"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our seasonal blog series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started last year to draw attention to 12 not-for-profit groups or charitable organizations in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya. So many people from around the world travel to the Riviera Maya during the holiday season. Many reach out to us via regional message boards and Facebook looking for a way to give back to the less fortunate residents in our local communities. 12 Days/12 Ways was started to help these generous, kind-hearted visitors find legitimate and worthy charitable organizations to support, addressing their particular needs for this holiday season.

For each of the 12 days of Christmas, the BuyPlaya Blog, better known as "Life's a Beach", will spotlight a charitable organization or giving opportunity. Some may already be familiar to locals and frequent travelers to this area. Others, perhaps those most in need of recognition and support, may be new to our readers. It is our hope to do this every year, with updated information and wish lists.

The "12 Day/12 Ways" list has not yet been completed for 2011. If you have a favorite charity that you feel belongs on this list, collect all of the information you can and I will be happy to consider your group for inclusion.


Coco's Cat RescueCoco's Cat Rescue is a non-profit organization started by Laura Raikes in March of 2009. Since Laura was a young girl she was helping her dad in farming and started rescuing all kinds of animals from bats to dogs, cats and even bottle feeding goats and lambs. One of the rescued cats was Igor who had only one eye after an attack by a crow. He is still a much loved family pet back home in Wales.

After moving to Mexico and marrying her husband Carlos their cat, Coco, was run over, as many of the drivers in Mexico see cats as a pest and make no attempt to avoid them if they see them on the road. Laura decided she wanted to help address the problem of too many stray cats-which leads them to be cruelly treated. A week after Coco's death, Laura heard a distressed kitten "Rambo" in the jungle, hence the name Rambo.  She has then continued her work rescuing kittens and spaying/neutering feral cats in her efforts to help the animal population in the Riviera Maya. Each kitten that is rescued is in dedication to her very own lost pet Coco.

Also working on reducing the population, Laura began a spay and neuter clinic working with Kelley Anthony and the veterinarian Claudia Lewy spaying and neutering feral cats, rescued kittens and pets whose owners simply could not afford to sterilize their cats. Laura realized more needed to be done and asked for support from more vets. Before long, seven different vets in Playa were volunteering in the spay/neuter program for cats organized by Laura. As the support grew for the project Laura began to meet many other dedicated volunteers and saw the need and opportunity for something bigger. Therefore in dedication to Coco, Coco's Cat Rescue was created.

Coco's Cat RescueCoco's Cat Rescue has a no kill policy and is dedicated to reducing the cat population in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. They achieve this via a TNR (trap spay/neuter and return) program for feral cats, and a rescue, treat, spay/neuter, and tame program for kittens under 3 months. The aim is to find a permanent loving home for all the rescued kittens in their care.

Coco's Cat Rescue provides free or low cost spay/neuter surgeries and basic pet care to those on a low income. While the primary focus is cats, Coco's clinic also provides spay/neuter services for dogs through grants from Sociedad Protección Animales de Peninsula (SPAP) and Veterinarios Internacionales Dedicados a Animales Sanos (VIDAS).

CCR is committed to education which encourages responsible pet ownership and challenges negative associations with feral cats and consequent cruelty. Their long term mission is to greatly increase the number of animals that they are able to assist and expand their model to embrace other local areas in need of services.

Coco's Cat Cafe ProgramCCR also initiates and manages the "Cat Café" program with hotels of the Riviera Maya. The concept of the Cat Café was developed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), to humanely address the problem of feral cat populations gathering around resorts, where there are usually tourists willing to feed and pet them. This can easily get out of control and then, understandably, the hotel will want to get rid of the animals. However studies and experience have shown, as long as the source of food, water and shelter remains available, others will soon take the place of the cats removed. These are eliminated in turn and it becomes a never ending story.

If, instead, a stable colony of sterilized and medically attended cats is permitted to stay on the premises, this will prevent newcomers from moving in and also keep rodents at bay. The Cat Café program has proven successful in a number of countries worldwide. The project includes:

  • Trapping of resort cats for spay/neuter, rabies vaccine, and parasite medication. This results in a healthy and non-reproductive cat population.
  • Building of a Cat Café. This provides a feeding area on hotel grounds away from the kitchen, restaurant, and guest areas.
  • Consistent nutritious feeding of cats at scheduled times.
  • The cats will learn to come to the Cat Café for food (and purified water) instead of seeking food from guests and resort staff.

To the hotels, there are significant benefits from implementation of a Cat Café, including:

  • Humanely solving the cat overpopulation problem.
  • Preventing rodent populations.
  • Reducing health risks to employees and guests.
  • Positively involving employees and guests.
  • Establishing their hotel as a local leader in proactive and humane overpopulation solutions for feral animals – an issue which greatly disturbs tourists and affects tourism.
  • Once the Cat Café program has been fully implemented, the feral cat populations attached to the hotel will have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and de-wormed, and their ongoing health monitored by Coco’s Cat Rescue as well as by the hotel. Sterilization is indicated by a clip made on a cat’s left ear at the same time the surgery is done. This is an international symbol the cat has been sterilized.

