Anyone who has lost a furry companion — be it a cat, a dog, or a hirsute husband — knows that it’s never simply a matter of getting another one. All four-legged (and two-legged) loved ones have a unique personality, intelligence, and temperament. Sometimes you are better off with a creature that is nothing like the one you for whom you are grieving.
That was my thought when I made an appointment to visit Le Cat Café in Brewerytown run by Green Street Rescue, a volunteer organization that helps trap, vet, and house animals. The purpose of the Café is to offer cats for adoption and to provide “cat companionship” to those who are unable to adopt.
My goal was not to replace Lola, the Siamese stunner who left a cat-shaped hole in my heart when she died recently, but to open myself to a very different sort of animal.
Truth be told, Lola, for all her beauty and intelligence, was like living with a Kardashian. She had expensive tastes. Croissants. Salmon. Tuna. Not Purina. I’m talking solid white Albacore, packed in water. I let her dine at the table with me. Or, if you must know, she allowed me to dine at the table with her. Lola never begged. She merely stared at me with her all-knowing cobalt eyes and got whatever she desired.
Next time around, I want a little less attitude. I also didn’t want to make a snap decision. I wasn’t going to Le Cat Café to adopt right away. I was just going for some much-needed cat therapy.
As it happened, I had visited the SPCA on Erie Avenue earlier that week. Not to adopt, but to interview a staff member. When she gave me a tour, my heart sank. Every cat and dog pleaded desperately with their eyes from inside a cage. It was like visiting death row. “I’m innocent! Get me out of here!” they barked and meowed. I wanted to rescue all of them. But I wasn’t motivated by altruism. It was guilt, bordering on terror. Emotionally, I was just a checkbook away from turning into one of those wild-eyed women who hoard more animals than they can possibly nurture.
What struck me as soon as I entered Le Cat Café was the total absence of cages, unlike pet stores where you have to look at animals through Plexiglas or through metal bars at the SPCA. The first to catch my eye was Butler, a handsome, light apricot, Siamese mix, sprawled luxuriantly across the reception desk. A half-dozen or so cats of all sizes, breeds, and colors lounged about, allowing themselves to be petted and admired by patrons seating at Parisienne-style bistro tables, sipping coffee.
The concept of Le Cat Café is novel, and the rate of adoption is high for obvious reasons. Here you can spend an hour interacting freely with kitties and see their personalities in action. Cat toys are scattered about, encouraging guests to play. Some furry creatures perched in the window luring passersby on Girard Avenue as if it was the red light section of Amsterdam. Others cavorted on built-in shelves, purposely arranged to allow the cats to climb almost to the ceiling. I felt like I was in a high class feline bordello. Think “Belle du Jour” meets “Fritz the Cat.”
The cats were all healthy looking, friendly, and active with thick, glossy coats and clear, curious eyes. There was a simple explanation. Green Street Rescue fosters cats in loving homes and only brings them to Le Cat Café when they are fully socialized and ready for adoption. I watched as a cluster of twenty-somethings went gaga over Abigail, a grey kitty, who rolled onto her back and exposed her soft white belly to their gentle hands. An older woman clucked over Cheerio, an adorable orange tabby. Meanwhile, I did a double-take at Oreo, a golden-eyed, black and white tuxedo cat who was a dead ringer for my childhood pet.
As feline therapy goes, my first visit to Le Cat Café was a success. I left knowing that, although there’ll never be another Lola, I will be able to find a congenial furry companion when I am ready.