It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon and Emily Aftandilian is spending the day the same way she has spent nearly every weekend for the past two-and-a-half years. She and the rest of the volunteers from Mimi’s Rescue are at the PetSmart on Tamiami Trail, trying to find homes for foster kittens.
Today, the group is buzzing with excitement over the latest adoption. A local woman who recently took in two kittens, Gizmo and Gwenny, has come back for their sister, a tortoiseshell mix named Gucci.
Aftandilian immediately breaks into a huge grin when she hears the news.
“The cats are happiest when they’re together,” she says. “They’re a family, just like us.”
Aftandilian is an avid animal-lover who has been taking care of animals her entire life, but it wasn’t until she founded Mimi’s Rescue in 2010 that her passion for saving animals became a full-time job.
“I’ve always had a weakness for anything with four legs and a fur coat,” says Aftandilian, who named the rescue after her childhood nickname, “Mimi.”
The organization currently cares for more than 40 kittens and cats, which are fostered in the homes of six volunteers.
The kittens are often malnourished, injured or abused when they come to Mimi’s Rescue and need to be nursed back to health before they can be put up for adoption.
Last year, Aftandilian rescued a domestic short-hair named Beatrice who was so hypothermic that the veterinarian couldn’t get a body temperature reading from her. Last June, 13 kittens were dumped at the end of Gocio Road.
Aftandilian says that good homes and volunteers are needed now more than ever, because, as a result of the economy, more people are abandoning their cats.
A few weeks ago, a man called Mimi’s Rescue and said that he couldn’t afford to buy food for his five kittens anymore. Mimi’s Rescue is currently at capacity, with some volunteers caring for up to 16 kittens, but Aftandilian couldn’t turn them away.
“I never say no to kittens,” says Aftandilian with a sigh. “I just can’t.”
Samantha Fox, a sophomore at Riverview High School, has fostered nearly 200 cats since she and her mother, Sandy, became volunteers for Mimi’s Rescue two years ago.
The Foxes are currently caring for 16 kittens, including four semi-feral cats, which were found in December.
“When I first got them, you had to towel them just to hold them because they would try to bite or scratch you,” says Fox. “Now, you can flip them over and rub their belly and they just purr.”
For more information, go to mimisrescue.org.
Contact Maria Amodio at [email protected]