After finding two orange tabby kittens a few weeks ago, one man knew that his cat family would get a little bigger.
He brought them home, naming them Popy and Popina.
But this wasn’t the first time the man rescued felines despite harrowing circumstances.
Javier Reinoso lives in Venezuela, a country that has been undergoing a worsening political and humanitarian crisis for the past several years.
The economic instability was so severe, that many Venezuelans have had to flee their homes to find food and water to survive.
While in the midst of a crisis, Reinoso continues to rescue cats and kittens.
“Amid this nightmare, our cats are the only thing saving us,” Reinoso shared with The Dodo.
Reinoso, along with his parents, run the Reinoso Cat Sanctuary, helping cats for years by feeding colonies of feral street cats as well as bringing sardines for the cats in shelters in Caracas.
In 1998, Reinoso’s father lost his job — and the family decided to help take care of their neighborhood cats.
“We had to move to a house a good friend of mine borrowed to us in a poor neighborhood, but with a big backyard, [and] we finally had a place were we could have cats with us,” Reinoso said.
The family was then feeding two colonies of strays in different parts of Valencia, in the Carabobo region.
They then realized that one cat they were used to seeing had disappeared.
After a few days went by, he came back — but this time, with a missing leg.
“We couldn’t leave him there like that,” Reinoso said. But they could not leave the others behind. “We loaded them all in the car and took them home. Sadly we couldn’t save the male’s life.”
But there was a glimmer of hope: “One of the females was pregnant,” Reinoso said.
And around this same time, the family was feeding the other colony which lived in a parking lot.
“Another female, VERY pregnant, decided to invite herself home to give birth safely — and jumped into the car.”
Reinoso’s family then ended up with 11 rescue cats as well as kittens — and so the sanctuary was born.
But as there is much instability in Venezuela, the family had to relocate again in 2008. At the time they had 14 rescue cats, which they brought along with them for the ride.
“We had to move to an old house in a small town in another state, El Tocuyo, Lara,” Reinoso said. “This house was property of my grandparents, and though it was hardly inhabitable for humans after restoring basic services and cleaning, it had a big and nice backyard too where our 14 cats seemed to be very happy.”
Over the next decade, the family did not stop helping the cats — currently caring for over 60 rescues.
The sanctuary only functions on the basis of both donated time and resources.
“We do this 24/7, every day of the year with no break,” shared Reinoso, who will occasionally work as a translator which helps sustain the family. “My dad, 71, has asthma and my mom, 69, has hip arthritis, both untreated, but they give their all every day for these cats.”
Reinoso also takes to Twitter to ask the world for advice as well as help. Animal Shelter Crisis Aid (ASCA), a small U.S. based non-profit, has helped Reinoso by arranging for resources to get him in Venezuela to help keep his family’s sanctuary afloat.
And while every day in Venezuela is uncertain, Reinoso’s cat rescue helps him remember the silver lining in life.
“Our cats are the only reason we have to keep going day after day. And there’s not a single day they don’t warm our hearts and make us smile despite all the hardships and indignities around us.”
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