A treat and a cat

Ferndale Cat Shelter opens café lounge to connect homeless animals with families

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 18, 2015


FERNDALE — When the Ferndale Cat Shelter was created in 2014, its purpose was to rescue local homeless cats and find permanent residences for the felines. Now, a year and a half later, the shelter is bringing a new way for people to meet their future pets.

The Catfé Lounge opened the first week of November at 821 Livernois Ave. in Ferndale. It provides a space for patrons to meet cats who are looking to be adopted, as well as enjoy an array of drinks and snacks.

“This is the first phase in what we are hoping is a two-part project, because we wanted to see that this really low-cost phase is something the community would support,” Volunteer Director Deanne Iovan said. “We need donations and volunteers to a significant degree so we can continue to build this space out into a proper café. The profits then from the café would support the mission of the Ferndale Cat Shelter.”

The Ferndale Cat Shelter started when a group of Ferndale residents saw a need for a cat shelter after the local animal shelter closed following Ferndale’s decision to turn over animal control to Oakland County. The shelter received its 501(c)(3) classification earlier this year to operate as a nonprofit organization.

Iovan said there was a need for supporting homeless animals of all varieties, but cats in particular needed a space that catered to them.

“Cat needs are specific and unique, and it can be really stressful for them to be in an environment with dogs, especially if those dogs are barking all the time,” she said. “We wanted to bring a different sheltering experience to these animals and felt Ferndale would be very receptive to it.”

For the suggested donation of $10 — although Iovan said people can donate more or less — patrons can have an opportunity to play with the cats and kittens that are on-site at the time. Coffee, tea and treats will be available for self-service during that time.

All the donations will be used to support the shelter, and eventually, if support is determined to be sufficient, Iovan said they hope to create a separate café where they can make and sell drinks and food items and allow the patrons to go into the connected lounge to play with the cats. The hope is that a patron makes a connection with one.

“We want an open space that is open to the community so they can connect to these cats that need homes,” she said. “They have all been previously in foster homes and not visible to the public, and adoption events can be stressful for the cats. This is an environment that is comfortable and familiar with cats they know, and (the cats) can show what their personalities are really like.”

At the new location, Iovan said, it is possible to grow to bring in the full café concept along with the lounge, but it is dependent on the landlord and other businesses that are currently at the location. Iovan said they hope to stay in the area, as they feel it could be a “new downtown for Ferndale” and is easily accessible by walking, biking or driving.

Ferndale Cat Shelter co-founder Angela Fisher said that with the lounge now open, they are in the process of planning several events, including kitten yoga, board games with cats and educational opportunities for children. There is free Wi-Fi, so patrons can come and relax with the kittens and even get some work done.

This isn’t the first shelter café concept, Fisher said, but it is the first in this area and something they think is a unique way of connecting cats with potential families.

“I feel this is kind of a different take on the café idea, because a lot of shelter cafés are for private ventures with shelters attached,” she said. “We are approaching in a way that we want donations and not make a profit, but get the cats in the spotlight and support them.”

The Ferndale Cat Shelter had about 50 cats in foster care at press time, and Fisher said there are always more cats or kittens that need help.

“The year and a half we have been in operation has proven there is a need, as every day we turn away people who have animals to surrender or have found animals,” Fisher said. “It can be hard to help them, because we don’t have space for it, and a lot of organizations in the area are in a similar boat. We need people to step up and help to support these animals.”

The Catfé Lounge is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day of the week. For more information on the Ferndale Cat Shelter, including fundraising efforts, visit www.ferndalecatshelter.org.