Goats, sheep and llamas typically populate petting zoos but Florida’s Pet Food Warehouse has changed that. Inside you’ll find an enchanting place called Pandora’s Playhouse where shelter cats roam free, and patrons can spend the day cuddling up and playing with felines seeking forever homes.
Pandora’s Playhouse opened in Pet Food Warehouse five years ago, when owners Susie and Neil Kupfer expanded their St. Petersburg retail enterprise, adding on an enclosed ‘cattery’ space which they donated to Pet Pal Animal Shelter, an organization focused on rescuing animals at high-risk of euthanization in shelters.
“Cats have long been known to reduce stress and anxiety in humans,” says Pet Pal’s Mary Alexander. “For people that aren’t able to have cats in their home, this is a great place for them to come and spend time with the animals without restrictions.”
Pet Pal supplies approximately six adoptable cats at a time, who reside in the free-roam room laden with wall to wall cat towers (carpeted, of course), oversize windows that overlook a bustling parking lot, crocheted afghans, toys, an endless supply of TLC and faint light rock to pounce to. The Kupfers, who named the cattery after their now-deceased Maine Coon, Pandora, handle the rest – including free litter and food and all adoption paperwork.
“Since there are no cages it allows for the cats to socialize with each other and warm up to people — we call it interviewing people,” says Kupfer. “As the saying should go, if the cats are happy, the people are happy.”
Last year alone, 61 cats were adopted from Pandora’s Playhouse – with some finding homes within a few hours, and others calling the cattery home for over a year (a situation that doesn’t bother the Kupfer’s in the least).
“As long as it takes,” says Kupfer.
While the ultimate goal of Pandora’s Playhouse is to provide adoptable kitties with loving forever families, even those not currently in the market to adopt are encouraged to pop in for a play and snuggle sesh, as any socialization is beneficial to the cats.
“The more comfortable the cats are around humans, the greater the chance that they will be adopted,” says Alexander. “We love to hear that people are spending time with the animals.”
Truth: if we lived in Florida, you can bet your bottom dollar we’d be spending endless amounts of time at Pandora’s Playhouse. How about you?