In line with the guidelines for cat cafes, the hotel provides the area away from guest and kitchen areas, feeds the cats only in this designated area, provides purified water and usually some shelter. Naturally, it is very important that guests do not feed the cats in any other area, so they become accustomed to going to the café for food. The café is staffed by volunteer cat-loving employees and guests are welcome to interact with the cats there if they wish.

Coco's Cat RescueWhy Coco's is Not a Shelter:
Coco's mission is not to be a shelter. When quarantine space allows, they can take a rescued kitten into Coco's care. They help kittens as space allows. Coco’s primary mission is Spaying and neutering which addresses the bigger/ongoing problem. There will never be a shelter big enough for all the cats and kittens on the streets which is why Coco’s Cat Rescue chooses not to become a shelter and to focus on spay and neuter. This way they are preventing the problem and in the long run preventing the unwanted animals on the streets from being born. When you look at the statistics of how there are over 14,000 cats on the streets in Playa alone it is crucial that CCR focus on spay and neuter.

Coco's Cat RescueWhy Coco’s Cat Rescue is full at times:
With over 14,000 cats and kittens on the streets of Playa del Carmen alone Coco’s Cat Rescue is overwhelmed with kittens most of the time. As they do not have a shelter and only have space for 15-20 kittens at any one time they are almost always full. Coco’s Cat Rescue has very strict quarantine rules. When a new kitten arrives at Coco’s Cat Rescue it must be kept separate from other kittens for at least 15 days meanwhile the kitten undergoes treatment for parasites and receives its first vaccine. There are also many other contagious conditions like a virus or skin conditions like ring worm and mange which require a longer quarantine. CCR prefers to have 20 healthy kittens than 50 sick ones even if this means having to say no to people who ask them to take in more rescued kittens. Some illnesses are life threatening and by putting one sick kitten in a room with 10 other healthy ones they could end up losing them all!

In order to better assist and support those animals they cannot accept at a certain time, Coco's Cat Rescue has started a new program and hopes to be able to help more people to foster and ultimately find homes for the kittens they find or rescue.

When kittens cannot be taken in by Coco's due to space being full they can assist you with these things:

Free spay and neuter
Free first rabies vaccinations.
Free de-parasite meds
Free general exam for rescued animal with Coco's Vet
Free meds/help if the rescued kitten is injured
Free kitten milk, bottle and a lesson on how to care for younger kittens who can not eat by themselves.
Easy to use Poster Template for creating adoption posters.

This program is for rescued kittens only that have not yet been adopted. Coco's Cat Rescue is not able to offer vaccinations or general exams for people’s pets. We would like to continue to support the local vets who work hard and helped us get the program going.

Coco's does have a permanent spay and neuter clinic for OWNED dogs or cats and rescued animals.

Since it's inception in 2009, Coco's Cat Rescue has sterilized 4097 cats and dogs.

Coco's Cat Rescue

How can YOU help?

Good News for US Donors! Through collaboration with "ViDAS" a US, animal welfare organization, your generous gift to Coco's Cat Rescue is now tax-deductible! To obtain your tax-deductible receipt, checks may be made payable to "ViDAS," and mailed to P.O. Box 20246, Boulder, CO 80308-3246. Please list "Coco’s Cat Rescue" in the memo section on the check. Sponsor a kitten each month for any donation.

Buy a Coco's Cat Rescue 2012 Calendar!
12 stunning photographs of the charming Coco's kittens. A must buy for cat lovers! Only $22 usd each or Buy 5 for $100 usd! Peso price $250 mn each or 5 for $1100 mn! Makes a great Holiday gift or stocking stuffer for the cat lovers in your life!

Adopt or foster a kitty!
There are many kittens looking for a forever home. To adopt a kitten you will be asked to give a donation of 250 pesos. This includes the spay/neuter of the kitten. You will also be asked to bring a copy of your ID, proof of where you live, fill out the adoption form and answer some questions. Coco's does all they can to ensure that the kittens are going to the best of homes! Cross border adoptions are very easy. CCR will sort out all the paperwork and can help find a "mule" if you are unable to take the kitten home yourself. You will be responsible for paying the flight fee and the adoption fee of 250 pesos.

Coco's is always in need of volunteers! You may help by fostering a kitten, helping to trap feral cats and transporting animals from the perrera. Allergic to cats (like me)? There are still many ways you can help. You may collect donations from drop boxes, shop for supplies, manage the transportation calendar, write grants and proposals or assist with annual projects like the calendar and the cookbook.

Contribute items from the wishlist! 
From the wish list the most needed items right now are:

Cat Traps
Flea and tick meds for dogs and cats
Dog and cat cages/travel carriers
Powdered milk for kittens
De-worming medicine

Please check the wishlist online for a complete list of current needs!

Come cuddle the kittens!
Every Friday afternoon, between 2pm and 4pm, Coco's cat Rescue opens its doors to cat lovers young and old for an afternoon of cuddling. The cats and kittens in residence at Coco's need all the affection and attention they can get. All that fuzzy love has a great affect on the humans as well! Email info@cocoscatrescue for a map and directions!


Coco's Cat Rescue

For more information:
Laura Jonguitud Raikes
President & Founder
Coco's Cat Rescue