The Kitty Café

You, too can hold a life-changing event that helps both people and kittens at your library. Read on to discover how the partnership began between our public library and the Nebraska Humane Society, how the program went, and some thoughts on how it could be improved in the future.

How it came to be:

Sometimes the stars align, a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, and someone posts cute kitty pictures on the web. One such day happened a few months ago, and what it led to was one of the most wonderful events ever.

I must confess, of all the social media that I manage for our library, Twitter is the one that seems the dullest to me. There’s not a lot of interaction, but then again, I don’t put a heck of a lot of effort into cultivating it. So, when the Nebraska Humane Society posted yet another crazy-adorable picture of kittens, I impulsively responded. And magic happened.

To this day the above photo just kills me with teh cutes.

I cannot even put into words how I feel about this interaction (especially because I was the specific person that they could contact to try something out), so here’s a gif:

The Humane Society turned out to be a wonderful partner, helper, and supporter. They even have their own PR department that helped with promoting this event. They said that I could focus on the local, and they’d do their more widespread thing. It really sunk in when someone called us who’d heard about the event on the radio. I’m not aware of any of our events ever having hit the airwaves.

I mean, seriously? More people liked this Humane Society Facebook post than we have page likes. Kinda awesome (well, except for the whole not having that many page likes).

As a former café manager, I knew that health codes would be an issue with this. I did reach out to our county’s health department, but I never heard anything back. So I did the thing that seemed wisest: I had the coffee in a completely separate room from where the kittens were. This had the added benefit of allowing at least one (allergic-to-cats) mom a nice place to hang out while her older kids went in with the kittens.

I had reached out to a local coffee shop to be a part of this, but never received a response. That was probably my biggest disappointment. Offering a local business some positive PR, only to be met with crickets? *sad face*

How it went:

The setup for this event was easy-peasy: a table with coffee/creamers in our foyer, putting away our tables in the meeting room, and edging the room with some chairs. Our Children’s Librarian even offered up the use of her rolling dry erase/felt easel to put outside declaring that the Kitty Café was open.

During the event, I was the only library staff member there. The Humane Society essentially ran the event for me. I could not have done it without their help. Except for the first hour when the kittens were acclimating to the new space, I didn’t have time to enjoy the kitties ::trombone wah wah:: BUT, I already have an amazing 13 year old cat, so playing with the kittens would have been a bit selfish on my part. I spent my time welcoming people (many whom I did not recognize), and shooting videos.

Our meeting room is where the Friends of the Gretna Library house their book sale, and it’s worth mentioning that they made $42 during this event! Bonus library help!

Oh, and obviously this event struck a chord: a family in Lincoln (40-ish miles away) drove up having seen the Humane Society’s Facebook post that morning. And there were quite a few comments on that thread about “I want this to happen in my city!” How cool is that?!

Ultimately, all four kittens found forever homes. That fact still gets me all sorts of choked-up. Every person (except one, and we’ll get to her) thanked me and the Humane Society ladies for such a neat event. I must say, I’ve never had such a positive warm-fuzzy response to any of our events before. People were even asking if/when we’d do it again!

There definitely was a huge learning curve during the event, and I’ll share those things (including why the one person was unhappy), plus a few tips for you if you decide to try an event like this – all of this after sharing this video that I made of the event:

Things to keep in mind to help you if you’re interested in doing this at your library:

  • The kittens had an hour to acclimate to the space, and then we opened the doors. Next time we may make the first hour be for adults-only. There was a great rush of enthusiastic children which wore out the kittens. The adults who sat patiently got the short end of the stick. Having an early adults-only time may also help the kittens further acclimate.
  • Locate areas where kittens might hide, and block them. Our kittens hid behind a huge filing cabinet (in a space that I thought that they wouldn’t be able to fit into). The kids would further bother them by trying to lure them out. So it’s good for them to have places to hide for a break, but hopefully it’s in an area where extraction by an adult can happen without fear of bodily harm. It took four of us post-event to move the cabinet and secure the kitty.
  • Speaking of kids: perhaps have a short script to educate them on how to treat the kittens. Many parents guided their children, but there were plenty of others who didn’t seem concerned that their children were being too rough with the kittens.
  • Along those lines we did have one upset woman. I believe that she had expected to purchase the kittens like a cup of coffee. She did not understand that the Humane Society adopts and does not sell animals (o force them to amuse people). With that in mind, on future flyers I might make it clear that you can claim a kitten at the library, and then go to the Humane Society later that day to fill out the adoption papers and pay the fee.

    Here’s what our flyer looked like in case you were curious:
  • We may also use a baby gate in the doorway instead of opening/closing the door. I’m not sure how convenient that will be for letting people in and out, but it’s something to consider. It may also help keep the number of people down in the room if they can easily look in and see what’s happening.
  • One of the awesome Humane Society ladies (::waves hi to Sarah::) may bring slightly older kittens. At that point, however, we would need to be extra careful about the number of people allowed in the room. We would also need waivers for those going in stating that they won’t hold us liable if a kitten or cat bites and/or claws them.
  • Finally, the potential for allergy issues: it wasn’t a problem (it’s another reasons having a separate room is so great). Our Director is terribly allergic to cats, and since I cleaned/vacuumed/practically hosed down the room right after the program, she didn’t even have a sniffle on Monday morning.

That about covers it! As always, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments or by email if you have any questions. I’d love to see this awesome life-changing event (for both people and cats) sweep the nation’s libraries and Humane Societies!


There’s an update to this post that I’ll repost soon. I’ll be sure to link it here.

What we did do over the years:

  • We never used a baby gate, nor did adults come in early. The solution was pretty easy: have more kittens available. More people holding more kitten = energy spread. The attendees made great backup door-keepers.
  • We created a rules sign and got suggestions/approval from the Humane Society before printing it. We posted some both in the entryway, and in the room. The biggest point on the poster was that The Humane Society was in control, and you must follow their instructions.
  • It has remained limited to very young kittens; most arrived with their foster parents.
  • I mentioned my amazing 13 year-old kitty in this post. It was only a few short years later that he would unexpectedly cross the rainbow bridge. And no, I didn’t find Kitty Momo and The Luminous Mews in this event, but because of this event. I’ll write a special post about that someday, but not now.
  • On a happier note, here’s one of my favorite photos from the event. These nice gals let me take some video of them, but they misunderstood and posed for a photo. So, once I hit stop on the camera, I explained our confusion. That’s when they cracked up and I snapped this photo:
  • I can’t believe that it was five years ago that we had under 800 likes on Facebook. We’ve more than doubled that. We still aren’t close to the NE Humane Society’s number, and that’s okay.
  • We jettisoned our Twitter account the following year. It came down if it was worth the time. It wasn’t. But I do follow the NE Humane Society’s Kitty Twitter feed on my Hafuboti account.
  • In the video’s thumbnail image, there’s a girl holding a kitten. This is a gal that four years later would become one of our library pages. She remarked on her first day on the job that this event means the world to her.  ? 
  • And I believe in you! I know that you can totally hold a life-changing event, in partnership with your Humane Society, that helps both people and cat at your library.

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