Dogs may play poker, but cats lounge — or at least that’s what they’ll be doing at Cattyshack, Inc., Huntsville’s newest cat hangout. Tina Cooley, founder of Cattyshack, got the idea when she went to Chicago and fell in love with the Catcade, a nonprofit cat lounge designed to help rescue cats get adopted.
“I loved their whole concept of having time with the adoptable cats and being provided with a beverage and mingling,” Tina said.
It was always a dream of Tina’s to open something like Catcade, but it wasn’t until she went to an animal care convention in New Orleans that she really got the ball rolling. There were a few sessions on cat cafes and cat lounges that inspired her to open one in Huntsville.
“Being in rescue for so long, I know from experience that Huntsville just does not have any good outlets for adoptions where people can see a cat’s personality,” Tina said. “You just look at pictures … but you don’t get to know the kittens. The ugliest one on the page may have the best personality, but nobody is going to fill out an application for that one.”
Lowe Mill proved to be the best spot for a new cat lounge in Huntsville. Cattyshack will occupy 400 square feet in the newer portion of the venue, in a closed-off location to keep the cats safe.
How It Works
Once you make your reservation, you pay $10 for a 30 minute session or $15 for a 60 minute session. You can go in the lounge, get a drink and pre-packaged snack and play with any or all of the cats available.
The cats are all available for adoption through Friends of Rescue, although Tina is looking to include other rescues if all goes well. If you fill out an application for one of the Cattyshack cats and you are approved, the initial reservation fee — that $10 or $15 you paid to meet the cats — will be deducted from your adoption fee.
By day, Tina is in accounting at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, so Cattyshack is 100% volunteer and donation based.
“The donation that you give us for your reservation goes right back into rescuing more cats,” Tina said.
The cats will stay in kennels Wednesday through Saturday nights before getting returned to their foster homes. During the day, they’ll be able to frolic around the studio and interact with the visitors.
Adoption events are hard on both the cats and the rescuers. It usually involves taking already stressed out animals to a new location, locking them in a crate with other animals and letting people come look at them. That’s a lot of stimulation for any creature to handle, much less a cat that was stray just a few weeks earlier.
Tina started working with Friends of Rescue in 2013, and she served as a board member for five years before stepping down.
When you adopt an animal, you agree to return it if anything in your life changes, and you’re not able to take care of the pet. Returns are a big part of rescue work after people get an animal home and then realize it doesn’t work with their living situation for one reason or another.
One goal of Cattyshack is for people to interact with the cats in a relaxed setting before filling out the paperwork to adopt.
“I hope it does cut back on returns because they are exhausting,” Tina said.
Of course there is some push back from people who say they could go to the shelter and volunteer to play with cats for free. To that end, Tina said, “Those cats need socialization just as much as any cat. Please do that. … Don’t just say that would be a better option for you, actually go do it.”
Cattyshack is set to open this spring. Stay tuned to their website for more details.