Fun events for every purrsonality at Tiny Lions lounge and adoption center
History records that cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt -- and they have never forgotten that! Our furry feline friends may be finicky at times, but they are also devoted, cuddly, and loving. If you don’t or can’t have a kitty (and even if you do!), you can get your feline fix six days a week at our own cat cafe, Tiny Lions. The “catfe,” which is run by the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), opened in 2016 and cat lovers have been cuddling, petting, and snuggling felines ever since. Visitors can drop in -- even grab a coffee from the Biggby next door -- for some pettings and purrs, or they can attend events such as yoga, Family Mew-vie Night, trivia for grownups, or coloring for all ages.
While the cafe is an open space with cat condos, perches, and places to sit, it offers some rules for playing with the cats: no picking up cats, use a soft voice, let sleeping cats lie, and never, ever accept an invitation to belly rub, which may lead to some scratching. HSHV Communications Director Wendy Welch says the adventure began with HSHV’s CEO/President, Tanya Hilgendorf. “(She) is always looking for innovative ways to save more lives. She'd read about cat cafes, which started in Asia and were starting to spring up around the U.S., and thought, ‘Why not in Ann Arbor?’ There are lots of different models for cat cafes -- and ours is focused on adoption -- as unfortunately, too many cats are homeless, and many throughout the country are killed.” Welch says that last fact led to the name Tiny Lions, which "was chosen to honor Cecil the Lion, who was tragically killed by a trophy hunter and whose brother, unfortunately, suffered the same fate recently.” There is an event night that will appeal to just about everyone at Tiny Lions Cafe, but one of the most popular is Yoga with Cats, Welch says. “It’s fun for visitors and also for our cats, who for the most part love it! Of course, all cats have individual personalities so some are more into yoga than others. The furniture gets moved, the lights dim, and the mats come out ... some of the cats plop themselves right down, knowing they need to teach us about being zen. Sometimes our newer ones will hold off for a week or so until they get what's going on. We had one cat who loved to climb on people's backs, which made for a nice yoga stretch! Our professional instructors love finding creative ways to work with and around the cats, too.” Family Mew-vie Nights -- which feature family friendly movies, popcorn, and cats -- are also popular, Welch says, and often sell out. Additionally, "During school exam times, we have student weeks with discount yoga and study nights with snacks," Welch says. "Renting out the cafe for birthday, wedding, and work parties is gaining popularity, too. And though it just started, I have a feeling Kitten Hours (which focuses on adoption for kittens) on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm will be well received. Who can resist the cuteness?” This year, Tiny Lions offered four sessions of Camp PURRS for teens and tweens and it completely sold out. HSHV has had CampPAWS at the main shelter for many years, but Welch says, “We've had youth who've ‘graduated’ out of it and have wanted to offer them some programming but didn't have the physical space. This year, we had two sessions: animal science and animal photography ... both sold out quickly. In the animal science session, CampPurrs are learning about veterinary science and cat and dog biology (including virtual dissection), cat and dog behavior, and the animal cruelty investigation process. In the animal photography sessions, CampPurrs receive daily photography lessons taught by a professional animal photographer (Anne Savage, of Naked Dog Photography) and get hands-on experience with the cats in the cafe. By the end of the week, each participant will have a photo featured on the HSHV website, highlighting an adoptable cat and we'll be temporarily placing some of their work on the wall of the cafe for all to enjoy.” Whether you want to adopt a cat or just hang out with one, you will find a grateful furry friend waiting for you at Tiny Lions lounge and adoption center. Welch sums it up perfectly, saying, “All cats -- from the tiny to the large -- need protection, appreciation, and love.” Just watch out for those belly rubs!
Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cat.
Visit tinylions.org to see the full calendar of events.