As a shelter cat looking for a permanent home, Captain Jack had a few things working against him.
He was an adult, which many adopters shun in favor of fluffy kittens. His black fur was pretty but pedestrian. He had recently lost an eye to surgery.
But he had personality, and once he got his turn in the Sacramento County animal shelter’s new “Catfe,” Captain Jack was able to shine. Almost instantly, he found the perfect human companion.
The newly opened Catfe allows visitors to the shelter to mingle with adult cats in an environment unlike any other in the Sacramento area and perhaps in the country. It is a kitty paradise, complete with a brightly lit “living room” featuring shelves for cat climbing and resting, a “catio” where tabbies can sniff the air and hear the tweets of birds, and a foyer where people can serve themselves a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate before stepping inside and making friends with featured felines.
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“I call it the Ritz,” said Jan Betts, a shelter volunteer who presided over the Catfe on Wednesday, its grand opening. “It’s just a really nice atmosphere where people can come in and interact with the cats,” whether they are considering adopting one or just want some lap time.
The concept, designed to promote adoptions of older cats that often get overlooked in shelters, is relatively new to the United States, Betts said. California has at least two other Catfes, although Sacramento’s may be the first one in the country that operates out of a government animal shelter.
Star Stage, a longtime shelter staff member who must put to death animals considered unadoptable, floated the Catfe idea after growing tired of seeing visitors pass by the cages of healthy, fully grown cats. Her suggestion was a hit, and after some painting, decorating and other minor renovations to a room just inside the main entrance, the Catfe was in business.
During a “soft opening” in the past two weeks, 11 cats featured in the room have found homes, said county shelter spokeswoman Kim Nava.
Three cats roamed the premises at Wednesday’s grand opening: Stickers, Leopold and Shadow. Cats are chosen for the program based primarily on their age and social skills, Nava said.
Leopold, a gray tabby whose teeth and fur suggest he is about 9 years old, munched on kibble before retiring to a circular bed in the catio. Stickers, long-haired and on the shy side, peered from a carpeted kitty condo. Shadow, black with a slightly crooked tail, rubbed his face against any hand that reached for him.
Potential adopters, drawn to the room’s colorful interior and bright neon sign, moseyed inside and sipped drinks while perusing the premises.
Judy Derrico, shopping for a new companion with her husband, Rocky, lifted Leopold from his bed and held him like an infant. “Hello, darling!” she said. They cuddled for a few minutes, then parted ways. Derrico was looking for a female cat, and all of the Catfe residents on this day were males.
Taryn Turner, 11, who has designs on running an animal shelter one day, stepped into the Catfe with her mother, Tahnee. “Her goal in life is to rescue animals,” Tahnee Turner said.
Taryn and Stickers took a liking to each other. The girl’s soft words and ear scratches seemed to make Stickers relax. He came out of his condo for a few moments and played with a toy fish. “This cat is beautiful, Mom!” Taryn cooed.
Stickers, purring and with his eyes at half-mast, was on track to become the Catfe’s next success story.
Cats on sale
June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month at the Sacramento County facility. All cats and kittens are half off of the normal adoption price.
- Address: 3839 Bradshaw Road, Sacramento.
- Hours: 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.