SIGMUND FREUD said a lot of clever things, including this, which is probably the most genius of all: “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” Which is why visiting Cat Heaven in Somerset West is an excellent idea.
Retired academic Valerie Steinmann is who we – and the cats – have to thank for this wonderful place which is part gift shop, part café, and part haven for rescued kitties. Not all cat lovers can have their own feline companion, for whatever reason, so Cat Heaven is as much for us as it is for them.
A large courtyard contains a massive jungle gym for the cats, as well as tiny little houses in which they can sleep or bask in the sun. The flower beds are thoughtfully planted with lots of catnip. Human tables and chairs are dotted around where you can have a cup of coffee while the cats wind their way between your ankles. Opening out onto the courtyard is the cats’ home – a room filled with all their creature comforts, hammocks, mirrors and toys to keep them entertained.
The residents are all rescues from Stellenbosch Animal Welfare, and have been permanently adopted by Cat Heaven which is now their “furever” home. Visitors are welcome to come see them and enjoy their company, and if you want to take it one step further, you can become a foster parent. This means for a monthly fee of R120, you get to “adopt” a cat. This gives you visiting rights, email updates, the vet’s monthly report, and a photograph of “your” cat. Long story short, I am Aurora’s foster mom now.
Val hopes to encourage visitors to rescue cats of their own, and will happily take you to Animal Welfare right there and then to help facilitate this.
In the large gift shop, two rooms are filled with everything imaginable which has something “cat” on it, locally made and imported. There are clothes, cushions, fabrics, trinkets, soap, jewellery, prints, toys, bags, chocolates, bumper stickers…the list goes on and on. Val has travelled extensively and brought her idea to Cape Town via the cat cafes in Asia.
“After four visits to Japan, I decided to open my own unique cat café back home. Where most cat cafés deal with special breeds – the beautiful cats – ours is different, aimed at assisting cats in need of a home, a first in South Africa,” she says.
Different in concept maybe, but the cats are all just as beautiful as any pedigree breed. When they made their move from Animal Welfare to Cat Heaven ahead of its opening at the beginning of June, Val was overcome with excitement. “I couldn’t wait for my precious rescue kitties to settle down and feel comfortable in their new environment before they and our cat-loving visitors would be able to enjoy each other’s loving company,” she says. Subsequently three more rescue cats have joined the residents at Cat Heaven, and more will follow soon.
“So far 15 cats have been rescued from Stellenbosch Animal Welfare,” says Val. “There are four ginger and white cats: Major (male) and Coco (female) are brother and sister. Then we have Benji and Sunshine. Sunshine has been given this positive name because of her very ‘sad’ eyes. We have three black and white cats: Gigi (the smallest and friendliest of all the cats), Tutu (with a white collar) and Barack.
“We have five tabbies. Jolo is the mother of Oz, Prince and Aurora. Then there is Messi who has a knot on the end of his tail (present at birth and not due to any injury). Our latest arrivals are three tortoise-shell cats, Patches, Zaza and Amor.”
Not everyone has the space, time or wherewithal for a cat of their own and many people, especially senior citizens, live in places where they can’t keep pets, so end up feeling disconnected, says Val. “At Cat Heaven they are able to snuggle and pet cats to their hearts’ content and reconnect with the therapeutic wonder that is animal companionship.”
CAT HEAVEN GIFT SHOP AND RESCUE CAT CAFÉ
35 Bright Street, Somerset West
Opening hours are Mondays to Fridays from 9am till 4pm; Saturdays 9am till 1pm
The maximum number of people allowed at any given time is six in the indoor café and 15 in the outdoor café.
The entrance fee to the indoor café is R40 an hour and the outdoor café R20 an hour.
Only coffee, tea, soft drinks and kitty cookies are served. Birthday cakes are permissible by prior arrangement.
Bookings are recommended to secure your place.
No children under the age of 6 are allowed. Children under the age of 14 may enter but under the strict supervision of an adult.
Cat Heaven’s premises offer ample parking and good security.
For more information, call Valerie Steinmann on 083 357 2527, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.catheaven.co.za/cat-cafe-somerset-west/
Cat Heaven Rescue Cat Café is a non- profit organisation. All funds generated at the Café go towards the feeding and maintenance of the health and welfare of the resident cats, and their environment. Any excess funds are donated to animal charities.
- This story first appeared in Weekend Argus Saturday Live on August 4, 2018