At first glance, Boomerangs Thrift Store may seem like any other second-hand shop. But tucked away in the back corner is a special room filled with furry companions. It’s the Good Luck Cat Cafe, a 100 percent volunteer-run room where cats run free in hopes of getting adopted.
“We don’t believe in dogs in pens and cats in cages,” said Matt LaMariana, manager at Boomerang Thrift Shop and president of the Animal Rescue Fund, sitting in the cat cafe. Around him are the six cats currently residing there — mischievous Adonis, lively Diego and his curious sister Frida to name a few — playing with their toys, relaxing on the cat bungalow and spending time with customers wandering in from the thrift shop.
Instead of cages, the room has enclosures for up to ten cats. Throughout their normal hours, the enclosures are usually left open so the cats can explore the room and interact with Boomerangs customers while they sip a cup of coffee from the Keurig or snag a bag of chips.
“You can see (the cats) in a home environment, you can see how they interact,” said Mark Schreck, co-manager and volunteer at the Good Luck Cat Café. “So it’s a little bit different than a cat that nobody knows anything about coming from animal care control.”
All of the cats at the Good Luck Cat Café come from the rescue organizations behind them — Good Karma Pet Rescue and Lady Luck Animal Rescue, both not-for-profit 501(c)3 rescue organizations. From their foster homes, the rescues and volunteers take a few precautionary measures before assimilating them into the cafe.
“We want them to be quarantined a bit before coming in to make sure they aren’t going to bring in any illnesses that will make the other cats sick before they even come into the room,” LaMariana said. “It’s kind of like air traffic control. You make sure that they’re ready to come in here.”
Once they are cleared from quarantine and have all of their shots up to date, the cats are brought into the cafe, where they learn to assimilate to the active environment.
“People coming in and out, florescent lights, you’ve got different music playing and different scents. Some cats thrive on it, and others get scared.”
Any cats that can’t thrive in their new environment have nothing to fear — they return safely to their foster parents. However, any cat that can adapt gets to stay with their play friends within the cafe until someone walks in and adopts them into their forever home.
“The thing that I would love people to do is the next time they know a person looking to add a pet to their family, come and check out the café cats because these kitties all deserve a home,” said Schreck. “This is bold of me to say, but that’s much much more important to me than the money. It’s the reason why we’re doing any of it.”
To adopt a cat, prospective owners must fill out an adoption form, pay a $75 adoption fee and agree to a required home visit before the adoption process is completed.
The Good Luck Cat Café is a room completely donated by Boomerangs Thrift Store. The rescue organizations behind it, Good Karma Pet Rescue and Lady Luck Animal Rescue, decided to combine their effort towards the cafe.
“They cooperate together really well so when I offered them the room, they decided to (share it),” LaMariana told WMG. “It’s a joint effort between the two, and it gets the cats good exposure.”
The cafe relies on efforts from their nearly 25 volunteers, as well as through donations. According to Schreck, donations can be made to the cafe directly, sent to the two rescue organizations that run it or in the form of money or goods to Boomerangs.
“Every donation you make to Boomerangs — whether it be money or a bed or clothing — the proceeds from that funnel back into animal rescues throughout South Florida.”
But LaMariana really encourages you to come to the shop and “be thanked by the cats in person.”
Other than donating, patrons can make a difference through volunteering. “It takes somebody with a little bit of time and a big heart,” LaMariana said. “Most of us have had or have cats and maybe other pets. We have people who volunteer here who are actually allergic to cats.”
To volunteer, come into the cat café and grab an application right by the front door. From there, co-manager and volunteer Laura Summers will schedule a meeting with you and begin training.
“Everybody that comes through here gets a little bit of a training program,” Schreck added. “It’s really easy. You learn how to turn on the music, you learn how to open up the cat doors, and basic feeding instructions.”
Jim Souther, one of the volunteers who comes in a few hours a week to spend time with the cats, enjoys the environment he works in. “We have a lot of nice volunteers, they’re all sweethearts,” he told WMG.
There is no cash in exchange for volunteering, but Schreck claims there’s an even better payoff.
“We get paid in cat kisses.”
For more information such as cafe hours, visit GoodLuckCatCafe.com. Check out the pet rescues behind the cafe at LadyLuckAnimalRescue.com and GoodKarmaPetRescue.org.
If you go:
Boomerangs Thrift Store
2365 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors, FL 33305