There is one kind of tourism you will never see advertised but you can expect fully booked tours every time you visit Puerto Vallarta. The Purr Project Ranch for cats is the “cat’s meow” when it comes to lending a helping hand for hundreds of homeless cats and apparently us cat-crazed tourists can’t wait to get some hands-on time to share cuddles with the furry felines.
Volunteer tourism is becoming increasingly popular and for me it’s a heart-warming way to engage with communities whenever I travel. On this sold-out tour, I met people from all over the world who wanted to connect with the local cat population and support this grassroots non-profit, no-kill feline shelter.
Once inside the gates of the Purr Project Ranch I was stunned by the site of hundreds of cats of all sizes, colors and breeds. Senior cats have their own special enclosure and tiny kittens live in a special nursery zone. This is all funded by donations. All the friendly felines want is some attention and a snack. At one point there were so many cats all I could see was a sea of cattails curling around my feet. One lady had several cats sitting on her lap and all involved looked extremely pleased.
I read the tour information on a local community bulletin board in Puerto Vallarta. The organization run by volunteers offers a safe place for the local homeless cats and helps them find a forever home. The Purr Project Ranch is so much better than the over-crowded cat cafes I have visited in other countries. Here cats have the freedom to wander the grounds and choose their favourite human to interact with and perhaps be adopted.
It is not a depressing experience but a very uplifting and hopeful way to help the cat population benefit from socializing with the flocks of feline-enthusiasts visiting Puerto Vallarta every year.
Our tour guide says they are totally filled to capacity at the shelter with more cats arriving every month. Several families live on the ranch full time to caretake all the special cats needs and maintain the buildings. It takes so many hands to keep things rolling.
Volunteering while travelling is a great way of giving back to the countries I have the privilege of visiting. Mexico has one of the most highest rates of pet ownership of anywhere in the world. With all the animals, more help is needed. I know that a visit to the Purr Project has been one of the highlights of my time here and the good memories of helping all my furry friends will stay with me long after I return home to Canada.
Check out www.purrproject.com to get involved.
By Michelle Beauregard