“A long time ago, I found a cat that needed a home,” says Kathy Jordan, president and founder of Green Street Rescue. “And, like potato chips, one cat leads to another.” Since then, she has rescued over 3,000 cats and founded “Le Cat Café,” a multifaceted establishment. Its purposes include educating people about getting their cats fixed in order to prevent unwanted kittens from being born and about the need to take care of strays, as well as introducing people who have never had a pet about how great it is to own one and encouraging people to adopt. It’s like a regular cafe, but instead of offering a selection of sandwiches and pastries, it offers a chance to get to know cats in need of a home over coffee. “It’s taking our living rooms and making them public,” says Kathy. “And the more cats get adopted, the more cats we can take off the street. So when you adopt one cat, you’re really saving two.”
She sits at a round, Parisian café–style table at “Le Cat Café,” in a sweatshirt that bears the slogan “I just want to drink wine, rescue cats and take naps.” Volunteer Katie Schwartz clears the other tables in the café in preparation for the weekly “Cats and Mats” yoga class, a time for the humans in the café to relax and for the cats to rest, join or interfere as they wish. Cheerio, apparently named for the color of his fur, leaps up onto the chair next to her and puts his paws on the table. He wants to be interviewed too.
Cheerio was found by an elderly woman who used to feed the stray cats around her Philadelphia home. Not having the money or resources to help the dehydrated, overheated cat on that 110–degree day, she emailed Kathy asking her to rescue him. Kathy took him to the vet, got him “snipped,” vaccinated and tested, got rid of his fleas and parasites, and brought him home. “And he became Cheerio, the silly, happy, loveable boy he is,” says Kathy, as Cheerio dives for the squeaky toy that his best friend, a black–and–white cat named Kinky Boots, is playing with.
Green Street Rescue receives many complaints about filthy vagrant cats in the city. “They [the complainants] don’t associate a cat on the street with a cat that’s adoptable. They can’t see Cinderella in the cat that’s on the street,” says Kathy.
Unlike other cat café’s, “Le Cat Café” rescues the cats themselves instead of going to an animal shelter. “We rescue them from the street, in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, pregnant, sick, injured, homeless, filthy, starving,” says Kathy. “We see them go from rags to riches, from living outside and suffering to going to sleep on a king–sized bed…We know these cats intimately from the day of rescue.”
Katie pushes a small box on wheels out of the way to clear more space. Snoops, a white cat covered in black and brown patches, doesn’t move from the shadows of the bottom shelf. She was found in North Philadelphia having given birth to a litter of kittens. “Le Cat Café” had three single kittens, all of whom needed a nursing mother. Snoops took them on. She nursed for almost three months before all of the kittens were adopted. She hid for her first few days at the café, but, according to Kathy, “she’s learning that it’s not so bad.”
Kathy believes that a “cat person” is “someone who has compassion, someone who enjoys companionship.” Katie agrees, and she adds that one of the major differences between “cat people” and “dog people” is “you don’t really own a cat, you’re just comfortable co–existing with it.”
In the high stress, commitment–phobic and often impersonal environment Penn students inhabit, adopting a cat—or at least paying a visit to some—might just be exactly what we need.