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Hollidaysburg cat cafe showcases purr-sonalities

Business helps humane society with adoptions

Mirror photo by Sarah Vasile / Cat lovers Kirk and Kayla Durbin opened the Hollidaysburg-based Nine Lives Lounge in order to help animals from the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society get adopted.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Legend has it that cats have nine lives, and, for a few select shelter cats, one of those lives can be spent hanging out at Blair County’s first cat cafe.

Nine Lives Lounge, located at 507 Allegheny St. in Hollidaysburg, was opened by co-owners Kayla and Kirk Durbin in late November. Through a partnership with the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society, the lounge provides a unique venue for customers looking to play with, or ultimately adopt, a cat.

“We’re very big cat lovers and there was a need for it,” Kayla Durbin said. “We just wanted to give cats homes and this was an opportunity to do that. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

She said there were no difficulties opening up Nine Lives Lounge, but there was some concern about how a “different idea” would be received in the area. Ultimately, there were a few skeptical comments on Facebook, but nothing major.

“There were maybe two people who said something that was like ‘oh, I won’t go there.’ But generally people thought it was a good idea,” Kayla Durbin said.

Mirror photo by Sarah Vasile / Tyson, a 7-month-old domestic shorthair mix, plays on a climbing tree at Nine Lives Lounge, 507 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg.

Humane Society Shelter Director Theresa Shirley said the Durbins initially called the shelter looking for advice on how to source available cats. Shirley, who had been to cat cafes in other states, said she was excited because the cafes are “a fantastic way to get cats adopted” and give the animals “another audience for adoption.”

Some people find a traditional shelter upsetting, Shirley added, and a cat cafe makes them feel more comfortable.

“In this instance, they’re going to a different environment,” Shirley said. “They’re having a really positive experience, and then obviously they’re interacting with the cats and falling in love. From there, we end up with adoptions.”

Kayla Durbin said the cafe’s first adoption happened within a week of opening. In its first 11 days of operation, five cats were adopted, and according to a tracker on the Nine Lives Lounge website, that number has increased to 16.

After one cat is adopted, a new one is cycled in fairly quickly, Kayla Durbin said.

Shirley said that, while selecting which cats are going to be sent to Nine Lives Lounge, the humane society tries to pick cats that are “very sociable and highly adoptable.” Additionally, Shirley said, the shelter tries to send over cats that are dog-tested and used to interacting with both adults and children.

“They send cats who are personable and non-aggressive,” Kirk Durbin said. “The humane society has been awesome at picking out people-friendly cats.”

The main appeal of adopting via a cat cafe as opposed to a traditional shelter is the ability to really see a cat’s personality, the Durbins said.

“We’ve had a couple people think they’ve wanted a specific cat, and then when they come in and play with them their minds change,” Kayla Durbin said.

“People have picked out cats based on looks, and they come in and another cat’s personality shines through,” Kirk Durbin added.

Kayla Durbin said the adoption process through the cafe is “fairly simple” — those interested in adoption can get help filling out an application right in the lounge, which is then either faxed or physically taken to the humane society. From there, the humane society either rejects or accepts the application. People who have their applications accepted pay the humane society an adoption fee if applicable, then return to Nine Lives Lounge with a cat carrier and take their new pet home.

In addition to its partnership with the Central PA Humane Society, Nine Lives Lounge is also making an effort to connect with other local businesses, the Durbins said.

The coffee served at the lounge comes from Hollidaysburg-based Canoe Creek Coffee Roaster, Kirk Durbin said, and the lounge’s tea is sourced from The Skirted Soldier, which is based in Portage. Kayla Durbin said that in addition to being locally sourced, the “quality is also there” with the products served in the lounge.

Kirk Durbin said the lounge tries to source as many things locally as possible, and is open to pairing with local bakers, artisans and other businesses.

“Having that support is essential,” Kayla Durbin said. “Just the … friendliness of having someone on your side who’s close to you and understands the struggles of opening a business. We should support their dreams.”

“It’s just more fun, too” Kirk Durbin said. “When we opened, Lightning Bug Gift Company gave us a rug that says ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood.’ Being able to connect with local businesses and partner up is important.”

Shirley said Nine Lives Lounge is instrumental in finding cats new homes, but noted the lounge could be beneficial for those not looking to adopt, as well.

“A lot of people love animals but just cannot live with them at home,” Shirley said. “It gives them an opportunity to interact with the animals.”

The Durbins said they generally see a few distinct groups visiting Nine Lives Lounge, including retirees, local college students, families with children and workers looking to relax on their lunch breaks.

Nine Lives Lounge patron Baylee Ruggles said she booked a reservation at the lounge as soon as she heard about it. It was part of her Christmas present to Travis Scalice, who “really loves cats.”

Reservations aren’t required to enter the lounge, but booking one through nineliveslounge.com is recommended to secure a 30-minute time slot.

Asked if they’d be returning to the lounge in the future, Ruggles and Scalice answered almost instantly: “Yes, definitely.”

“This is just … the most therapeutic thing in the world,” Ruggles said, sitting on a sofa and petting one of the available cats.

Kirk Durbin noted there has been medical research into the benefits of being around cats — even the frequency of a cat’s purr, he said, has been shown to soothe people. He said Nine Lives Lounge plans to explore therapeutic avenues in the future, opening up the venue to support groups for people who have experienced addiction, sexual assault and other mental health-related issues. The Durbins would also love to have private events for seniors and low-sensory events with people with mental disabilities.

Special events like cat yoga and “Caturday Morning Cartoons” are also in the works.

Shirley said she thinks new events will draw people to the cafe and, ultimately, lead to more adoptions.

“We’re just really thrilled that it’s working so well,” she said. “We’re thrilled that we have this partnership, and I think it’s a win-win for everybody involved.”

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