Snack And Snuggle At Morgan’s Cat Cafe In Red Hook
By Amy Krzanik
By now, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a cat café, but did you know that we have our very own right in the RI region?
The cat café concept was popularized in Japan in the mid-to-late 2000s, where, due to space constraints, many landlords do not allow renters to own pets. Tokyo is now home to 58 such cafes, where visitors can “rent” time with an animal while enjoying a sip or snack. The past few years have seen the idea adopted by cities throughout the world, including the U.S., where they are especially popular in California and New York.
Morgan’s Cat Café on Market Street in Red Hook is the Hudson Valley’s first cat café and the only vegetarian/vegan one in New York State. The reason for omitting meat from the menu, says director Bobbi Jo Forte is that it “seemed weird to be saving one species and serving another.”
Forte, who has a long history of rescuing and fostering animals, opened Morgan’s right next door to Living Eden, a shop she’s co-owned with Bonnie Schweppe for the past five years. Inside Living Eden, you can find products from local artists, along with items that are fair trade, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, recycled and upcycled. And, before the café opened in July 2016, you could find adoptable kittens there, too.
Forte and her daughter, Morgan, ran a cat rescue out of their home, but wanted a more formal way to offer adoptions. The plan came together due to a series of overlapping events. Forte was diagnosed with a brain tumor and became ill very quickly, and so wanted a legacy project. After she’d successfully gone through radiation, a good friend of hers passed away from cancer. Two days before she died, she told Forte she wished to honor Morgan, and left them a sum of money so that the mother and daughter could create something together. “She said, ‘Morgan is your sidekick and she’s your strength’ and that’s really true,” says Forte. “When people come into the cafe and ask for the boss, I say ‘She’s 11 years old and 4-feet 9-inches and she’s right here.’”
The café offers a menu of Asian-inspired snacks; guacamole, hummus, salads, wraps and “burgers” ranging from $4–$9; coffee, tea and smoothies from $2–$5; and cat-shaped cookies and cupcakes. You can snack while you watch the 11 cats and kittens frolic inside the glass-enclosed area. (The restaurant and play area are separated, because even cat-lovers don’t want hair in their food). A $1 fee gets you entry into the play area to meet the kitties (wash your hands and remove your shoes first). All 11 cats — the café’s limit — have been vetted and are adoptable.
Morgan’s occupies a clean, sunlit space; the snacks are yummy; and they sell humorous gift items that any cat lady would love. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. “It’s a wonderful place for the community to interact with the animals,” says Forte, “but it’s an unbelievable amount of work.” Tasks you don’t see include the physical hands-on rescue work, conducting adoption screenings, and, as anyone with pets knows, an enormous amount of cleaning. Several times a year, it also includes bottle-feeding a litter of kittens around the clock.
With help from volunteers, partner organizations and an advisory board, Morgan’s so far has placed around 100 cats into forever homes. “It’s a rollercoaster,” says Forte. “Some days there are waves and waves of people, and sometimes not as many so the cats just sleep all day.” I’m sure they don’t mind.
Morgan’s Cat Cafe
35 West Market St., Red Hook, NY
Wed–Sat 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday
(845) 250-2272 or (845) 475-2619
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