See How this Cat Café Sustains the Perfect Feline Community

 Eat Purr Love Café offers creative ways for humans and cats to interact with each other.

Posted in , Aug 25, 2020

A headshot portrait of a black and white cat. Photo credit: Maddie McGarvey

The idea may have started in Taiwan, but there are now about 100 cat cafés in the U.S., including Ohio’s first, Eat Purr Love. The Columbus café offers creative ways for humans and cats to interact and hopefully pair up forever. We talked to Brittany Williams, director of marketing for Columbus Humane, the nonprofit that owns the café, and Maghen Powell, the café’s assistant manager, about what makes their space purr-fect for feline friendship.

For the uninitiated what is a cat café?

Brittany: It’s partially a normal café that has coffee and baked goods, tables, and chairs, but there’s a separate living room environment with adoptable cats and enrichment activities where the cats can play. It’s such a beneficial place to help shelter cats get adopted, because they feel comfortable and can let their personalities shine through. That’s why we’ve had so many successful adoptions—more than 550 since the café opened.

How did Eat Purr Love get started?

Brittany: In September 2016, Chrissy Kuras, a veterinary assistant and ongoing animal foster, used the Kickstarter platform for funding while partnering with Columbus Humane to help adoptable cats. We had such a good relationship that when Chrissy moved and wanted to sell in 2018, it made sense for Columbus Humane to buy it.

What makes it different from other cat cafés?

Brittany: Most cat cafés have adoptable cats and partner with an animal shelter. Because Columbus Humane is the owner-operator here, we not only utilize the café to find cats forever homes, but we also educate the public about cats, their care, their diff erent temperaments and how to trap-neuter-release feral cats. And we’re happy to accept donations from guests if they can’t adopt, or they can become volunteers.

Tell us about your tagging system.

Maghen: We have a color-coded system for the cat collars. Each color represents a different personality. Green identifies cats who socialize easily and like to play; yellow signals those who would rather approach you when they’re ready; and purple distinguishes new cats who are shy and may not be accustomed to being petted. We find this really makes it a positive experience for everyone.

Where do the cats come from before Columbus Humane brings them to the café?

Maghen: These cats can be rescued through our Cruelty Investigations Department, or they’re from owners who need to surrender them due to allergies, moving or other circumstances. There are also cats found as strays and brought to Columbus Humane.

You use a different intake system at Columbus Humane, right?

Brittany: Yes! In our previous intake model, we took in every cat that came through our door—stray cats were coming in faster than they could be adopted out and there was a large population of unaltered feral cats but not enough resources to help them all. But a lot of people in our community wanted to help, so our new model allows us to support their efforts. If a cat is feral, it’s spayed or neutered and released. If someone brings in an adoptable stray cat, we evaluate it and provide a first round of vaccines, if possible. Then that same person takes the cat back home, along with a two-week supply of food and litter that we provide. When the vaccines have taken effect, the cat is returned to the shelter to be adopted. If the cats’ personalities fit, they get to hang out at Eat Purr Love. This in take model helps us be more successful placing cats into forever homes.

Which cats get to enjoy this feline heaven?

Maghen: Either social cats, who can handle being petted, or cats who are not that social but can live well with other cats. Maybe their personality doesn’t show while they’re at the shelter, but at the café they come out of their shell more. We normally have 12 cats here at a time.

How do you manage to keep the residents happy?

Maghen: We’ve got it all. Places to climb and perch; the cats can get up high if they need some alone time. There are cat condos, pillows and chairs, all good for lounging. And for more exercise they have a spinning wheel and scratching posts. Visually, we have a few fish tanks and a big window with seating.

You have some creative ways for the community to meet the cats.

Brittany: Yogatos (gato is Spanish for “cat”) makes yoga more fun when you have a cat sharing your mat. We also have Kids & Kitties, where we read a cat-themed book to children—but the cats like to listen too! For adults, we offer Purrs & Palettes, which is a wine and painting event…

Maghen: …but you may have a paw print or tuft of hair on your painting! We had a big cat, Boris, that liked to rub up against the easels, so you had to grab yours quickly if you spotted him coming.

Brittany: And every other month we have a cat-themed movie night, which is really popular.

How does the adoption process work?

Brittany: The great thing about a cat café is, it’s like being in your own living room, so you can see what a cat is like in a home setting. We try to make it a very easygoing process. Once someone fills out an application, we have a conversation with the potential adopter and make sure it’s a good fit.

Who is your most interesting café regular?

Maghen: That would be Judy. She’s a diehard supporter of the cat café and Columbus Humane’s mission. She helped fund the café back when Chrissy had her Kickstarter campaign and continues to support us with donations. She visits fairly regularly—she calls it her therapy. There’s also a couple who drives from West Virginia and spends two hours with us each time. We love our café regulars!

What was the most heartwarming adoption you witnessed?

Maghen: An adoption that will always stick with me is Lane’s. He came in through our Cruelty Investigations Department, after his former owners abandoned him. He didn’t trust people, and it was holding him back from being adopted. Before coming to the café, I worked at Columbus Humane. I would spend some time every morning with Lane, talking to him or sitting with him so that he could lie next to me. He was at the shelter for about seven months. When my role shifted to the café, I asked to have Lane transferred over too. My coworkers and I worked with him every day to help him adjust to other cats and to people. One day he hopped up on the arm of my chair and rubbed his cheek against my face, and I cried. He was adopted in April 2019 and is now loving his new life with his dad.

What is the best thing about working at the café?

Maghen: Seeing the shy or unsocialized cats go from hiding under a blanket to demanding attention from everyone and finding their adopter. It’s really rewarding.

Any future plans for Eat Purr Love?

Brittany: Covid-19 closures have had an impact. We’re searching for a new location for the Eat Purr Love Café with higher foot traffic, more parking and potential for serving food—all to better support the Columbus Humane mission and build an even stronger connection to the community. Check for updates on our new location!

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