Cat cafes are the new animal shelters.
As Anne Levin watched potential-adopters peruse through rows of caged cats, she knew there had to be a better way to showcase the animals’ unique personalities.
As the President of the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition (BBAWC), Levin wanted to see two changes: cats getting off the streets and more community outreach. She set up a pop-up cat cafe in Fort Greene, New York, where they had 66 adoptions in five weeks. Normally they would only get one phone call inquiry a week about adoption — if they were lucky.
Levin took a leap of faith and moved forward with a permanent cafe, opening their doors at 149 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.
“In terms of cat-cafes, these organizations are a much better adoption-option,” Levin said. “I think the cats are generally happier here than in a traditional shelter.”
Cat cafes are a fairly-new concept in the U.S., with the first cafe, Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, in late 2014. Cat cafes originated in Taiwan, giving customers both the comfort of a hot beverage and a warm cuddle buddy.
As a non-profit, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe sustains itself through their $5 per half hour entrance fee, as well as events and classes they offer regularly. Medical expenses for the cats are covered through donations and grants.
“I think that this model is a really good opportunity to provide education in a non-lecturing, non-offensive manner,” Levin said.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is completely volunteer-run, with over 100 volunteers trained to cover different shifts. At any given time, two to three volunteers are keeping an eye on the cats, chatting with customers about adoption or foster opportunities, and cleaning up around the cafe. There are currently no paid employees, including Levin.
Antonella Parodi is one of those volunteers Levin greatly relies on. Already spending a few hours at the cafe each week, Parodi thought she might as well pitch in, and became a volunteer to spend more time with the cats.
“People come when they’re having a bad day,” Parodi said. “They just need a reprieve. Pets in general can be very therapeutic.”
Therapeutic value is also the reason Levin wanted the Brooklyn Cat Cafe to open their doors to other non-profits, notably, those working with victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Although the cafe has hosted a number of private events for organizations that have reached out to them, they have yet to find time to go out and actively pursue partnerships, Levin said.
“I really do want to do more outreach in the community as we get more stabilized here…accessing more people who can use the cats as a positive experience,” Levin said.
After a long week, that’s exactly what customers Emily Alvarado and Hali Pohlmann were looking for, traveling an hour from their Long Island home to reach the Brooklyn Cat Cafe after seeing it on Facebook.
“I really wish I could just take one home and adopt one,” Alvarado said. “But this is the next best thing. We will definitely come back.”
Levin said that the cafe averages around 500 visitors a week. When the cafe closes at night, the cats are free to roam.
“We joke that they have techno parties or something [when we close for the night],” Levin said.
Because of health codes, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe serves only pre-packaged drinks and snacks, but they do allow you to bring in your own. General admission is Mondays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
For more information visit their website http://catcafebk.com.
Photo by Sarah J. Poe