Summer 2012 Magazine

Cover Story

Felines and Friends New Mexico

By Bobbi Valentine Heller

Felines & Friends New Mexico recently celebrated 10 years of service in Northern New Mexico. Felines & Friends New Mexico started with a handful of volunteers setting up mobile adoptions at Petco in Santa Fe, as well as other locations around town. Over time, we set up small adoption area at Petco where cats lived a week at a time before returning to their foster homes. We now have a spacious Adoption Center at Petco that affords us a safe area for cats to be exercised daily and for potential adopters to spend time getting to know them. Last year we had a new logo designed that embodies the spirit of New Mexico.

The focus of Felines & Friends New Mexico has changed since our formation. At the beginning we accepted cats - both strays and surrenders - from the public. However, we soon learned the stray cats had a better chance of being reunited with their owners if they were taken to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. In addition, there was a need for us to accept cats who might not find homes through the Santa Fe or Espaņola shelters. Now we generally advise owners with young, healthy, well-adjusted cats to take them to the Santa Fe shelter for placement. This allows us to help special needs cats who probably would not be adopted at the shelter.

Since our mission has become focused on second chance cats, our volunteer base has grown to over 60, many of whom are foster homes.

One of the joys of fostering special needs cats is experiencing their remarkable resilience. Jonathan came to us a number of years ago as a young cat with no eyes. An eye infection had apparently gone untreated and destroyed his eyes as well as his optic nerves so he didn't even see light and shadow. We had the cavities cleaned out, packed and sewn up at Sangre de Cristo Animal Hospital. My husband and I fostered him at our home during his recovery period and were amazed that he "mapped" every room in the house by running his whiskers along the walls and furniture. He even learned where the places with one or two steps up and down were located and could navigate them well. He ultimately found a loving home with a family who had a visually impaired dog and a couple of other cats. He quickly became the leader of playtime and always found where the toys were!

Rocky was a black and white polydactyl with FIV. After losing several adoptive homes due to personal circumstances, he became a permanent member of our family. He lived with us until he was diagnosed with cancer. He was stoic throughout the treatments and became cancer-free. However, he had very little immune system due to his FIV and the chemo destroyed what was left. Soon it was time for him to go to the Rainbow Bridge.

We have also had several cats who needed to have a leg amputated. These "tripods" bounce back amazingly fast and go on to lead long, healthy lives.

Felines & Friends New Mexico plans to continue our mission of focusing on second chance cats. If funding were no object, we would like to have a manned Adoption Center on the north side of Santa Fe. This would be a place where cats who prefer a quieter environment could live until adopted.

In the meantime, we are proud to have placed over 3,000 cats (and a dozen or so dogs) over the past 10 years and hope to continue this success along with reducing unwanted litters through trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs in the feral colonies of Santa Fe.

As an all-volunteer organization, Felines & Friends New Mexico would not be what we are today without the volunteers. There are many volunteer opportunities available ranging from being a daily caretaker at Petco, to an adoption advisor, to a grant researcher/writer, to transport, or to fostering cats either for the long or short term.

Felines & Friends New Mexico is the only organization of its type serving the cats of Northern New Mexico. Many of the kittens we place started life in a feral colony. We provide traps and instruction to members of the community who want to be part of the solution by doing TNR in their neighborhoods. We still have a long way to go to reach zero unwanted litters.

If you would like to help Felines and Friends New Mexico, they can use volunteers. For more information, please call (505) 316-2281 or visit

Bobbi Valentine Heller is the Executive Director of Felines & Friends New Mexico a Second Chance Rescue and Placement organization. For further information go to:

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