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Santuario Felino Rey Ashoka, Animal and Human Consciousness

By Karla Ortiz

The cats and dogs that live on San Miguel de Allende’s streets were generally abandoned, lost, or born there, and are living in places without shelter and food. Day by day, these animals look for a way to get ahead, yet all the time are scared, shy, or simply seeking to defend themselves against mistreatment.

Lola Cortina, founder of the Santuario Felino Rey Ashoka cat sanctuary, arrived in San Miguel in 2000. In that same year, she had her first contact with a kitten. Her neighbor’s kitten liked to visit Cortina in her apartment. On rainy days, the kitten would even knock on her window with his paw to open it.

When Cortina moved to the colonia Independencia, she started the first shelter for homeless kittens in San Miguel. She first worked as a volunteer at the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) but then left and continued with her own shelter, which she named Santuario Felino (Cat Sanctuary) with the idea that it would be a place where cats are not mistreated, where they can play with people, and where they can socialize with other animals. She eventually rented a place on Calzada de la Estación to put the kittens she had in her home, but with time, the demand grew and she eventually had 100 kittens between both locations.

The animals in both locations are given away free, although the Sanctuary has an adoption fee that covers the cost of animal’s required vaccinations, sterilization, and deworming.

Like most animal shelters, the intention of the Santuario is to rescue kittens, take them to the vet, vaccinate and sterilize them, and find homes for them. But the organization also has another mission: capturing cats off the street, sterilizing them, and then returning them to the street, a practice known as trap-neuter-return. In this process, the organization finds a colony of cats, takes them to the vet for sterilization, and then returns them to what the cats consider their home. Once neutered, the organization closes the colony so that no other cat can join it.

Another of Santuario Felino’s programs consists of educating children about the importance of animals in society. The organization goes to preschools with cats, dogs, turtles, and birds so that children can learn how to carry an animal and respect it. The Santuario also has a weekly slot on XESQ Radio on Wednesday mornings from 8:00 to 8:30am, where Cortina talks about things like animal awareness and identifying your pet’s symptoms to know when to take him to the vet. She also encourages the community to report any signs of animal abuse or cruelty.

Each month, the organization also comes to Petco in the Plaza la Luciérnaga to offer some of their kittens for adoption, as well as puppies they have rescued. A person who adopts one of their puppies or kittens receives a small amount of dry food, a can of wet food and Petco discounts. The organization’s next visit to Petco will be July 15.

Future goals

Santuario Felino used to have a food bank, but it is in need of support. The store contacts Lola to pick up the food. All the food collected is used to feed either kittens living on the street or to assist needy adopters who do not have the they money to buy pet food. The Sanctuary feeds approximately 150 kittens a day, so the pet food bank’s revival is critical.

The organization also plans to change their name to focus more on awareness and educating the public about the sense of well-being that animals generate in humans. However it will continue with the shelters, adoptions, and rescue aspects of its mission. They plan to keep doing initiatives such as taking kittens to nursing homes and bringing them to people with autism and depression. “We’re going to have a lot more work, but we’re going to do more,” said Cortina. “Kittens help people with emotional imbalance and depressed people. In many countries, they do occupational therapy with them.”

How to help?

You can find them at each flea market in town, where they promote adoptions and animal welfare and sell things that people donate to raise funds. They also hold raffles. The next one will occur on July 25th. It consists of buying numbers that cost 10 pesos, people usually buy per sheet, each one has 25 numbers and costs 250 pesos. These can be purchased at the flea stand, at the Café de la Ventana in Sollano 11, at Dusty Puppies pet supply store on Guadiana 17A, or at the Bazaar Xinolli on calle Juan de Dios Peza. They also accept donations by PayPal to, or you can leave envelopes with cash in any of the three places mentioned.


Santuario Felino currently has three staff members, five volunteers, and a few other volunteers who are helping with the adoption events at Petco. They need more volunteers to help them socialize with the kittens, an important task to make the kittens ready for adoption. People interested in supporting the organization can contact Cortina by email at


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