Meet the latest victims of Vancouver’s rental crisis: kittens

Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association says number of abandoned cats higher than normal

More cats and kittens are being abandoned than in previous years and, according to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), it’s largely due to Vancouver real estate.

VOKRA founder Maria Soroski says many economically disadvantaged British Columbians facing renovictions or demovictions cannot find affordable housing that will take pets.

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“Every other cat rescue in the province is also dealing with this problem,” Soroski told the Courier. “We’re seeing a huge increase in tame, unfixed cats being abandoned by their owners.”

VOKRA rescues cats off the street in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey and currently has 524 cats in its care. This is a much higher figure than the 300 it usually has at this time of year.

While it’s difficult to collect hard data, Soroskibelieves this situation affects primarily low-income families due to the high number of unfixed cats VOKRA has in its care.

Vancouverites moving houses will also likely experience a hike in rents, which leaves many unable to pay for proper pet care.

“It’s a crisis we’re going through. And we’re going to see a lot of animals — pets — having to be given up or abandoned because of this. It’s a horrible situation and I think it’s going to get worse,” Soroski said, adding, “We’re getting a high number of calls from people saying they’ve either been renovicted or they cannot find affordable housing that takes pets.”

This lack of pet-friendly accommodations stands in stark contrast to other province regulations that are more pet friendly. Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act, for example, forbids landlords from including a “no pets” clause in rental agreements.

Even without such a law, Soroski said there are ways people can help improve the situation for Vancouver’s kittens.

“What people can do is always donate [or] volunteer for other cat rescues. They can be a foster parent.”

Foster parenting is a big part of VOKRA’s work. Since the organization doesn’t have shelters, it relies on people willing and able to take in cats prior to their adoption.

“It costs the foster parent nothing. We provide all the food and the litter, all the medical care until the cats are ready to be adopted… All the foster parent has to do is provide a temporary or longer-term home,” Soroski said.

Costs for keeping a cat will normally be around $100 per month, which includes $60 a month on cat food, the cost of kitty litter and biannual visits to the vet. The cost of spaying and neutering cats is usually around a hundred dollars, but the BC SPCA Vancouver Animal Hospital offers low income families free spaying and neutering services.

 “We can’t do much about the housing crisis as a cat rescue,” Soroski said. “But what we can and encourage the public to do is, if you know someone who has a cat that’s not spayed and neutered to encourage them to get it spayed and neutered — maybe drive them to the Vancouver SPCA hospital if they meet the low income requirements. And if they notice any stray cats around — if they notice moms with kittens in their yard — then call us.”   

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