If you look out your window right now, chances are you’ll spot a cat, maybe even two or three.
According to Kathy Jordan, founder of Green Street Animal Rescue, there are about 178,000 stray and feral felines roaming the streets, alleys and abandoned lots of this city. That’s about 10,000 more cats than people who live in South Philly.
To Jordan, cats and Philadelphia go hand in hand. Always the animal lover, cats weren’t allowed in her home when she was growing up, because her dad raised racing pigeons. It wasn’t until she moved to Philadelphia in 1991 that she took in a stray puss off the street and, “like potato chips one cat led to another … ”
From that point on, Jordan made it a mission to chip away at Philly’s stray cat population. She’s fostered hundreds of cats on her own and, in 2002, founded Green Street Animal Rescue, which she operates while still holding down a full-time job as a financial adviser.
To date, that nonprofit has rescued more than 300 cats. But for her, it’s not enough. This year she took her passion to a new level by starting Philadelphia’s very first cat cafe, in Brewerytown. The concept, she says, “is a new adoption platform that has been working across the sea for a long time,” especially in Japan, which started the trend in the 1980s.
It’s also caught on in Paris—hence the establishment’s name, Le Cat Cafe.
Here’s how it works: Guests pay $12 an hour to come in and hang out with the cats. You can feed them treats, grab an interactive toy for some playtime or just read a book next to one as it snoozes. Free self-serve coffee and tea is available via a Keurig machine, but caffeine really isn’t the point here.
Jordan started Le Cat Cafe as a more streamlined approach to adopting. “There are too many cats who need homes that are not finding adopters fast enough,” she says. “The cafe is user-friendly for the cat and the person looking to adopt.”
It’s also more humane than adopting from a shelter, where cats are stuck in cold metal cages. “When they’re in a cage long enough it makes them less and less adoptable, because they’re depressed. You can’t get a feel for their true personality.”
Le Cat Cafe, she hopes, will eliminate that problem. It’s worked so far. Since opening in March, the establishment has placed 19 kitties in forever homes.
A cat plays with Wendy and John Sedlak and their two kids, Harper and Juniper. By city ordinance, only 12 cats are allowed on the premises at a time. They’ve been rescued from all sections of the city. “There are cat colonies in every neighborhood,” Jordan says. “There are cats in backyards, parking lots, behind food stores, everywhere … “
It’s essential, Jordan says, that adoptable cats feel comfortable in their environment so that potential owners can get a sense of their true personalities. At Le Cat Cafe, cats are given the freedom to do as they please. They can jump across tables, climb on stairs and shelves built into the walls and scale a three-foot-tall Eiffel Tower in the front window. Here, one of the occupants begs for a snack at the treat dispensary.
Jennifer Francano pets a cat as it sleeps. When cats are rescued they are immediately taken to the vet, where they’re treated for fleas, parasites and worms, spayed or neutered, and given appropriate vaccines. Before they enter Le Cat Cafe, they’re placed in foster care to get a feel for their personalities.
On Monday nights, customers can pay $15 to do yoga with cats in a program Jordan calls Cats on Mats. “It’s just like you would do at a gym, except you’ve got cats running around you. We anoint the cat mats with a little cat nip, and sometimes we hold cat wands in our hands to attract the cats while doing poses.”
Cats on Mats is only the beginning of a series of activities Jordan hopes to bring to Le Cat Cafe. One idea is to host “Furry Tale Hour,” where kids can come in and read to the cats. She has an idea for senior citizens, too. “Seniors who have had to move out of their homes who want companionship will have senior hour, where they can come spend time with the cats.”
Guests who want to adopt a cat must fill out an application, which can be picked up at Le Cat Cafe or printed online at greenstreetrescue.org. Adoptions are $110 for one cat and $135 for two. Jordan encourages adopting in pairs—if the cats seem to favor that—because, “it gives us room to go out and rescue another one. For every adoption you’re really saving two lives.”
Le Cat Cafe is located at 2713 W. Girard Avenue in Brewerytown. For more information on visiting, or adopting a cat of your own, visit greenstreetrescue.org/
Text by Josh Middleton
Know someone who’s working to make the city better without waiting for government to step in and help? Suggest them as a Citizen of the Week.Header photo: Sabina Louise Pierce