The Black Cat Cafe: A place to have a meal and save a cat

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“Where can you go eat and save a cat? Nowhere.” That’s the thinking behind the creation of the Black Cat Cafe, a nonprofit all-cats adoption center in Devon, which also doubles as a restaurant.

By Grace Kuryan and Chanelle Ongagna, Staff Reporters

“Where can you go eat and save a cat? Nowhere.”

That’s the thinking behind the creation of the Black Cat Cafe, a nonprofit all-cats adoption center in Devon, which also doubles as a restaurant. With there being so many dog adoption centers already, Pat Maloney, the executive Vice President of the Pet Adoption and Lifecare Society (PALS), helped found the Black Cat Cafe as a way to find homes for cats. The Cafe operates under PALS’ management, taking in cats from dangerous situations, saves them from euthanization, and cares for their injuries. PALS reallocates all proceeds from the Black Cat Cafe’s restaurant towards the cats’ food and medical costs. 

PALS is one of Philadelphia’s largest cat rescues, adopting hundreds of cats per year. For a long time, the organization had been looking to create an income source to support their animal rescue work, beyond animal fees alone. They considered everything from a thrift shop to a moving company. Then, a friend, who had previously owned a restaurant which served British-themed cuisine, sold that business to a private owner. 

“The new owner moved the business from our location to a different location, leaving this building that was already set up as a cafe,” Maloney said.  

That cafe space was perfect for the Black Cat Cafe. PALS owns the Cafe as a business, but the owner of the building out of which it operates donates it to the rescue for a dollar a year. 

Cat-themed gift shop items, donated by customers, are sold to support the cost of caring for the cats during the day. During the restaurant’s business hours, the cats remain “on display” in the gift shop, where the customers interact with them since the dining room is off-limits. The cats’ foster parents, who deliver them in the morning, take them home once the Cafe closes. The cats repeat this process until adoption. 

When asked how customers feel about being able to not only connect with these adorable animals but also support them by eating a delicious meal, Judy Link, the head chef says: 

“They love it. They really do. A lot of people will call: ‘Do you have cats today? Otherwise, I’m not coming.’ They look forward to it, especially the elderly.” 

Junior Ally Howell, who visited the Cafe at the beginning of the school year, enjoys the various unique elements of the restaurant. 

“We would go in and see the cats,” said Howell. “And they have a cute little gift shop where you can get jewelry, and I think towels and sweaters and stuff like that.”

The outbreak of COVID-19, however, drove away most customers except about 100 regulars, hitting the cafe’s dining revenue hard. 

“It has killed us,” Link said. “It definitely has.” 

Though the pandemic saw some of the highest demand ever for cats, with more than 500 adopted through the cafe’s Facebook last year alone, the restaurant can’t afford to take in anymore.

“It’s hard for us all working there knowing we can’t save these animals because nobody is coming in,” Link said. 

Still, the cafe works hard to support itself during the pandemic. Howell, who visited the cafe at the beginning of the school year enjoys going there because despite COVID-19 restrictions, the cafe still boasts a comfortable atmosphere, cute cats, a unique gift shop, and great staff.

“The head cook [Link] is really friendly,” said Howell. “It all feels really genuine. It’s a nice place and the meals are great.”

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