Some of the animal stories they tell are stuff nightmares are made of, but thanks to their loving care, they are able to turn it around and make the stories end with a smile. For a year or so, the small group of mostly women from Imperial Beach, has formed a rescue called Whiskers Without Borders. They been able to give homes to cats and dogs in desperate situations and almost 450 cats have been adopted so far, thanks to their hard work.
Some of the cats and dogs have been found in Tijuana in dire conditions. Kittens placed in a water jug left to die, another kitten was in the cat shelter with a ruptured eye. Despite the horror stories of animals with broken jaws, stab wounds, knocked out teeth and kittens in trash bags, this group stays positive and continues its work.
From the start Whiskers Without Borders wanted to do something different than other organizations by taking in sick animals, rehabilitating them and when ready, put them up for adoption.
Mishka Romanski, who founded Whiskers Without Borders with friend Tiffany Moore, said they wanted the freedom to do something different than what other rescuers do. “Most rescues are limited to their area .…and don’t take animals from Tijuana or with medical needs or [those] severely sick…here they euthanize them,” said Romanski.
The duo has recruited a few other people to be part of their effort including Moore’s husband Matt, friends Kayla Schoen and Bobbie Ames. There are also families who work behind the scenes who are willing to foster animals until they are ready to be adopted. Romanski and Moore often take in bottle kittens who have to be fed every few hours.
Whiskers Without Borders became an official 501(c)(3) this past January. Even when COVID-19 hit, the group continued its work, unlike other rescue locations; they took animals in and adopted them out. Whiskers Without Borders works with vets in Point Loma and Tijuana for much of the needed medical work and surgeries that are performed at discounted prices.
Matt Moore is the president of the organization and often helps transport animals and does a lot of behind the scene work. He and the women joke and say that he does the male socialization for the animals.
What’s different about this group is their level of involvement. “We’re hands on, we are involved. We bring them into our own homes. If they are sick and injured we get them healthy,” said Romanski.
Even the pandemic didn’t stop Whiskers Without Borders from its work. “A lot of shelters were closed during COVID-19 and they would refer people to us. We’re foster based,” said Moore. “COVID-19 didn’t slow us down. We got busier…with people having more time we didn’t stop helping animals… Pets bring light and company.”
Both Moore and Romanski have a long standing love for animals. Moore has worked in animal rescue for 25 years with large animals, primates, and marine mammals. For the last 12 years she has worked with cats.
Romanski grew up surrounded by animals. She was born and grew up in Ensenada. Her mom was a vet tech and groomer and often she took in foster cats. “It’s been a passion of mine…I’ve seen cruelty and abuse in Mexico…they don’t have the money and resources we have here. It’s important to work with those animals,” she said.
In addition to the rescue effort, Whiskers Without Borders has a TNR program that traps, neuters (and spay) and releases cats so that the number of stray kittens around town is reduced. Moore explained that fixing the cats has a positive effect on their lives. “Feral cats have more babies and many of them die,” she said. The gestation period is 63 days and a cat can have up to 6 litters in a season opening the moms up for disease.
The group’s complete dedication is to reach as many animals as possible, include helping pet owners who want to keep an animal but can’t afford to pay for needed items.
Sometimes the animals Moore fosters end up becoming her pets. Her dog is such a case. She fostered him for a few month and then got so attached she decided to keep him.
Moore has created a space for the animals she takes in while waiting to be adopted - a screened patio with toys and cat condos, and nooks and crannies where the kittens and dogs get to run around and play. Sometimes they get kittens that are just a few days old and the women use fuzzy blankets and old fur coats to keep them warm and cozy.
Whiskers Without Borders has partnered with IB Pet and Wag’N Tails in Coronado to raise funds. IB Pet has held adoption events for Whiskers Without Borders. Both stores have donated food and supplies. The organization has a program where recyclables are turned in for cash, and so far $1,200 has been raised. Currently the group is working on organizing an IB Mayoral Dog event.
Whiskers Without Borders is often a go-between for different rescue organizations. For example the group communicated to The Cat Lounge, a rescue and adoption center in La Jolla, that a number of adult cats were available at the Tijuana shelter. “Rescues work with each other and [in this case] we were the go-between and did the transport [of the cats from Mexico],” said Moore.
All the members have roles in the organization. Romanski takes care of the business end, Moore the medical work and Schoen is the adoption coordinator. “If you are a friend of ours you’re in for it. It’s like the mob, friends help us out, there is no escaping,” said Moore.
There have been situations where Whiskers Without Borders members receive a phone call from a shelter and they are told they have 30 minutes pick up kittens, (under 8 weeks old and had to be bottle fed) that are going to be euthanized. The group makes itself available for those types of calls and one of them rushes over to pick up the kittens. That’s why they always carry food, blankets and other important items in their trunks.
Whiskers Without Borders also works with out of state organizations. For example a cat found at the salt mine with a litter was fixed, stayed with Ames for a few months, and then flown on Alaska Airlines to a Cat Café in Seattle.
Recently the group has been getting a lot of Siamese cats from Tijuana which currently Moore is fostering at her home.
Romanski knows the emotional help animals can provide humans. “When my mom passed away last year the animals saved me. I save them as much as they save me,” she said.
“We’re about the animals, we want to help as many animals as we can. Our ego doesn’t get involved. It’s the animals and nothing else…it’s not about board meetings,” explained Moore.
The word of Whiskers Without Borders has spread quickly and people from as far as Riverside and Hemet have adopted dogs and cats from the organization. Recently someone who lives one hour away inquired about adoptions. Whiskers Without Borders is working on creating a website but it has been doing well with adoptions by just posting photos on the organization’s Facebook page.
“We don’t adopt out sick animals, they stay with us until they are well,” explained Moore. The group makes the animals available after the vaccines are completed, the kittens are fixed and are of the right age to be adopted. In any case, they keep the animals for a five day medical hold to make sure there is no medical issue.
Fees for adoptions are standard in the business and cover medical costs. “We’re all volunteers, we spend our own money and take on medical cases. We have no salaries, every single penny goes to the animals, cat litter, toys, food, flea treatments, de-worming pills,” explained Moore.
When does the group take a break? There is small window at the end of the year when it’s cold and it’s not kitten season.
For more information on adoptions, becoming a foster family, donations and more check out Whiskers Without Borders Facebook page.