle-feeding kittens, orphaned kittens old enough to eat on their own, young cats, middle-aged cats and senior cats (the oldest was 18 years old!) I’m also a cat caretaker at our new Volunteer Centre and I’m on the committee that runs one of our two annual fundraisers — a bowlathon.
Aside from rescuing, fostering and adopting, TCR also has a number of public service programmes. Most of our programmes are aimed at stopping the need for rescue! We have a food assistance programme, a behaviour helpline (for anyone, not just our adopters) — both designed to help keep cats in their homes — and a courtesy adoption posting programme where we allow (and help) people to post their cat on our website for re-homing. TCR is also a member of the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition; part of a group of organization addressing the needs of the huge feral cat population in the city.
We recently opened our first “home”, the brand new Volunteer Centre. The VC is an administrative place to meet and to store supplies; supplies for adoptathons, for fundraisers, for our online store, and for material donations. This means there is now an accessible place (NOT a storage locker!) where we can keep supplies available for fosters. They can now pick up food, litter boxes, carriers, toys and any number of other generously donated items.
Many of the donations are kept for our “way station” cats. The Volunteer Centre has room for 10 cats. These are cats in transition; those that need more intense care, more observation or who are just waiting for an available foster home. It is not a shelter and even non-cat caretaker volunteers are usually discouraged from visiting the cats; most of these cats are seriously traumatized either physically or mentally. They need quiet and rest.
Toronto Cat Rescue is the largest cat rescue in Ontario, probably in the country. Other municipalities now appeal to us for help. Our executive is a group of incredibly passionate, competent, dedicated people! I’m very proud to play a part in what they do.