Cat people, you stay too. Segregation and exclusion is just plain wrong! Plus I want your input!
|Not a meerkat, a mere cat. ☺|
I also divulged how I once ate some of my cat's Purina Cat Chow® and that the dogs and cats might not have been the only cute things at the Brooklyn Expo Center.☺
|Me and the co-proprietor of Cybercat Exotics, a NJ-based cat rescue and talent agency.|
I forgot to ask the cats for their names.
And - which brings me to the subject of today's post - I spent 30 minutes inside a room decorated for and full of incredibly social and loving, free roaming cats*.
Dear Dog People: Let's talk about cats for a bit.
But first, let me offer you an analogy: A cat is to a dog as a manual (stick shift) transmission is to a fully automatic. Both cats and dogs are pets, and both types of transmissions come with cars. But - as a person with experience driving both - tell me, who in the heck can just go out and drive a stick shift without learning and practicing a few times? NO ONE! Well, I will argue the same goes for cats!
What I'm saying is, CATS ARE STICK SHIFTS AND DOGS ARE AUTOMATIC. There's a learning curve with both, but cats require just a little more "coordination." A little more practice. And I promise, once you get them, you always will! And they are SO MUCH FUN to
A Little Background From the Summit
During the first of the three expert panel discussions, entitled An Evolving Relationship With Cats?, the focus was on the changing nature of our relationship with cats and what that might mean for a new generation of pet owners. What struck me the most during the discussion, and even more so after speaking one-on-one with panelist Christina Ha, co-founder of Meow Parlour, NY's first cat cafe, and spending quality time in the interactive cat room, was that cat cafes and shelter cat rooms are completely underutilized.
By dog people†.
But we can do something about that, right?
Who's ready to go with me to a cat cafe?
What do you mean you're not sure? You already see cats all day on social media and you can do that at the office?
Oh wait, no! Silly me; you've got the wrong idea!
|Kitty ain't got time for social media. Also? Those are cat people. Pressing the kitty "clutch" and shooting pics at the same time. |
A cat cafe is a place where people go to chill out, with other people and REAL LIVE (not two-dimensional social media) cats!
It's true! Imagine your local coffee shop, except without the serving counter (health regulations in the U.S. prohibit the preparation and selling of food and beverages on site with animals; however, one can purchase these items nearby and bring them into the cat cafe to consume), decorated with kitty-friendly furnishings and toys and most tellingly: occupied by plenty of free-roaming (probably adult**) cats!
Where do the cats in the cat cafe come from? Do I bring my own?
First of all, NO, you do not bring your own! Second of all, at least at the Meow Parlour in NY, according to Ha, the cats come from a local cat rescue in partnership with the cafe. According to research (discussed on the panel), cats are most happy being with other cats, especially when they are in a stressful (e.g., shelter) environment, where they have little control. In fact, more timid shelter cats - who've previously been overlooked by potential adopters - after being placed in free-roaming group settings (like a cat cafe***), will gradually gain confidence, come out of their shells around people, and find their forever homes in no time!
And you know what else? When one (say you or I) is at ease in the cat cafe environment? All those kitties are like the best natural chill pill after a long day that a person could possibly imagine!
|Syxx is chillin' not illin'.|
A Dog Person's Guide to Experiencing a Cat Cafe
(or dedicated room full of free-roaming cats, like for example, at your local animal shelter)
OK, so here we are, at the front door (probably glass, so you can see through it). Let's go in!
|These are cat people. Do not try this without certification. Also, put the phone down. There's plenty of time for that later.|
IMPORTANT! Before you do anything, stop and take it all in! Don't just go rushing over to the first cat you see.
Cats, in fact, MUCH PREFER THAT YOU BE STILL AND ALLOW THEM TO COME TO YOU.
|A vertical kitty wonderland...just think how much floor space they saved!|
|Kitty in the sky with cat grass.|
Did you notice the cat on the wall shelf? Good! It's OK, that's what the shelves are there for. Cats - as natural climbers - feel safe when they're ABOVE most everything else. But they always come down, eventually. And, don't worry, it won't be on top of your unsuspecting head.
