Tiny Lions display big hearts

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By Tim Cousino
Contributor

“There should be a cat here,” says an orange sticker with a smiling cat on it. A pile of these sit on the desk of one of Ann Arbor’s cuddliest cafes, and includes the address of their website.

Tiny Lions Cat Cafe is a charming place located in Ann Arbor, where anyone is welcome to drink coffee, practice yoga, play board games, watch movies, and have trivia night, all with the company of adoptable kitties.

Opened in May of 2016, Tiny Lions Cafe currently houses 16 cats rescued by the Humane Society. All the cats are vaccinated, spayed or neutered and microchipped. The furry felines are adoption ready from $65 to $85 depending on sex. The best part is anyone looking to adopt, can come hang out with all the selected felines, before taking them to their forever home.

Hailey Chynoweth, a constantly smiling brown haired girl, who barely looks her 23 years of age, is the Cat Cafe Manager. She was a volunteer with the Humane Society for a year when she heard about the cafe position opening. She had managed a coffee shop before, and thought she would apply for the position and has been the manager at TLC since March 2016.

Millicent, a slim, gray female with part of her left ear missing, is the first one to come out of hiding.

“She’s the sassy one,” Chynoweth said, “She’s the only one who won’t let me put a collar on her. Every time I do, she takes it off as soon as she can.”

Millicent has been dubbed the unofficial mascot of TLC and demands the attention of the room.

“She’s always out,” Chynoweth said.

In the main room, above the faux fireplace, hangs a picture of Cecil the Lion who was in the news early 2016 for being hunted and killed in Africa. That’s where the CEO of HSHV, Tanya Hilgendorf, got the inspiration for the name. The inspiration for the cafe itself came from other cat cafes across the country.

“Cats need room to roam and don’t shine in cages,” Chynoweth said.

The walls in the cafe are brightly colored green, orange, red, and peach. Attached to the walls themselves are stairs, bridges, and platforms for the cats to climb on. There are five carpeted towers with toys hanging here and there off the plentiful platforms the cats sit and hide in.

Above Cecil’s memorial picture is a projection screen for the family “mew-vie” nights, held on Fridays by reservation.

There are “fa-mew-ly” activity nights held once a month. This is where activities such as: reading, coloring, and board games are done with as many cuddly kitties as can be found.

In the center of the room where all the activity supplies are kept, there stands a tall tower. Inside one of the kitty holes of the tower, sleeps a big, fluffy, napping cat named Rose. She emits a long purring breath, and goes back to sleep.

Hanging on the door toward the conference room is a three-tiered cat hole house. Inside the middle hole, naps a white and brown, big faced tomcat, named Bug-a-boo. He is curled up around a nearly empty food dish, and pauses to look sleepily around the room and drifts back off to kitty dreamland.

“We go through a 25-pound bag of dry-food a week,” Chynoweth said. “And about 10 cans of wet food a day. They get that twice a day.”

The activity room is bordered by low sitting, comfy, black couches adorned with shed hair from the numerous tenants of the café. Decorated with pillows, including one toddler sized black cat pillow. On a medium sized cat tower, rests a completely black cat, named MacArthur, who looked almost dead before uttering a slight “mew” and going back about his nap.

“Yes, definitely. I know all their names,” Chynoweth said. “We have anywhere between 15-20 cats that live here but we like to keep it closer to 20,” she laughs.

The cats come from the Humane Society shelter. They are selected by temperament and if they can get along well with other cats.

“They all have to be able to eat the same type of food, and use the same litter. Thankfully, we have some wonderful volunteers that scoop the litter twice a day,” Chynoweth said.

Cynthia, a volunteer working the front counter says the best thing about Tiny Lions, other than the cats of course, is the people that work and volunteer here.

“It’s the family environment,” Cynthia said.

There are more than 190 active volunteers for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Marie Barnard bubbly, blonde woman, and former teacher of Humane Education at Tiny Lions, recalls her time there as being a privilege to be a part of such a progressive shelter.

“People want to help, they just don’t know how.” Barnard said. People love animals. So by providing information based around the best interest of the animals and their well-being so they can have a better quality of life. And we can be a part of it.”

For more information about Tiny Lions Cat Cafe, including “cat-tivity” dates and times, how to help, and the adoption process, visit their website: www.tinylions.org or visit at 5245 Jackson Road, Suite A1 in Ann Arbor right across from Bigby Coffee.

After all, there should be a cat here.

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