WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTO | KALAMAZOO CAT CAFE AND RESCUE
Preserving the Dignity of Cats; Facilitating Generosity in People
Working at a cat shelter in Grand Rapids opened my eyes to the harsh reality that cats, despite their resourcefulness, are prime targets for cruelty, abandonment, and overall neglect. It’s easy to see a stray and give no thought to how long it might live — not to mention the thousands of kittens that can result from a single unspayed cat.
Even if you’re not in a position to adopt a shelter cat, a simple awareness of the issues and a modicum of care can make a huge difference to the people and organizations working to protect vulnerable cats.
One such organization is the Kalamazoo Cat Café and Rescue, which opened its doors in 2017. Café director Abbey Thompson was already spearheading local adoption events when she happened to visit Catmosphere Cat Café in Sydney during a post-grad school trip to Australia. It was this experience that inspired her to further action.
When she returned to Kalamazoo, Thompson was looking to make the most of her new-found free time, and the idea of a cat café continued to percolate. She thought that if there were a place where cats could live freely, and people could interact with them, regardless of being able to adopt or not, it would be a huge benefit to both the people and the animals in the community. She also came across a number of cats she liked and wanted to help but didn’t have the means to adopt.
Eventually, she met Bret, who needed daily medication for a colon condition. Soon after their introduction, Thompson adopted both Bret and his brother and started on a business plan. “Since cat cafés are a new concept, I had to convince a lot of people that this was a good idea, including the Health Department, Kalamazoo County, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, contractors, and landlords.”
Before opening her nonprofit café, Thompson also approached the Kalamazoo community for financial support, raising nearly $16,000 in a month’s time. “It was a huge part of our business plan to get community buy-in to ensure the café was successfully funded and opened. Another piece of the nonprofit mission is to educate others, and we’ve been able to share information — and cute cat pics! — to thousands in the social media community so far.”
Kalamazoo Cat Café and Rescue has facilitated over 180 adoptions since 2017, fostering between 20 and 40 cats at a time, and has experienced a number of other triumphs as well.
“We’ve had several cats who have hidden under couches or in back rooms and won’t let volunteers or staff touch them at first, but then they come out of their shells and realize they like being around people. It is my greatest success when we’re able to find homes for cats who just needed a second chance, which they might not have gotten without a rescue.”
Promoting and publicizing the café is still an issue. Despite strong community support, many still don’t know that the café exists. “I still hear, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a cat café!’ We’re near two universities, which is great for students who need a “kitty fix,” but we’re not on a main road and are situated behind another building, so it’s hard for people to find us.” In the next five years, Thompson will be looking for a new home for the cat café, ideally one with more space for rescues and a kitten nursery and with easier access to local passersby.
“I have learned so much throughout this process, and I learn more every day.”
I love this approach, and how universally true it is for all of us. It’s my hope that more of us will adopt it in our everyday lives – and in our efforts to save more cats.
Kalamazoo Cat Café
1128 W Michigan Ave, #1
Kalamazoo MI 49006