Although the original founder of La Gattara Cat Cafe downtown has bid adieu, the nonprofit is going strong and has plans to expand its services to help cats and cat owners in the community.
Missy Pruitt, who founded La Gattara in Tempe in 2017, posted on the cafe’s Facebook page on March 11, “I will be stepping away from La Gattara and creating a new life that I'm pretty excited about.”
Business partner Carrie Pawpins continues to run the nonprofit cafe and feline rescue, which moved and reopened at its current location at 147 East Garfield Street in January 2022.
Upon entering, there’s a room with a coffee and tea bar and a small boutique, and to the left is a large, open playroom that holds about 25 cats at any given time. They're separated by a vestibule with doors on each side to prevent escapees.
“All the basic structural stuff is going to be staying the same,” she says. “I’m going to be in charge of a lot more of the paperwork stuff, which is great because that’s what my forte is. For the most part, the public won’t see any changes to anything.”
And she’s gearing up for La Gattara’s annual Whiskers & Wine Fundraising Gala from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the cafe. It’ll include a raffle, silent auction, dessert bar, and a Champagne toast. Tickets are $75 and sponsorships are available.
Pruitt stepped back to focus on self-care, Pawpins says. “The biggest thing — and anybody who’s in rescue will tell you this — is it’s exhausting,” she says. “It's daunting. It’s dawn-till-dusk work.”
But on April 1, Pruitt returned to attend the retirement party for Charle Chaplin, one of the resident cats, and ended up adopting him.
“He is one of the coolest cats,” Pawpins says. “He would sit in everybody’s lap when he was here. He was the ultimate emotional support cat. But recently he was giving us signs he wasn’t happy.” So he’s living his golden years with Pruitt.
Moving forward, Pawpins hopes La Gattara can start doing TNR (that stands for trap,neuter, release) in the neighborhood with help from Brookview Animal Wellness in Gilbert and offering microchip and possibly vaccine clinics in the coming quarter.
The nonprofit also will continue its mission of finding homes for all of the furry friends that come through. So far, more than 1,025 cats have been adopted.
“More than half of the cats have the ear tip,” Pawpins says, referring to the clipped tip that signifies they’ve been TNRed. “They come from an outdoor colony where it was realized, ‘Hey this cat’s really friendly and they can be adopted out.’”
Many other cats are surrendered by owners who are moving and can’t find housing that allows cats, or come from homes where they were adopted without the consent of other family members or roommates.
Part of the challenge of the cafe, Pawpins admits, is “making sure we have cats that actually do well in the environment. There are some who prefer to be only cats.”
She brings in healthy cats that fit well into the group, and she puts a red collar on the feisty ones that tend to get overstimulated in order to warn customers to be cautious.
Once cats arrive at La Gattara, they live communally and can run along shelves on the walls, cuddle up in a basket, or interact with customers. It costs $18 for an hour (reservations are highly recommended, as capacity is limited), and kids under 15 must be accompanied by adults.
The cafe also sells daily, monthly, and yearly passes and hosts special events like paint night, drag bingo, and yoga with cats, which can be booked online. Regular lounge hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Pawpins says no one should feel bad if they want to simply come in and play with the cats without adopting: “You know even if you don’t take them home, they’re living a great life and getting socialization.”
Plus, it’s important for their budget: “Our lounge fees make up the bulk of the money we have coming in to care for the cats,” Pawpins notes. They also get a portion of fees from the adjacent parking lot and rely on donors.
Most of La Gattara’s food, litter, toys, and cleaning supplies are donated, but medical care can be costly. One sick cat can run up a vet bill in the hundreds of dollars.
Anyone who wants to adopt a cat has to fill out an application and undergo an interview. “We talk about their lifestyle, making sure the cat’s going to fit,” Pawpins notes. Adopters must sign a contract that mandates they won’t let the cat outside, declaw it, update the microchip if they move, and more.
The cost to adopt is $100, or $125 for cats under a year old. All are spayed or neutered, tested for feline illnesses like FIV and FELV, microchipped, and vaccinated.
One Monday morning, Heather Banayat of Glendale arrived at the cafe to meet the cats. “Who doesn’t love coffee and kitties?” she asks. “Sounds like a great day.”
As she inquired about adopting Lemon Squeezey, a striped ginger shorthair with a laid-back personality, she says, “We are looking for a buddy for the kitty we just adopted. We’d like to have two.”
Other cats up for adoption on La Gattara’s website include Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn (unlike their namesakes, they're still lovebirds); Pumpkin, Jasmine, Virginia, and many more. Pawpins says some come with names, but for others, “we just kind of look at them.”
In addition to adoptive families and visitors, Pawpins said La Gattara can always use more volunteers, who help with everything from feeding, litter box duty, hairball patrol, and deep cleaning to transporting cats to medical appointments.
“It's not always the glamorous jobs we need help with,” she says, “but you get paid back in lots of kitty love.”
La Gattara Cat Cafe
147 East Garfield Street