So, scope out a comfy couch or chair or beanbag, and settle in!
|Obviously, this picture was taken before the cats arrived.|
Now, you will undoubtedly notice that cats are NOTHING LIKE DOGS, for instance:
<> No one is going to rush you for your danish or other portable snack food (if you brought any in). Cats - being carnivores - do not care for these items. You will, in fact, be able to eat in peace.
<> No one is going to rush you at all, for any reason. Remember, cats DO enjoy human companionship, but they can take a while getting around to it. (Unless you're dealing with a SUPER friendly kitty who wants to jump in your lap as soon as your butt hits the cushion. This is also normal. All cats are different. Do not be alarmed if a friendly kitty plops in your lap.)
|Jon Farleigh and Dewi tried to be like Bobby Flay O'Fish for 10 minutes. It was the worst 10 minutes - other than when the neuter drugs wore off - ever.|
So it's been five looong minutes, but zero kitties are within petting distance yet?
Relax (like literally, sink into that couch and take a load off)! It'll happen!
|The mouse is spiked.|
A WORD ABOUT EYE CONTACT
Cats sometimes squint when they're looking at people. This does not mean they have a speck of dust lodged in their eye. Or that they are giving you the stink-eye, are disinterested, or sizing you up for a meal. It actually means that the cat LIKES YOU. Squinty eye contact means kitty is relaxed and views you as non-threatening. (Big, wide eyes would be a problem, in comparison.) Feel free to go ahead and pet squinty-eyed kitty (if she's not already in your lap or rubbing all over you). And no worries, you don't need to squint back. Normal people eyes are OK (just don't hold contact any longer than you'd want a stranger to do to you)!
15 minutes later...
Excuse me, Elizabeth, but I was just sitting here petting one kitty and now there are FOUR KITTIES surrounding me on the couch!
Oh yay! That's because they ALL want to be your friend! ☺ Don't worry about trying to pet all of them, though, cats are content just hanging out nearby. You decide whether you want to visit with each kitty or not.
Oh, and that drop in blood pressure you might be experiencing? Do you hear the purring? Did you know scientific studies have shown that the decibel range of a domestic cat's purr can improve human health, including lowering blood pressure, stress, and even healing of bone and muscle injuries? It can! Shoot, it might even put you straight to sleep...
Hey, wake up, you! No dozing 'til the end!
So, you've been here a while. Had a snack and some coffee. Hung out with a few happy cats...
Think you could get used to it? Maybe get on the floor and toss some toys around next time? Or even pick up a willing kitty and hold it a little (some cats love to be held, and others not; you just have to try them and see)?
You know? If you like it here that much, you could always adopt your favorite and take her/him home! Or even better - take TWO home!
Great job today, y'all! Let's do this again!
|Check y'all later.|
There are so many things I learned from the summit that I've not covered. For more information, including expert bios, go here.
* Most (if not all) of the cats in the kitty room belonged to NJ-based rescue, Cybercat Exotics.
** Adult cats are favored over kittens because the older cats - who might otherwise be looked over for adoption - are simply most in need of confidence-building and human socialization. Plus kittens fall asleep at the flit of a fly. And well, who wants to wake a sleeping kitten?
*** Some animal shelters, such as my local Richmond SPCA, have free-roaming cat rooms with open visitation for potential adopters. Not only does it help make matches for the homeless animals, but it's wonderful for their socialization and reducing people stress. I should know!
† Also possibly by men and older-than-millennials, but that's a topic for another day.
Cat behavior facts discussed at the summit are in blue.
Photo credit Purina (unless the photo is grainy, in which case, it's mine).
For the latest updates, follow Purina on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So tell me, who'd be up for visiting a cat cafe in real life? Has anyone ever been to one? How about a free-roaming kitty room at a local animal shelter? If yes, how did it make you feel?