For nearly a week in March, 14-year-old Sweetie was the last cat standing at Kawaii Kitty Cafe. Her 11 comrades had already found homes for the coronavirus quarantine. She waited.
Day and night, she roamed the small Queen Village feline lounge, which would be hosting coffee-drinking, cat-loving visitors if not for the pandemic that was rapidly shutting down the city outside its windows.
“She was definitely enjoying having her own apartment,” owner Kristin Eissler said. Within a few days, Sweetie was adopted, joining the growing number of pets who have received homes amid the crisis. Now, the cafe sits empty and quiet.
So does Brewerytown’s Le Cat Cafe, which is run by Green Street Rescue.
Manager Saloni Dalal says the pandemic has brought good fortune for the dozen kitties that were in residence when it shut its doors. Within days, all found foster homes, she said, and some have since been adopted.
“A lot of people are coming out and asking about fostering and adopting,” Dalal said. “They’re actually reaching out more than before.”
“Cats are moving at the fastest pace, from rescue to home, since I started this nonprofit back in 2005,” added Kathy Jordan, who founded Greet Street Rescue.
While both Le Cat Cafe and Kawaii Kitty Cafe are closed, they’ve had no trouble finding homes, at least temporary ones, for their usual residents. They’re continuing with fosters and adoptions, by appointment only and with limited contact.
“The increase in fosters has been off the charts,” said Eissler, whose cafe cats are adopted and fostered through PAWS, the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. Adoptions have not seen the same jump, she said, but she guesses many foster families will decide to adopt their new four-legged friend after bonding during isolation.
Animal rescues generally are allowed to remain open as an essential business during the pandemic. Across the country, people are rushing to foster and adopt dogs, cats, and other pets, but need remains. Meanwhile, many pet businesses, including groomers, are suffering and worry whether they’ll survive.
Rescues face uncertainty, too. Even though they’re permitted to operate, donations are down and in-person fund-raisers have been halted.
Philly’s cat cafes are getting creative as they try to keep donations coming in and maintain their loyal followings.
On Mother’s Day weekend, Le Cat hosted a virtual “Kitten Saturday," a Zoom version of the popular monthly event during which foster cats looking for permanent homes are showcased. On Friday, the platform will be used again for a “Cats & Mats” virtual yoga class for $10 a person.
On Memorial Day, Kawaii Kitty plans to try live video game streaming, with breaks to showcase cats that are up for adoption.
At the same time, Eissler said, they’re planning for how they’ll reopen in a post-coronavirus world with stricter capacity limits and reservation requirements.
Said Eissler: “It’s kind of just a waiting game."