As Saturday morning’s Cat Academy began at Papa’s Cat Café, MacKenzie Everett-Kennedy told the children they’d start off by harnessing their inner cat.
“What’s a sound a cat makes?” Everett-Kennedy asked. Meows sounded throughout the room.
The Cat Academy is for children 4 and older and takes place on the third Saturday of every month. It’s good for teaching children how to socialize with cats and a good learning opportunity for community groups, said Everett-Kennedy, who owns the cat café with her husband, Ryan Kennedy.
“Kids are sponges, they want to learn,” Everett-Kennedy, who also teaches at Hickman High School, said.
Each Cat Academy session has a theme, with a featured book, a cat craft and playtime with the café cats. September’s theme was cat dietary habits, which focused on teaching kids what cats can and can’t eat, and the featured book was “Bad Kitty” by Nick Bruel.
The book follows a cat who misbehaves after eating healthy human foods, such as mushrooms and kidney beans. The cat also wants to eat foods like elephant eggs, fried flies and kangaroo kidney pie.
After reading the book, Everett-Kennedy asked the kids to scoop through a box filled with rice and plastic figures of food. The kids were asked to guess if cats could eat those foods. Foods like chocolate, french fries and sausages were on the no list, because of caffeine, sugar or grease. But foods like bananas, egg whites and peas were OK, because of potassium, protein or dietary fiber.
Some of the ideas for the Cat Academy, like the rice box, came from Everett-Kennedy’s daughter, Stella, 5, who was also the junior “cat wrangler” for day.
“I just think, what would my daughter like to do?” Everett-Kennedy said about Cat Academy’s activities.
After sorting through the rice box, the kids used recycled soda boxes and toilet paper rolls to make “stimulus feeders” for cats at the café or their own cats at home. Stimulus feeders allow cats to play and work for their food when they’re left alone. The feeders made at Cat Academy make the cat dig for its food or treats, and were decorated with stickers, drawings or strings.
The kids spent the last 30 minutes playing with or petting the café’s cats. Zoe Beaston, 8, spent her time running around the room with a cat dancer, while Corde, one of the resident cats, chased her.
“She likes to play with this a lot,” Zoe said. “And I’m exhausted.”
Stacey Evans, whose kids came to the Cat Academy, said the family tried to come in August, but the class was full.
“Every weekend for a month, they’ve been asking me, ‘Is it this weekend?’” she said.
Her daughters, Rowan Evans, 11, and Evangeline Evans, 6, have two cats at home, Pumpkin and Skippyjon Jones.
Coming to the cat café is a good way to see other cats, Evans said.
“I’d say we’re looking for another,” Evans said. “But Pumpkin ignored me for three months after we brought our second cat home. He’d just sit with his back to me and refuse to let me pet him.”
While petting a snoozing cat named Lisa, Rowan said the best part about cats is when they cuddle with you.
“And making the craft was really fun,” she said. “I’m excited to go home and give it to the cats.”
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart: email@example.com, 882-5720.