Frequently Asked Questions

What does Coco's do?

Coco’s works from our base clinic in Playa del Carmen, throughout the Riviera Maya, to control dog and cat populations through trapping, neutering and return of feral cats (TNVR), which includes establishment of “Cat Cafes” at hotels and resorts. Our salaried vets are available to spay and neuter rescued dogs and cats and provide low cost or free spay and neuter for family pets. During feral cat TNVR, when space is available, we rescue kittens under three months to provide medical care, socialization, and sterilizing prior to adoption. Our mobile unit helps us to provide far reaching services to many poor families in more remote areas, travelling to areas with no Veterinary assistance near by and by transporting the animals to our base clinic for surgery and later returning them to the families.  Coco’s has become a key resource for rescue groups and individuals, as well as for the less-advantaged families in the Riviera Maya.

Who is Coco's Animal Welfare?

Coco’s consists of a volunteer staff and network of foster families led by founder, Laura Raikes. Learn more about our staff.

Is Coco's a shelter?

No, we are a rescue group and operate primarily out of staff and foster homes.

Is Coco's no-kill?

We consider ourselves a no kill organization and  will ONLY euthanize a dog or cat if it is suffering and has no chance of recovery.

Can Coco's take my dog or cat?

Sometimes there are very sad circumstances in people’s lives that make it impossible for them to keep their companion animals and we are sympathetic to that. While we can assist you with promoting your dog or cat for adoption, we cannot at this time accept animal surrenders. Due to many limitations and the fact that we are not a shelter we will not accept surrender of previously owned pets but will try to assist you in any way we can.

If I adopt a dog or cat (kitten or puppy), can I bring it back to Canada or the US?

YES! International adoptions are simple & relatively inexpensive. The most important is step to take is to check with your Airline in advance. Cats & kittens and many times puppies are easily transported in the airline cabin in a small crate or Sherpa Bag. Larger dogs must go as cargo as they are not allowed over a certain size and weight in cabin. Each airline has it’s own regulations, but for the most part they can accommodate.

Where is your facility and when can I visit?

If you are interested in adopting a kitten, you do need to make an appointment via our contact form.

How is your rescue funded?

We are entirely funded by private donations, fundraising events, and adoption fees (which are on a sliding scale). We are also working hard to obtain Animal Foundation Grants and support from Pet Food & Supply Companies as well.

What is a feral cat?

Feral is just another word for wild. It means that the cats have not been socialized to humans and that they are afraid of people. It does not mean that the cats are aggressive or dangerous. Feral cats run from people. They do not attack unless they are cornered and feel that they have no other alternative but to fight for their lives. Feral cats are the ‘wild’ offspring of domestic cats and are primarily the result of pet owners’ abandonment or failure to spay and neuter their animals, allowing them to breed uncontrolled. A pair of breeding cats, which can have two or more litters per year, can exponentially produce 420,000 offspring over a seven-year period, and the overpopulation problem carries a hefty price tag. This overpopulation results in many “throwaways” dying mercilessly outdoors from starvation, disease, and abuse — or as food to a predator. Our focus is not on the temperament of the homeless cats living on our streets; this is not the real issue. It is true that most cats in colonies (families of cats) living on our streets are certainly not tame enough to be adopted as household pets. However, whatever the temperament of those cats, the critical fact is that most of those cats have not been sterilized unless trap-neuter-return has been practiced there. As a result it is those cats that are overwhelming responsible, whether tame or feral, for the flood of homeless cats and kittens in Playa del Carmen.

What is TNR?

TNVR are the initials for Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate -Return. Trap: Cats are humanely trapped using food as bait. Vaccinate: Rabies vacines are administered whenever possible through government programs and donations of the vaccine. Neuter: The cats are taken to a veterinarian where they are spayed or neutered. Their left ear is tipped so people will recognize that the cat has been sterilized. Return: Unfortunately, adult feral cats are extremely difficult to tame and are not adoptable, so they are returned to their original environment where caregivers agree to provide them with food and water. Studies have proven that trap-neuter-return is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to local governments and residents, while providing the best life for the animals themselves. Studies have also shown that spaying/neutering 75% of the population will indeed promote Zero Population Growth. Spaying/neutering homeless cats:

  • Stabilizes the population at manageable levels
  • Eliminates annoying behaviors associated with mating
  • Is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the neighborhoods
  • Is more effective and less costly than repeated attempts at extermination — costs for repeatedly trapping and killing feral colonies are far higher than promoting stable, non-breeding colonies in the same location. Vacated areas are soon filled by other cats that start the breeding process over again. This called the vacuum effect. A sterilized Cat Colony will prevent more cats arriving in their area, thus controlling the population area by area.

