When Cassie Carganilla and her husband decided to foster their first litter of kittens, they had no idea how sick the cats actually were. The kittens’ intake pictures from the shelter were gorgeous, showing off a mother cat named Princess and her six adorable kittens. But when the feline family arrived at Cassie’s Simi Valley, CA, home 12 days later, the transporter was surprised they survived the journey. “Oh good, they’re still alive,” the transporter said.
Cassie was shocked to discover the kittens’ noses and eyes sealed shut due to infection. Their mother was also ill and had stopped nursing, and the kittens were so skinny that their ribs stuck out. Luckily Cassie had medications on hand. She started syringe-feeding them five times a day, and they all got stronger ÔÇô- all of them, that is, except for Luigi. Despite multiple vet visits and stronger meds, Luigi just never improved.
“He fought so hard, and I promised him I would always take care of his family and help as many in his honor that I could,” Cassie says. “And Luigi’s Rescue was born.”
With her best friend and vice president Holly Sorensen by her side, Cassie turned Luigi’s Rescue into an official nonprofit organization in 2011. Since Cassie started rescuing cats in 2010, she and her other volunteer fosters have saved more than 300 cats, with almost all of their intakes finding their forever homes. They rescue most of their cats from nearby Downey Animal Shelter, but they also take strays and owner surrenders if they have enough space. Last year, they took in a number of kittens off the streets.
Having always lived with cats, Cassie loves helping animals get out of bad situations and into the lives they deserve. She’s also grateful that her two young daughters will grow up knowing the importance of animal rescue.
“My daughters get to grow up with so many animals and learn how important this is,” Cassie says. “I am also very blessed to have a husband who tolerates me and the cats.”
Because Luigi’s Rescue focuses primarily on kittens, spring ÔÇô- also known in the rescue world as “kitten season” -ÔÇô is a busy time of year. They rescue as many cats as funding, time, and space will allow, and this year, they are already at capacity. Sometimes they make exceptions, though, like that time Cassie’s husband’s cousin noticed the stray cat they’d befriended slowly getting larger.
“They were getting ready to leave for a few months and didn’t want this sweet girl to have her babies outside,” Cassie says. “Luckily we had the room.”
About two weeks later, the cat, named Princess Fiona, gave birth to five healthy kittens. Cassie got them all vetted and healthy, and they were all adopted. Meanwhile, her husband’s cousin decided to adopt Princess Fiona.
“It all worked out so perfectly!” Cassie says.
In order to ensure more adoptions have happy endings, Cassie is always upfront with potential adopters about her cats’ preexisting medical conditions, and she’s always available to give advice and answer questions.
“We always like to educate people,” she says.
In order to adopt from Luigi’s Rescue, individuals must be preapproved before they can meet the cats. Cassie meets potential adopters solely via networking sites like Facebook and Adopt A Pet. Luigi’s Rescue does not hold adoption events. This method has been effective, as the organization has a very low rate of adoption returns.
“We don’t do showings,” Cassie says. “People must complete an application and once approved they come over to our house and meet the kittens or cats they are interested in. We do this for many reasons: It stresses the cats out, they don’t show well, and people can come and see how they really interact.”
Another topic Cassie is passionate about: spaying and neutering. She feels many of the problems faced by rescuers would not exist if people would spay and neuter their cats and dogs. In addition to creating happier, healthier pets, it also cuts down on the chances of animals developing certain cancers, not to mention overpopulation.
Because overpopulation is a concern all over the world, the work of rescuers like Cassie is constant — and she says that is the hardest part. Still, it’s all worth it at the end of the day.
“The most rewarding thing is knowing we are doing a great thing and saving lives,” Cassie says.
Visit Luigi’s Rescue’s website to learn more.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.