Nearly 700 cats have found their homes in the span of three years through Catopia Cat Café, a space that houses cats that are up for adoption in a cozy café environment.
Around 20 cats roam the café at a time, laying on cat towers or meowing for customers’ attention. Customers can pay about $10 to get in for an hour and can also purchase food or drinks and relax on a couch or study at a table. All of the proceeds made in the shop go directly back to the cats.
Catopia opened in January 2019 and works with shelters and rescue groups around Albuquerque to take in cats, who are all required to be spayed/neutered and have a list of vaccinations done beforehand.
“The underlying purpose is definitely just to help ease the burden on shelters and rescue groups and try to help them find cats a good home,” owner Sandy Dierks said.
Cats can be adopted after a screening process with fees ranging from a donation up to $150, depending on the rescue or shelter the cat came from.
Catopia strives to educate people on numerous topics in addition to adoption, whether that be helping people see cats as social creatures or realizing the necessity of regular vet visits, according to Dierks.
Previous adopter Sarah Bodkin said the café and others like it are extremely important to help cats socialize as well as promote adoption.
“The truth is that I see a lot of importance in cat cafés because they do such important work in being able to socialize cats, and it’s so beautiful and visually appealing here too that I feel like it brings people in, and it brings people in in a way that keeps them towards the idea of adopting rather than necessarily going to a breeder,” Bodkin said.
Bodkin, a UNM student, worked at Catopia in 2019. Even after leaving, Bodkin kept visiting the shop and eventually adopted her cat Ziggy from there in September 2021.
“When I adopted Ziggy, it was really interesting because I took her home — and, you know, I’ve interacted with a lot of cats and I’ve loved all of them — but this has definitely been the first experience where it’s been like my heart outside of my body,” Bodkin said. “People have referred to her before as my ‘soul cat,’ and I feel like that’s just really resonant.”
The cats tend to get adopted faster if they’re more outgoing, according to Dierks. However, she said that even with shy cats, “it’s amazing how they come around, like they can be super shy at first and then a few weeks later, they’re out sitting in someone’s lap. They’re resilient and they can adjust to the new situation.”
“The thing about cats and what I’ve learned specifically about my cat, she’s a total empath. She’ll understand when I’m stressed, when I'm having a tough time, and will come over and just lay on my belly and purr for a little while, and it’s so beautifully therapeutic, and it’s such a great bonding experience,” Bodkin said.
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Dierks and Bodkin both said it’s nice just to be around the cats even if you aren’t looking to adopt.
“Most people come here just to enjoy the cats, and sometimes people come because they can’t have a cat because they(’ve) got someone allergic at home, but even (for) people who have six cats at home, it’s still fun to come see more cats. I think people appreciate that it’s supporting a good cause because all of the money does go toward the cats,” Dierks said.
Dierks had a dream of opening a big cat sanctuary where cats set to be euthanized could live out the rest of their days, and Catopia was the closest financial possibility to that. Dierks works full time at the shop as a volunteer.
“My goal of being able to just help some cats has been worth all of the effort,” Dierks said.
Catopia has maintained mostly steady business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Dierks said around the time the pandemic first started in March 2020, there was a large influx of adoptions and the shop even had to close briefly because they didn’t have enough cats at one point.
Catopia is open Wednesdays through Sundays for those 8 years and older and has select times on Wednesdays and Thursdays when all ages are welcome. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome if there’s enough room to accommodate.
“I just kind of want to emphasize how important the work is that they do here and just how wonderful it is that they’ve adopted as many cats out as they have and made sure that those homes were the best homes for them,” Bodkin said. “I think it’s so wonderful and it’s such important work.”
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716