Return: of Dogs in TNVR protocols are being developed with the assistance of government and other international organization support. More information coming soon.

I have been feeding dogs/cats for awhile and they are reproducing. I can't feed them all. What should I do?

As soon as possible, you must trap the cats using humane box traps and have them spayed or neutered. Trapping feral dogs/cats sounds complicated; in reality, it is a simple and rewarding process, and it doesn’t hurt the animals. When the dogs/cats have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated, return them to the place where they were trapped. In many cases, Dogs with good dispositions and puppies of all ages, as well as, kittens up to eight or ten weeks old can often be tamed, sterilized, and adopted out. We all have a responsibility in these cases to pull together as a community to help  in cases to provide ongoing food, shelter, and care to keep the feral dogs/cats healthy and safe. Many volunteers already regularly assist in this area but we are always looking for more volunteers for this purpose.

My neighbors (or the landlords) are complaining about the cats and dogs. What can I do?

Ask what their specific complaints are and try to resolve them. The most common complaints regarding stray/feral dogs/cats are that they are spraying, yowling, fighting, sick and/or injured, having more puppies /kittens or roaming the neighborhood. Many of these are mating behaviors that subside substantially when TNVR and colony management are implemented. In particular, if cats are soiling the neighbors’ gardens, place (regularly cleaned) sand or litter boxes at the colony site away from homes when possible. Consider building fences that will keep dog/cats in (or out of) a specific areas. Putting coffee or citrus like orange peel in pots or gardens can also decrease cats soiling in gardens and planters. If neighbors voice health concerns, make sure that the dogs/cats are up to date with their vaccinations and share their medical records with your neighbors.

Do cats carry rabies?

No, cats pose a very low risk for contracting rabies and spreading rabies, as they are not natural carriers for the disease. Once infected with rabies, cats only live 10-14 days before they die from the disease. Feral cats by nature will avoid human contact.

What is the difference between spaying and neutering?

Spaying is the surgical removal of the female reproductive tract, including the ovaries and the uterus (womb). Neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles in male cats, rendering them sterile. Neutering is often used to refer to either males or female surgeries. Synonymous with sterilization or altering.

I don't want anything to happen to the dogs/cats, but they can't stay here. Where can they go?

Why must the cats be moved? Where will the cats go? With very few exceptions, feral cats should remain at the original colony site. Cats create strong bonds with their territory and with one another. If you relocate them, they may become disoriented and separated from one another. If you relocate the existing colony, new cats are likely to move into the area and form a new colony. There are very few places to relocate feral cats. Shelters will virtually never accept them, they cannot be socialized. If you truly are concerned for the welfare of the cats, it’s best to leave them where they are and care for them. Protocols are being developed to address feral dog populations with the help of government and international organizations in collaboration with Coco’s Animal Welfare. More details to come.

I discovered a group of free-roaming cats. What should I do?

Implement a TNR plan as soon as possible so the colony can become “managed.” A managed colony is one in which all of the cats have been sterilized, vaccinated, provided food and provided with shelter from inclement weather. The colony cats are healthier and no longer breeding. The Caretaker regularly monitors the colony and individual cats. Feral cats are dependent on a Caretaker(s) to enact this plan and provide long-term support. Besides the obvious advantage of population control, the cats are better able to care for themselves since they no longer have to put all their energy into producing and caring for off-spring. A properly managed colony is a healthy and stable colony in which no kittens are born. Over time the colony will diminish through natural attrition.

I can't touch the cats, so how can I get them to the vet for spaying/neutering?

Do not try to touch them! And never attempt to catch a cat by throwing a towel or blanket over just the cat. Never use tranquilizers on outdoor cats. The risk of injury (to you and to the cat) is too great. Many feral cats die when public health officials insist that unvaccinated cats be killed and tested for rabies after an “unprovoked” bite. As soon as possible, trap the cats using humane box traps and have them spayed/neutered. Don’t wait, thinking that the cats will get used to human presence and become tame enough to catch. They won’t, and while you wait, several litters of kittens will be born.

I've been told that cats should be inside only, so isn't it cruel to leave them outside?

The safest place for your tame companion cats may be indoors, but the best and usually the only environment suitable for feral (wild) cats is outside. Feral cats that have undergone TNR and live in managed colonies can live healthy, content, and long lives-often as long as indoor cats. Finding homes for feral cats is not a realistic option. Humane societies, animal shelters, and other animal organizations rarely accept them for adoption because they cannot be touched or held by people and are, thus, “unadoptable.”

