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Bettie is enjoying her spot, but she is ready for adoption. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, June 17, 2021

By Chris Frost

Tri County Sentry

Ventura-- What started as a dream has become a reality, as Cassie's Cats, a pet adoption service and lounge, is open in Ventura.

 

Cassie's Cats is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, with all tax-deductible donations going directly back to helping homeless cats and kittens find safe, loving, permanent homes.

 

Visitors at the location will find a comfortable, friendly space where the cats roam freely and do what they do best; they're cats. Visitors are examined closely by the cats who spend lots of time sitting on laps and playing.

 

Cassie's Cats President Jennifer Thompson named the lounge after her first cat, Cassie, and is thrilled to have the space open and make her dream come true.

 

"I feel really proud, and I had a lot of help along the way, for sure," she said. "I had the vision, and this is what I wanted to do all along. It was exciting when I started looking at possible places to lease, and I was a little nervous about how much we could afford and what kind of space would be the right space."

 

Jennifer was looking at one cheaper location, but she said it was smaller, darker, and didn't want it.

 

"My husband said you're settling for that, and it's not where you want to be," she said. "Get the place you want and make it happen."

 

The lounge is a safe place for cats, she said, and the goal was to make them feel right at home.

 

"They're relaxed and happy with enough space to spread out," she said. "They have private areas where the public can't go, so if they need to get away, they can."

 

At the same time, Jennifer said she wanted to create a space where the visitors are happy.

 

"My pillows say Happy Place and Be Happy," she said. "It's a place where people can come and relax for 30 or 60 minutes and be around really nice cats."

 

She said Covid-19 slowed the whole process down.

 

"It halted everything in terms of looking for a space to rent and moving forward on all of those plans," she said. "Once we saw numbers dropping in Ventura County, and we saw vaccinations starting to happen, we felt more comfortable moving forward with the plans to lease this space." 

 

Jennifer spent 11 months planning, researching, fundraising, and starting her network with the Covid-19 obstacles in place.

 

"When it was finally okay to take the next step, we were ready to go," she said. 

 

Cassie's Cats has a sign in the window that says, Come on in, we are awesome.

 

"When a visitor stops by, one of the volunteers will bring them through the front door," she said. "If they paid and signed a waiver, we'll review the policies that are in place to keep the cats happy and safe and also keep the visitors happy and safe. I'll bring them into the lounge space, introduce them to the cats and give them some tips, especially if they're not as familiar with cats. What can they do to help the cats feel more at ease with them right away because they're strangers? I want everyone to have a good experience, cats and people."

 

Jennifer and her volunteers are always available if questions or concerns arise.

 

"Some people ask me questions about the cats themselves," she said. "Some are some general questions like, how do you bring another cat home if you have a cat? I try to offer the education piece as well."

 

She is always looking for a good fit between the cat and the future owner. One size does not fit all.

 

"If I have a cat here that loves attention, laps, and being with someone, I'll make sure they can land in a home that meets those needs," Jennifer said. "If I have a cat that's a little more standoffish and thinks yea, you can pet me, but no, I don't want to sit in your lap, I'll try to match the cat with someone who wants a companion, but they don't need them to be on their lap all the time. It's about getting to know the cats and potential adopters."

 

She admits that older cats can be harder to place.

 

"One of the reasons why I love having this space (instead of a shelter) is that older cats are out of kennels and cages where dogs are barking," she said. "When they get into a place like this, they can relax and decompress. Visitors come in and say this is a really great being. This cat has lots of personality, and just because this cat isn't four months old doesn't mean that I can't love this cat."

 

While she was creating her network, she built relationships with the Camarillo Shelter and Spark in Santa Paula, and that list is growing.

 

"These are all rescued cats," she said. 

 

Cassie's Cats has been open for two weeks, and Thursday, June 10, she said they broke even for the day.

 

"We have a lot of supporters, people who pay an entrance fee to come in, $8 for 30 minutes and $14 for 60 minutes, and visit the cats," she said. "They'll do a little shopping before they leave or put $3 in the donation jar. We've also had a lot of support with people donating cat food, cat litter, and cat toys. Things we need here, so we don't have to spend the money on it."

 

Jennifer's mom makes lots of cat goodies for people who need a shopping fix.

 

"She's been making tote bags," she said.

 

Jennifer is planning her first Reading with Cats event for children under 10 years old, from 1-2 p.m., Thursday, June 17. 

 

"Kids can come on, bring their book, or choose one from our library," she said. "They can read to a cat or sit and read while a cat cuddles up next to them. I want children to know how to be with cats and interact with them. I'd love to do it every week."

 

Barbara Hinton stopped at Cassie's Cats and said she's a "crazy cat lady with eight cats, plus two foster cats."

 

"I've been to a couple of cat cafes in the past, most recently one in New Zealand," she said. "It was fascinating, and I am so excited that we have one in Ventura. It's a neat place you can come and hang out, enjoy the cats, play with them, and interact with some of the people."

 

She said her mom loved cats.

 

"My dad always said he was allergic, but my mom always prevailed and had a cat," she said. "I grew up with cats, and it was part of my life."

 

Barbara loves Cassie's Cats.

 

"It's warm, spacious, and open," she said. "She's got four cats here, and they are lovely. It's a nice space to hang out. Jennifer has some lovely cats to bring home."

 

Martie Knouse was spending some time in cat heaven and having a blast.

 

"Where else for $8 can you come in for 30 minutes, destress, hang out with a whole bunch of cats but not have to take them home," she said. "I have two at home."

 

Martie said Jennifer hand-selects cats that will match the owner and are personable.

 

"You know you're getting a quality cat," she said. "You can see how they are with other cats."

 

Cassie's Cats is located at 1744 E Main Street.