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Purrrsonal Space

Purrrsonal Space

  • "Purrrsonal Space" originally appeared in the June 2024 "Animal" issue of COMO Magazine
Cats In Wall Mounted Beds by Arina Krasnikova

Creating feline-focused spaces in your home.

By nature, cats are incredibly independent, but they also need comfortable spaces where they can thrive and engage with their surroundings. They need room to jump, climb, and hide — and of course, a good place to take a cat nap. Because they can be territorial, and often have anxiety when they encounter new places and smells, creating a practical space for their day-to-day lives is an important part of making cats feel at home.  

At Bertha’s Beans Cat Café, the primary focus is creating a good environment for cats while they’re waiting for their new families, and making sure those families are prepared to welcome their new furry family members into their homes. Bertha’s was born last summer, when the owners of Lizzi & Rocco’s took over ownership of the existing cat café at 14 S. Second St. Their team renovated the space to accommodate a large cat family, partnering with Columbia Second Chance rescue. 

Owners of Lizzi & Roccos
Owners of Lizzi & Roccos

Named for Lizzi & Rocco’s first permanent resident, Bertha the cat, the space has been designed to offer a place to meet and interact with cats looking for their forever homes — and also to enjoy drinks and snacks. Manager Jaylynn Gentry worked with the team to help create a space where people and cats could interact and build relationships.  

“Since we officially opened in November, we’ve had about ninety adoptions, and we just feel great about that,” Gentry said. “What makes us unique is that we have a lot of knowledge and resources to share with people who come in, in terms of everything a cat needs: diet, environment, and everything. We’re always so excited when an adoption happens — and we also send everyone home with a welcome bundle, so they get a checklist of everything they need.”  

Bertha, the original resident cat, died after a long-pampered life. Currently, Beans, Freddy, and Chai are Bertha’s three resident cats — the only ones not up for adoption. The others are all looking for a place to call their own. Normally, there’s a population of around twenty cats that stay on site — and a wide variety of people visit the café. 

“The majority of our customers are college students,” Gentry said, “but we also see a lot of parents with their kids, and we also have our diehards, just people who love cats, so they come here to read a book, have a cup of coffee, and just decompress. They get to know the cats on pretty personal levels.” 

One side of Bertha’s is the café — where you can eat and drink — and the other side is the cat area. On the café side, you can sit, relax, and watch the cats interact with their surroundings through a large window. On the cat side, you’ll find a wide variety of toys, cat trees, and other interactive items (all of which are available at Lizzi & Rocco’s). There are also custom-made benches that have hidey holes in them, so the cat family can retreat for some privacy, when needed. There are runners, which are like shelves, close to the ceiling, with stairs and holes, “just so the cats can run around, escape, and just play,” Gentry explained. 

Bertha’s also has a large cat wheel. Gentry says right now, most of their cats use it to nap in, but more energetic cats will appreciate the exercise.  

Preparing your home to receive your new cat is extremely important, too. Gentry said that while people often think adopting a cat is less work than adopting a dog, you need to create a place for your cat to be both comfortable and stimulated.  

“When people adopt a cat, there’s a lot that goes into it,” Gentry said. “For example, some cats like to scratch furniture, because it’s in their nature to scratch. So, it’s really important to have things like scratching posts and trees, because it decreases their stress levels and keeps their nails in good shape.”  

She continued: “Cats do get bored. They’re more independent, but they do need things in their environment to make them feel comfortable. Some cats prefer to have water fountains, because they like the running water; others don’t like that at all. If you have a younger cat, he might want a playmate; if your cat is older, you might want to consider letting him be solo. All cats have different personalities, so we want to make sure you get to know your cat and what he likes.”  

Once you find your new feline friend, your possibilities are endless for creating a cat friendly space in your home. You’ll want to organize the space so it’s safe, comfortable, and quiet, and so your cats can play and rest when needed. One popular option is the catio, which is ideal for indoor/outdoor cats. A catio allows cats to lounge inside and engage with the outside world as they choose, while keeping them safe from external hazards, like predators and the elements. Catios are typically designed as an extension of the home.  

Columbia residents Miranda Wilkerson, her partner Heather Richmond, and their daughter, Adah, opted for the catio. It’s an enclosure that extends from their window. Their cats — Maybelle, age 17, Gary, age 15 (who is also a tripod), and Smokey, six months — share their home with a dog, Tina. Their family needed to make sure everyone could live together in harmony. 

“My cats are so nice,” Richmond said, “but Tina doesn’t always like them so much.”

Wilkerson’s father built the catio, which has created a practical solution to help their entire family — both the people and the fur babies — share space. 

“Smokey has sort of emerged as the alpha in our house because he’s younger. He’s much more likely to interact with Tina, while the older cats are set in their ways,” Wilkerson explained. “At the same time, Tina is a happy dog and well-trained, but she isn’t always sure how to deal with the cats. So normally, Tina keeps to her own area, and the cats have their own place.”  

Wilkerson agreed that the most important part of setting up a pet-friendly home is to make sure you know your animals’ personalities and preferences. 

“I’ve always been a cat person,” she said, “and all cats are different. My older cats are really different from Smokey, so the catio was a good project to make sure everyone has a place to be where they’re comfortable. We try to make sure they have new entertainment and to create comfy spaces for all of us to enjoy.”  

Gentry seconded that notion. “Some of our cats come to us as strays. Some were raised as housecats. Some are younger, some are older, some like to socialize, and some like to hide. They’re all different. Getting to know your cat is like getting to know a person. All personalities are different.” 

If you’re looking for a kitty to bring into your family, visit Bertha’s and get to know the possibilities. Bertha’s currently operates on a walk-in basis, but you can call or email to make arrangements if you want to come with a larger group for some cat fun. There’s an application process through Columbia Second Chance’s website, along with a $60 fee (and they’ll include a carrier for an additional $5), and they offer a ten day trial period, so you can make sure your new cat is the right fit for your home, and the additional people and animals they’ll be sharing their lives with.

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