Students Relax at ODU's First Cat Cafe
On Thursday, more than 150 people passed through room 2005 in the Barry Arts Building of Old Dominion University to attend “Cat Café,” an interactive session designed for students to use kittens to mentally decompress from academic stress. The event is an experiment that comes from the mind of senior Shea-la Gatz.
“I have owned every animal possible but I’m a big cat lover,” Gatz said. “Studies show animals are very therapeutic. If a college campus has a cat café where students could do homework and study, it could boost grades and act as a de-stresser.”
Gatz took careful measures to ensure the right type of location for her initial setup.
“Originally, I wanted to have the event in the Webb Center,” Gatz said. “But the whole building has carpet and I wanted a room without carpet in case one of the cats had an accident.”
“I really didn’t expect this many people to come,” Gatz said. “All I did was hang posters and put flyers on some cars. One person took a picture of a poster and posted it on Facebook. The next thing you know it was everywhere!”
Gatz partnered with “Critters 4 U,” which is a non-profit, no-kill, all-breed animal rescue organization. All the animals live in one of the pre-screened foster homes allowing them to get more individualized attention. Animals who come through the organization receive all of their vaccines and are spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough. In the organization’s five years, more than 400 animals have found homes.
At least four more were adopted at Gatz’s “Cat Café.”
A two year old cat, Stephanie, came to “Critters 4 U” through a kill shelter right after she had seven babies. She was having a hard time getting adopted because one of her eyes is noticeably deformed, causing blindness in that eye. Stephanie was one of the more adventurous cats. She was always trying to get out when the door was opened, trying to crawl around behind the tables, chasing her tail and playing with toys. Despite being partially blind, she was still so full of life.
“I just wanted to play with cats,” Rowan Cardiff, ODU senior, said.
Cardiff found out about the event after seeing one of the posters in the music building. She brought along her boyfriend thinking a great way to de-stress would be to play with the kittens.
“We had talked about getting our next cat with a minor disability,” Rowan said. “I want to give a home to a cat less likely to be adopted.” But after experiencing Stephanie’s friendly and playful nature, she knew she had to adopt her.
Gatz considered the event a success and perfectly timed after the stress of mid-terms. Students continually said that after having a bad or stressful day, seeing and playing with the kittens improved their moods.
“This event was such a success, I plan on having another one during exam week,” Gatz said. “Next time I am going to need a bigger room!”