Cat Cafe makes pets more adoptable

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The Kokomo Humane Society found a unique way to get cats adopted, provide them enrichment, and draw in supporters when it opened the Cat Café, attached to the new humane society, in September.

Since opening, 2,465 people have paid the admission price of $5 to go into the cat colony, and 116 cats have been adopted from it. Karen Wolfe, executive director of the Kokomo Humane Society, said those are numbers to be proud of, but more than that, the Cat Cafe has provided better lives to shelter cats.

“A lot of cats would be happy living their whole lives here because they’ve got their own en suite bathroom. They’ve got their colony. They’ve got the outside space. It’s really great,” Wolfe said.

When the café was added to the shelter’s building plans, the idea was that it would serve mainly as a way to generate revenue for the new, larger shelter that’s more expensive to run. However, Kadra Hillis, manager of the Cat Café, said the value goes beyond financials.

The cat colony in the café serves as an additional holding area for cats and typically is filled with the maximum of 16 felines. The cats, she said, are happier. And because of that, they’re more adoptable.

“There are some things you can’t really financially put a price on,” Hillis said.

One example she gave was of a cat that was so unhappy in its cage in the shelter that it would scratch employees when they tried to get her out, which lessened the chances of her getting adopted. So, the cat was moved to the cat colony to see if she would do better in there, and her entire personality changed.

“Now she’s the sweetest cat, and she’s definitely more likely to get adopted from here than she ever would from the cage. She’s so happy,” Hillis said.

The colony also has helped employees learn about each cat’s personality in a way that’s difficult from a cage. Equipped with that knowledge, employees are able to better match them with families. Some cats, Hillis said, don’t do well in the colony because they don’t like being around other cats, and they can let potential adopters know that the cat may not do well in such a household.

Those cats also are moved to other places, such as are pet shops, where they can be on their own.

One such cat was Tart, who’s been with the humane society for over a year. She didn’t like being in the colony, so she was moved to Pet Valu where she now enjoys hanging out on the counter by herself, awaiting adoption, said Wolfe.

“She’s doing great there. So we can find out which cats are super social that maybe would do well in there and move out the ones that don’t to the pet stores where they get adopted right away,” she said.

In addition, the Cat Café has served a way to engage the community. In addition to the 2,465 people who have entered the colony, Hillis said an additional 1,200 have enjoyed the café only. In the café, guests can enjoy coffee and snacks donated by areas businesses like Gingerbread House Bakery, Indulgence Bakery, Popcorn Café, Kroger, and Besty Altic of the Kokomo Downtown Farmers’ Market. They also can purchase Cat Café branded mugs, cups, and other gifts.

Since opening, the café has hosted several events, such as Wine and Whiskers and Cats on Tap in partnership with Tin Man Brewery. Cat yoga and knitting with cats also are held regularly. On Friday, May 17, the Cat Café is hosting a game night from 5 to 8 p.m. Attendees can bring their own games and alcohol, and nonalcoholic drinks and snacks will be available for purchase.

Wolfe thanked Petco Foundation for helping make the Cat Café a success. The foundation gave the humane society a $70,000 grant that funded the catio that allows the cats to venture to the enclosed outside space and the fencing along the property that gives dogs outside play areas.

“We couldn’t have done what we have without that, so that’s been amazing,” said Wolfe. “That $70,000 was put toward enrichment, which is a nice thing to do because sometimes money that comes in always goes to feeding the animals and sort of humdrum operations. This was enrichment for the animals, which is something we hadn’t been able to do as much in the old shelter.”

The Cat Café is located at 729 E. Hoffer St. and open from 11 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Starting in June, it also will be open Mondays from 11 to 4:30 p.m.