At a time when the PAWS (Peers for Animal Wellness and Safety) club is hard at work scheduling at least three sessions per semester where therapy dogs are invited onto campus to serve as emotional support for college students, the demand for stress relief from a grueling onslaught of responsibilities as a young adult is high. College students everywhere are seeking furry companions or not-so-furry companions to comfort them. (see: the fish in a small aquarium that residential life policies allow) The school boasts a number of student-run Instagram pages like @urgroundhogs, @squirrels_of_uofr_, and several dedicated towards the infamous quad fox. There’s a demand to see and interact with animals as a way of seeking comfort. These animals serve as an emotional support for students pulling their hair out over midterms.
Therein lies a safe haven just a quick trip away on the red line bus. Around the corner from the Eastman Theatre is Pawsitive Cafe, downtown Rochester’s first cat cafe. The Pawsitive Cafe opened its doors a little over 4 months ago. You enter the cafe to find snacks locally sourced from the Red Fern, a vegan and gluten-free restaurant in Rochester, and a selection of beverages including coffee and assorted teas.
Chester, the house cat with his signature red bowtie, greets you at the door. He was obtained from one of the first batches of adoption cats that came to the cafe and is their only noted ‘foster fail.’ He bonded with Suzanne Peters and Johnny Denman, the owners of Pawsitive Cafe and a happily married couple. After working for Petco for several years, Suzanne noticed the amount of college students that would come in missing their pets from home and hoping to play with some of the animals. This is where the idea for the cat cafe came to fruition.
You can pay for a half hour or an hour-long session and make your way through the double doors to the packed playroom usually containing an average of 15 to 20 foster cats, an assortment of couches, and cat toys to destress with a furry friend. These cats are outsourced from the Rescued Treasure Pet Adoptions, a local rescue group that has a network of fosters as well as adoption rooms at pet stores in the area. The cats in the cafe are usually trap and release kittens, abandoned cats, or come from homes that can’t take care of them. Most cats that you interact with in the cafe are up for adoption — with a few exceptions, such as Chester.
Peters and Denman are determined to find the best home for these foster cats. Together, they thoroughly review applicants through Rescued Treasures Pet Adoptions. Denman lives by the mantra, “We don’t want to find cats a home, we want to find them the home.” They’ve been successful in this mission and have coordinated 15 adoptions so far, including to a UR student, in the short four months they’ve been operating the cafe.
People are able to visit to play with the cats, snuggle up with them, or offer them snacks. At the front of the playroom, the cafe sells cat treats and commodities from local artists and vendors. This includes local homemade soap, prints, bookmarks, pins, and jewelry, all from local vendors. The owners’ goal was to keep their operations as “local as possible,” which is why they offer artisans a place to sell their goods. This extends to the snacks they sell from the Red Fern and the cafe’s own merch and logo, which come from a local artist and print shop in the area.
The cat cafe has also started expanding past playtime in the cat lounge by offering local community events, including art, yoga, and movie nights with the cats. They are planning to make these events a permanent fixture.
The cafe’s clientele consists mostly of locals and welcomes people of all ages. Similar to other adoption rooms, volunteers sometimes come to help out with the cats. Potential volunteers that want to work in the cat cafe can apply through Rescued Treasures Pet Adoptions’ website.
I’ve visited the cafe several times, and each time, it’s been bustling with college students rotating in and out of the door hoping to catch a break. Friends wander in and spend time playing with the kittens, petting them, or just relaxing and chatting with the owners. The Pawsitive Cafe offers an easy and affordable way to destress and have some fun in Rochester. I know it’s where I’m headed the next time I need a moment to relax, and believe me, with finals looming and the Rochester snow approaching, we all need a little break and a kitten to pet.