Come, Grimalkin, it’s the witching hour. Cartoon calaveras grin from every corner as we count down the lengthening nights to the approach of All Hallows and All Souls. And maybe it’s time to view black cats through new eyes.
First, a quick history recap.
Sacks of cats, black and otherwise, were drowned and burned by the thousands during the Middle Ages, cited by the church as the source of the bubonic plague. Science now informs us that Yersinia Pestis, the vile bacterium that caused the Black Death, was carried into Europe via the Silk Road by flea-infested gerbils stowed away in textiles from Asia. In the centuries following, women suspected of witchcraft were drowned and burned, along with the cats, often black, suspected of being their familiars in league with demons.
Gwendolyn Mathers, operator of Pasadena’s Tail Town Cat Café, located at 1780 East Washington, says that times have changed, but black cats still need all the TLC they can get.
“The old-fashioned myths about black cats are declining. The younger generation is definitely open to adopting black cats,” she says, as a dozen or so kittens and cats wind around her ankles in the café’s spacious lounge where visitors mingle with feline residents, all of whom are eligible for adoption.
“However, black cats aren’t as visible in shelter environments, so they are less likely to be adopted. They sort of disappear into the background in photos. But they’re usually super-affectionate,” says Mathers.
Tail Town Cat Café was founded in 2021 and is just a few head-bumps and cheek-glides from obtaining its 501(c)(3) non-profit status as we go to press. For a festive introduction, snap up a ticket for the special cat mask-making workshop on Saturday, October 21st. It’s $35, and all art supplies are provided, including the cat mask. This is an under-21 event, so young ones are welcome.
Tail Town is not a rescue operation, meaning you can’t drop off an unclaimed kitten or cat with Mathers, even though her cattery seems like feline paradise. Kitten Rescue partners with Tail Town, and the majority of the 25-40 adoption-ready kittens and cats housed at Tail Town at any given time are filtered to Mathers through Kitten Rescue.
Kitten Rescue performs a rigorous vetting process before offering kittens and cats for adoption. After reaching a minimum weight of two pounds, generally around eight weeks, the cat is spayed or neutered, tested and vaccinated against FelV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and other common conditions, micro-chipped and treated for ticks and fleas.
Kitten Rescue offers a “leukemia suite” for cats testing positive and many other accommodations for helping cats find their way into safe, loving homes.
If you have a kitten or cat that you wish to re-home, the first step is to join Kitten Rescue’s Community Foster Program. Once the essential criteria are met, you may bring your feline in a carrier to Tail Town for a Saturday showing in the lobby, where they’ll meet potential adopters.
The rescue, fostering and adoption process can be challenging. It’s important to note that Kitten Rescue and Tail Town advise against allowing cats to roam free. Why? Free-range cats get into fights with other cats, not to mention dogs. They may lose their way, especially if chased, and end up in someone’s garage or up a tree.
The rescue, fostering and adoption process can be challenging.
Cats kill songbirds, enraging bird lovers. They use freshly turned flowerbeds to answer nature’s call, thus pissing-off gardeners. They get peppered with BBs and shot with arrows by cowardly Bravehearts. They die excruciating deaths from eating rodents that have ingested rat poison. They get hit by cars. It’s feasible, though unlikely, that a kitten could be carried off by a large owl or hawk. And, most obviously, for those of us in the foothills, they get munched like hot canapes by our resident cougars, bears, coyotes and bobcats.
Even an especially hungry raccoon, lured to your back door by the scent of cat food, can open up one mean can o’ whup-ass on your kitty. However the local trash pandas are generally opportunistic scavengers and not highly aggressive. But you never know.
Was it always this bad? Mathers doesn’t think so. “Everyone in the cat rescue world is overbooked and overwhelmed, not just in Southern California,” she says. “We lost a great many local veterinarians to retirement during the pandemic. The small, family-run vet offices couldn’t hold their own financially.”
“And now essential services like spay and neuter can cost $600, $800, with a three-month wait. A decade ago, these services were affordable. We do not have enough accessible services to meet the need,” she says.
“It’s an uphill battle. Everyone suffers as a result.”
Mathers should know: Her mother was a vet-tech who worked for the Humane Society of Hawaii, and sometimes brought home hospice animals, including kittens in need of bottle-feeding.
What to do? Adopt pets from rescues versus buying from breeders. Start by spending quality time in the presence of potential pets. Mathers uses many of the resources practiced by Jackson Galaxy, a celebrated cat behaviorist and long-time supporter of Kitten Rescue, to support cat parents through the process of adopting a cat and introducing a new cat into an existing indoor feline family.
“People need to grasp that this is a commitment fully and to take the process slowly,” says Mathers as a marmalade-ginger resident drapes lazily across her lap.
A session at Tail Town is an embarrassment of riches for cat people. In the lounge, they roam free except for an occasional time-out if needed. Mel, for instance, needs constant supervision and may be tucked into his kennel when playtime gets a little rough.
But mostly, it’s fun and games in the lounge. Art Vandelay, a chonky white longhair, surveys the scene with leonine disdain. Striped youngsters prance and pratfall, bouncing along on the springiest jellybean toes in town. A-la kitty Laserium, red and green strobes dance across the walls and floor for predation practice. There are beds, perches, pads, baskets, swings, cushions and scratching posts galore, and the general vibe is tranquil even as a few giddy felines skitter after ping-pong balls and wrestle with an array of donated toys.
Sarkis Bakery is right next door, making this an ideal spot for a delectable snack and a purr-fest. You’re permitted to bring food into the lounge as long as you don’t attempt to feed the cats your Katah.
Visitors are asked not to pick up or otherwise disturb sleeping cats—good advice if ever there were any.
There are lots of ways to get your feline fix. You can walk in for a 30-minute Cat Pass, but please arrive at least an hour before closing. If you’re a bit more hard-core, book an 80-minute Cat Pass and arrive 90 minutes before closing. And okay, for real cat people, purchase your Monthly Cat Pass in-store, which allows for one hour a day, every day, and you must arrive one hour before closing.
Did somebody say special events? Yes, there’s kitty bingo, kitty trivia nights and more—check with Tail Town for admission fees. Events may be age-restricted, but kids aged six and up are welcome in the lounge. And consider yourself an insider: Tail Town will participate in the annual Pasadena Doo Dah Parade on November 19th, with an unofficial after party open to the public at the lounge.