Tree House Humane Society Serves Coffee With a Purr-pose

Since 1971, Tree House Humane Society has been committed to ensuring better conditions for the homeless cats of Chicago — long before the café’s opening in 2017.

Any regular cup of coffee can warm hands. At Tree House Humane Society’s Cat Café in Rogers Park, it can warm hearts, too. 

The energy radiating through 7225 N. Western Ave. isn’t due to the caffeine — adorable, adoptable cats housed in a room adjacent to the café provide joy to patrons and passerby.

A $10 reservation made via Tree House’s website secures visitors a 30-minute time slot in the cat café. Customers can choose a beverage from the expansive menu including Cat-puccinos and Meowing Matcha Lattes.

Curiosity is encouraged by a large collection of kitty-themed books and amicable staff members equipped to answer questions. Tree House’s resident barista Brandon Caldwell said the café is structured to “educate, above all else,” which prepares interested customers to adopt. 

Shelter manager Danielle Faford said the instructive role of the café supports Tree House’s mission to ensure every cat thrives by promoting human-animal connections.

“There’s a very human aspect to what we do,” Faford said. “We provide support, resources, help to the human that is caring for the pet because one cannot exist without the other.”

Adorned with natural light, cat trees, play toys and artwork for sale, two to four cats roam around the enclosed room. Minimal noise and various seating options aid attempts to make the space “as zen as possible,” Caldwell said.

Since 1971, Tree House Humane Society has been committed to ensuring better conditions for the homeless cats of Chicago — long before the café’s opening in 2017, according to their website

Katie Jordan, Tree House’s senior marketing and communications manager, said the café is “vital” to the organization’s mission.

“These cats are exposed to a lot of different people which is great because then they get a lot of different types of enrichment,” Jordan said.

All cats residing in the café are FeLV+, which means they tested positive for feline leukemia virus, an incurable condition that makes cats vulnerable to other diseases. As the first shelter in Chicago to provide housing and adoption programs for FeLV+ cats, Jordan said Tree House prioritizes the wellbeing of vulnerable kitties with innovation.

Whether it’s pawing a jingling toy, accepting behind-the-ear scratches or just sitting near visitors, Jordan said interplay with humans greatly benefits felines.

Café cats also have increased educational exposure to potential adopters. Faford said the café’s relaxed environment opens the door to FeLV+ education, acquainting people with immunocompromised cats. 

“It’s a really unique and interesting way to show a population of cats that maybe nobody ever knew existed or didn’t know much about,” Faford said. 

The atypical café experience is constructive for humans, too. Jordan said cats and humans both “benefit tremendously” from interaction with one another.

The humane society’s unique café feature draws in patrons out-of-state, broadening their reach to potential adopters, according to Faford. 

Café visitors range from those who have never interacted with a cat to people unable to have pets seeking comfort from an animal, according to Caldwell. 

Faford said she works with other animal care organizations to support their FeLV+ cats and increase awareness of the disease. According to Tree House’s website, the number of shelters with adoption programs for FeLV+ cats is increasing — a testament to the success of creative endeavors like the cat café.

“I would love it if lots of other places saw the success and did something similar,” Faford said. 

Faford said Tree House employees are “really, really proud” of the cat café. This pride extends to its customers, too, according to Jordan.

“Knowing that the café supports a greater mission to shed light, awareness onto cats with FeLV, it makes them feel even better supporting such a cause,” Jordan said.

Tree House Humane Society is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. Reservations are required to visit the cats and can be made through Tree House’s website.

Featured image taken by Xavier Barrios / The Phoenix.

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