DC's Mayor Suggests Cat Parks
In America's capital, our mayor recently presided over the reopening of a dog park and stated, "I used to have two dogs. They now have gone on. But I do have a cat, and we have no cat parks...yet" according to local blog DCist. As a cat mom who lives nearby, I thought this a great idea. My Toby used to play with two neighbor cats down the hall, but ever since they moved away I've thought he could use more feline socialization.
I was jealous of my New York City friends when I learned that Meow Mix had a short-lived "pop up" cat café on 5th Avenue back in 2005. It was essentially an indoor cat park and restaurant. The Meow Mix Café allowed cat parents to bring their feline friends to eat gourmet-flavored cat food while the people enjoyed coordinating human meals. In addition to food there were toys, catnip-filled fake mice, and scratching posts for cats to enjoy, according to PR Newswire. The YouTube footage showed cats napping, playing, and of course eating.
Toby was surprisingly silent when I asked for his opinion of an indoor cat park or cat café. I decided to talk with Katherine Zenzano, CPDT-KA, the Cat Behavior Manager at the Washington Humane Society. She loved the idea!
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Although Zenzano noted that it could stress out some cats, she added "Cats are a lot more social than we give them credit for." She commented that it would be great to have additional opportunities for cat parents to get together in what she joked was our "dog-centric" society. When I asked what she would put in an ideal indoor cat park, Zenzano noted that it would need a variety of fun toys, a number of hiding and climbing spaces, as well as platforms on which cats could perch. She also reminded me that a great deal of thought would need to go into handling health concerns.
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Perhaps this could be an extension of kitten kindergarten classes being offered by some behaviorists and shelters. After a cat completes the class, the people can bring their cats back together for continued socialization! Health concerns could be covered by cat parents providing vaccine and test records before kitties could have access. People would obviously need to evaluate their cat's suitability for a cat cafe. As Zenzano said, "each cat, just like each dog, is an individual." I know some cats who would adore it and others who would be too nervous in a new space to enjoy themselves.
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I suspect any cat cafes would also attract people unable to have a cat of their own - due to roommates, travel, or other circumstances. According to the Huffington Post, cafes with kitties are already popular in Japan. Cafes with resident cats could even be a boon to shelters. The Daily Mail reported on a cat cafe that opened in Vienna. All the resident kitties were adopted from the local animal shelter!
Tell us - would you bring your cat to an indoor cat park? Do you think dogs need to give up some of their public spaces?