Urbana cat cafe entertains for a cause

Kristy, UIUC graduate and cofounder of the CU Healthy Pet Project, holding Licorice at the Cat Cafe on Friday, October 16th.

By Lillian Barkley

Biscuit, a four-month-old kitten, slipped around on the smooth concrete floors at [co][lab] in Urbana, chasing a laser pointer. The four other cats and handful of humans were mere obstacles in her quest around the feline-focused Le Meow Catfé, a fundraiser created by CU Healthy Pet Project.

The Catfé, which will be open all weekend at 206 W. Main St. in Urbana, lets visitors eat and drink with the cats for half an hour after they make a reservation and buy a $10 ticket. buy a $10 ticket.https://www.facebook.com/events/445866048936065/

“It’s not novel; there are cat cafés popping up all over,” said Katie Fanning, president of CU Healthy Pet Project and University graduate.

After gaining popularity in Japan, cat cafés have made their way to America. However, this temporary café is here for a cause.

“This event in particular for the cats is just to get to know them, to get to understand more about cat behaviors, even the basic needs of spays and neuters,” said Kristy Lau, one of the creators of CU Healthy Pet Project.

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The non-profit was formed in July by Fanning, Lau and Christine Bagtas, who all work in the veterinary field. The Catfé is their official kickoff event.

The program hopes to find fun ways to educate people about pet care with monthly programs, like pizza parties and happy hours, Fanning said.

Fanning was inspired to create the Catfé by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s calendar, which lists National Cat Day on Oct. 29.https://www.avma.org/Events/pethealth/Pages/default.aspxJT

Half of [co][lab]’s space is used for the café, and the other half has a raffle, bake sale and table with educational materials.

For guests worried about the makeshift café meeting health standards, Fanning assured that all food was made off-site. Guests can bring food in from Pizza M and Flying Machine Coffee, which are both next door.

The café itself is a model of a good cat home, with cat toys, food, water and cleverly hidden litterboxes.

“All of that has been rehashed or repurchased,” Fanning said about the décor.

Most of the furniture and cat-based accessories came from the I.D.E.A. Store in Champaign, and the four litterboxes, which are hidden in benches and cabinets, were made by the Pet Project volunteers.

“That was another huge part of it: cat-comfortable furniture,” Fanning said.

Fanning said reaching out to the community and including organizations like CatSNAP, PetNet and Fetch was very important.

“We all work in our own silos, but whenever there’s an opportunity to do something awesome together, we’re all about that,” Fanning said.

PetNet and CatSNAP brought the cats, and Fetch provided prizes for the raffle after working closely with CU Healthy Pet Project.

The fundraiser also serves as an adoption event, which means cat owners should leave their pets at home.

All of the cats are available for adoption, and they have all been spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Students who can’t commit to adopting a cat are encouraged to foster one, said Freda Shore, CatSNAP foster care coordinator. .

“Our foster homes are truly our only outlet,” she said, adding that CatSNAP does not have a permanent facility to house the 32 cats they have up for adoption.

Shore said this year has been tough due to the high number of litters the program has taken in.

“We’re not crazy; it’s called humanity,” she said. “It’s all about the animals.”

CatSNAP does not turn away any cats and often takes kittens from shelters that euthanize.

Two students filling out paperwork at one of the café tables indicated that the event was already experiencing some success.

“We’ve been looking for a couple months now, so we just wanted to get one, and then we came here,” said Cindy Sun, junior in LAS, who was adopting a cat with Sarah Kwon, senior in LAS.

“I just want to get to know all of them a little bit better,” Kwon said.

Katherine, a slender tabby who stayed close to the pair, was a strong prospect. https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/33038190

“Usually they don’t like me, but that one likes me,” Sun said. “This one’s really lovable.”

Lau, who was watching the gate to make sure none of the cats escaped, said there are misconceptions about the demeanor of cats and dogs, such as cats being snobby or lazy.

“(It’s) not just cat behavior but even what vaccines they need,” she said.

While education is an important aspect, the unique event has been selling out timeslots for another reason.

“Cats and coffee,” Kwon said. “That’s always nice.”

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