Why are feral cats ear-tipped?

Eartipping identifies feral cats that have been sterilized. Eartipping is completely safe and it is painless because the cat is under general anesthetic when the procedure is performed. Eartipping provides immediate visual identification which alerts animal control that a cat is part of a managed colony. It also helps colony caretakers track which cats have been trapped and vetted, and identify newcomers who have not.

I've been trying to trap a particular cat, but the refuses to go into the trap. What should I do?

If after repeated attempts a cat will not go into a trap, take a break for a week or two (except in the case of an injured cat). A short break can reduce a cat’s fear of the trap. During this time, feed that cat and others in unset traps for several days. Place the food first by the entrance of the trap, then inside, then over a period of days gradually move it closer to the back. Feed in the same place and time as always. The cat will see other cats eating inside the traps and will likely try it too. When you are ready to trap again, withhold food for 24 hours up to three days (for a very “trap savvy” cat). Never withhold water.

Can I use kittens to catch the mother?

Yes, but DO NOT put kittens in the trap set for the mother! If the mother becomes frightened in the trap, she could seriously injure the kittens. Instead, put the kittens in a closed trap or a small cat carrier. Set the trap exactly where you found the kittens. Place another trap directly in front of the carrier, like a train. Cover both traps with a sheet EXCEPT for the trap door of the empty trap. The mother will hear and/or smell her kittens and, looking through the door of the set trap, see her kittens at the end of the “tunnel” in the other trap. Thinking she can get to her kittens this way, she may enter and spring the set trap.

There is a pregnant feral cat outside, what should I do?

You have three options to choose from:

  • Trap the queen and bring her indoors to have the kittens. The kittens are more likely to survive if born indoors although the mother may experience overwhelming stress from being confined and become less able to care for her kittens. To reduce her stress, provide a warm, secluded, quiet area for her to give birth and nurse her litter.
  • Provide a warm, outdoor cat shelter and the queen may choose to have her kittens in it. There is no guarantee.
  • Trap the queen and have your vet determine how far along she is and whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. The mother cat would be spayed at the same time. Some vets will not perform abortions if the mother is close to giving birth, so you should consult your vet, and consider your own feelings, about this possibility ahead of time.
A female cat had kittens outside. What should I do?

You should trap and sterilize the whole family. How you proceed depends on the age of the kittens.

  • Don’t trap a mother who is nursing her kittens unless you catch the kittens too. Tiny kittens cannot survive away from their mothers for long.
  • If the kittens are newly weaned (usually four to six weeks), ask if your veterinarian can perform surgery and return the mother within 48 hours. Even though eating solid food, very young kittens are unlikely to survive without their mother for body heat and protection. (If your vet cannot meet this time frame, wait until the kittens are older to trap the queen.)
  • Try to trap the kittens no later than eight to ten weeks of age. The sooner they have human contact, the easier it will be to socialize them.
  • At twelve weeks and older, kittens can be sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the location where they were living outside. Socializing feral kittens after 12 weeks of age becomes much more difficult and less likely to succeed.
I just found a newborn kitten and the mother is nowhere to be seen. What should I do?

Do not be too hasty to move a kitten. The mother may be in the process of moving her litter to a safer area. Watch closely for several hours, but no more than a day, to see if the mother returns. If not, and the mother has abandoned one or more very young (neonatal) kittens, their only chance to survive is bottle-feeding. This is an intensive process not unlike caring for newborn human babies. There’s a lot to learn, but once you know it, the process will become second nature. It is important you call your local vet or Coco’s Cat Rescue for assistance.

Where do feral cats live?

Like almost all living creatures, feral cats need warm, dry shelter to protect them from extreme temperatures and wet weather. Cats provided with no alternatives will live under decks, abandoned structures or vehicles or less accessible portions of buildings like the attic or crawlspace. You can build a shelter from plans or use a strong box or crate insulated with waterproof material thick enough to keep out wind and cold. A large shelter can provide a haven for more than one cat.

I am moving and I can't take the feral cats that I am managing with me. How do I find someone to take over their care?

(This question deals only with feral cats, not with domestic cats.) It will be easier to convince someone to assume care of a feral cat colony if the all of the cats have been spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and ear tipped. Complete this process if you have not already done so. Start making inquiries as soon as possible; this could take some time and you want to have arrangements in place well before your move. If you don’t already know your neighbors, introduce yourself and explain the situation. You may discover that others in the area are also concerned about the colony you care for.

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