Cat cafes are no doubt charming, fun little places, with a cozy atmosphere and countless friendly, fluffy felines to cuddle and enjoy. You can enjoy snacks and warm tea while a cat snuggles up on your lap, or nestles beside you. You can entertain them with the various toys that are provided like: wands, and plush mice. The cats are charming, the facilities are quite clean despite their fluffy occupants. It is a cozy and darling experience. An experience that wouldn’t be possible without the aid of the staff. Some are paid, some are volunteers, depending on the center you visit. What happens behind the scenes at these charming feline facilities? What are they like? As a volunteer, Gloomy is here to answer that inquiry! Fun fact: I’ve been a volunteer for a year now.
Every Thursday, I wake up bright and early to prepare for my feline-filled day. I check any potential messages from the owner, and then I get dressed. There’s no uniform required, but I prefer to dress for the occasion. I usually slip on a cute dress and stockings, and sometimes, even don a pair of cat ears (though not often). That is, if I’m not wearing my signature little cat-eared hat. At 9:30, I’m out the door and down the road where the center is. It’s nestled between a large, busy, fancy restaurant and a smaller, equally bustling sandwich chain. Many pass it by, not even realizing it it’s there, just like I did. For many years I passed it by, until the small sign finally caught my eye. When I first spotted the cafe, I glimpsed this beautiful Turkish Van silhouetted in the window.
As soon as I unlock the door and step inside the segmented lobby, I can hear the meows and cries of the cats just beyond the inner door. Some perch in the interior windows, gawking and brushing up against the glass. Others meow loudly behind the door. After flicking on the coffee/tea brewer and organizing the snacks up front, I enter, and am immediately swarmed by cats. They cry and purr. There’s lots of head-butting and rubbing up against my legs. The cats are starved for affection.
I take this time to say “hello” and check the well-being of the cats and the status of the lounge. Toys are strewn about, and sometimes the treats are knocked over. Once or twice, the lid has popped off and I’ve found a few felines gorging themselves on the spilled contents. Today, though, the container is secure.
I check for stains around the lounge – be it food or otherwise. The mewing swarm follows me to the back where another door leads to the storage and cat area. There’s an arched hole carved into the wall just beside the door where they can scurry between rooms. Sometimes, a cat will sit directly inside, or in front of the hole, blocking access to their fellow felines.
The food, medicine, treats, and various containers occupy the many shelves in the back room. Occasionally, the more savory foods get raided overnight and I catch the little thieves red-handed, lapping up the contents shamelessly on the floor. When this happens, a quick cleaning and securing of the remaining food is promptly in order.
Their water gets changed out and refreshed, as does their food, which they messily crunch and scatter everywhere. Next, comes the litter room located behind another closed door, which the cats access from yet another cat door. Four big litter boxes dominate the room, all shared by the whiskered residents. It’s slightly unsavory work, but it must be done, for the cats and for the guests. One or two feline companions will watch curiously as their buried treasures are scooped away, while another one or two decide to add to the process (right when I think I am finished).
Once the boxes are clean, I sweep the litter room and the center. Some kittens scatter fearfully from the gentle sweeping of the broom, while other braver, curious souls, bat and play with it. I roll off fur from the various blankets and furniture once the sweeping is finished. Finally, all the work is done.
I’m the sole volunteer on my days working. It’s such a small place, there isn’t much of a need for more than one person. The desk up front houses one chair, where that day’s volunteer or “manager” sits, greets, and checks in guests. They processes payments or snuggle with the cats during downtime. Sometimes tending to things in the lobby. The friendlier cats like to sit in the window above me and mew for attention, waiting for someone to walk in and entertain or pet them.
When I’m not up front, I’m arranging things in the cat lounge, breaking up cat fights, and confirming the locations and well-being of all the cats. Then I snuggle with the babies. During very slow times where we (unfortunately) do not see any visitors, I curl up with a few cuddly cats on the couch, and indulge in a little cat nap with them.
I’ve became acquainted with, and met, many wonderful cats during my time volunteering at the cat cafe. I’ve watched small kittens grow into stout adults, and the shyest of cats grow into the snuggliest of companions. When I see them finally get adopted and happily carried off to a loving home, I can’t help but cry sometimes, both from happiness and from the sorrow of parting.
I give nicknames to some.
A little about the origin of the nicknames… “Tigger” has sad eyes, but a bubbly attitude and very characteristic meow, “Seven” has a little white seven on her back, and “Martian”, also known as,”Mr. Martian Man” has a crooked tail tip and when I first saw him, I (and many others) thought he looked like a little feline-shaped extraterrestrial (sort of like a lean, lanky Sphynx, but with fur!).
I’ve comforted cats scared and shocked by the sudden deaths of their owners, and those who had been suddenly dumped from their once loving home without warning… I’ve helped warm up the shyest of souls, and cared for sweet elder cats who have little chance being adopted…
I’ve been scratched and bitten by some of the feistier felines, and rambunctious kittens who try to make stealthy escapes into the off-limit lobby. I’ve tended to ill cats, cleaning everything from vomit to wounds. I’ve learned a great deal about our cuddly feline friends. I’ve learned about their personality traits, quirks, the way they like to be pet, and the way they meow and purr… When you work behind the scenes, it’s hard not to grow attached to each and every kitty that affectionately greets you at the door in the morning.
I’ve been at the location for a little over a year now, and I am pleased to be a part of helping these cats be seen and adopted. I like caring for them and watching them grow. It’s wonderful to see their personalities slowly show more and more as they warm up. I do not get paid for my time, though. I believe money pales in comparison to the experiences I have had the opportunity to be involved in.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look inside a typical day running a cat cafe, and I would love for others to share their favorite experiences at the cat cafes or adoption centers they have visited!