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GTA’s only no-kill, no-cage cat shelter appeals for community's help with Newmarket move

Non-profit North Toronto Cat Rescue, which has rescued 4,000 cats over 34 years, is seeking volunteers and donations from the community as it makes a tumultuous move to just north of Newmarket

For 34 years, no-kill, no-cage shelter and facility North Toronto Cat Rescue has given abandoned, abused and injured cats a second chance at life.

Entirely volunteer-run, and helmed by founder Donna Cox, the non-profit has seen more than 4,000 cats tread through its doors.

But after three decades operating out of the Vaughan area, North Toronto Cat Rescue is making the big move to their fur-ever home just north of Newmarket — a massive undertaking, considering the 100 to 150 cats in their care at any given time are, uniquely, housed in the NTCR shelter, and not fostered out to homes.

The move comes after an unsuccessful petition to remain in their previous location, which is up for redevelopment and slated for demolition. Despite receiving more than 76,000 signatures, the request to Vaughan’s zoning committee for a temporary amendment to remain was denied, hastening the urgency of the move.

“We’ve come a long way in 34 years,” said Donna Cox. “It’s perseverance. We’ve been knocked down a thousand times.”

Cox is used to the trials and tribulations of running a no-kill shelter.

Over the years, she’s overseen countless captures, spays and neuters, surgeries, treatments, and — of course — adoptions.

Cox’s first 45 rescues even predate the official establishment of North Toronto Cat Rescue. Taking the "back roads" home from work one night, she encountered two starving and badly hurt cats, struggling at the side of the road. In the time it took to drive home and retrieve some cat-friendly food, they had sadly passed — but other hungry eyes glinted from the shadows.

Soon returning with another platter of food, she was shocked to count a grand total of 45 cats emerge from the thickets to feast. Mission in mind, it took her years — and $26,000 — to capture, spay, and neuter each cat, but the job was done with aplomb.  

Cox, who had never even owned a pet before, knew it was the start of something beautiful. Since then, she’s worked 13-hour days 364 days a year with North Toronto Cat Rescue — every day, in fact, but Christmas.

Of course, it isn’t a one-woman show. Cox relies heavily on a dedicated base of 60 volunteers to help with feeding, socializing, care, cleaning, transportation, and fundraising. With the move from Vaughan, she has lost many of her longtime volunteers. Cox encourages cat-lovers in Newmarket with a few extra hours to spare each week to fill out a volunteer application.

The cats will be arriving at their new home early January, with adoptions commencing shortly after.

“We don’t take anything,” said Cox. “We’re not here to make money — 100 per cent goes to actually saving lives. Our focus is helping animals and stopping the suffering. Getting them out of the cold.”

Lack of volunteers isn’t the only thing impeding North Toronto Cat Rescue’s ability to continue.

Already struggling with the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, the shelter has been further financially hit by the costs of moving and ongoing vet bills.

Their no-kill policy also means that cats stay with them longer than most shelters, increasing the financial burden.

To help ease struggles with funding, North Toronto Cat Rescue has created a public GoFundMe. As the NTCR shelter receives no financial support from the government, they rely exclusively on funds from adoption, sponsorship, and donations.

“There are things to be done on a bigger scale, that some of us don’t have the wherewithal to be able to,” said Cox. “We can only help where we can help.”

For more information, visit or call 905-758-CATS (2287).