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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Eshyah Selig is a former real estate appraiser and devoted cat person with a plan. In roughly one month she’ll unveil the Crescent City Cat Club, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing New Orleans cat lovers and homeless kitties together for companionship, comfort, fun and possible adoption.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work.

Let’s say you adore cats, but your house mate is allergic. Let’s say you’re on an extended business trip and miss your tabby back home. Let’s say you can’t commit to the long-term care of a pet. Let’s say you just want more, and more, and more cuddly contact with our whiskery friends.

“For a lot of cat people,” Selig said, “their idea of heaven is hanging out with cats.”

Selig hopes such cat people will make their way to the Marigny neighborhood, where she’s busily converting a shotgun double into a kitty visiting center. For $7, guests will be able to stand at the glass windows in the kitten room, where they can watch staff members bottle-feed newborns in need of mothering.

They can also have hands-on experiences with grown cats in a living room area, or the outdoor cat patio. Selig hopes guests will find felines to match their temperaments.

“There are couch potato cats, young playful cats, comedian cats, and snuggle kitties,” Selig said. “We’ll be able to write a profile of each cat.”

Selig said that she hopes to connect elderly cats with elderly neighborhood residents, who might not otherwise be able to interact with pets. Cat yoga will be part of the Cat Club’s future programming.

Unlike the cat cafes that are popular in Japan, Selig doesn’t plan to serve food.

“I don’t need to do it,” she said of food service, “there’s food (restaurants and coffee shops) all over the place.”

Though, she said, for $10 guests will be provided with a cold beverage and a snack.

Selig is a Californian who began visiting New Orleans for Jazz Fest and moved here permanently 24 years ago. In addition to appraising and developing real estate, she is a dog trainer. But dogs have had their moment in the sun.

“Everything has been about dogs for a long time,” she said.

Selig said the idea for the Cat Club was inspired by a similar operation in Oakland California. She explained that the 20 to 25 resident Cat Club cats will come from the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter and other organizations, and will be available for adoption.

“It’s good for the cats, good for the shelter, and good for the people who want to adopt,” she said.

The Cat Club, which is located less than a block from the St. Claude Avenue arts and entertainment strip, will include two short-term rental apartments.

Asked if she thought people would really pay $7 just to cavort with common house cats, Selig said she’s completely confident. She said she’s heard that on ritzy Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, there’s a cat visiting center that charges $25 per hour. If the Cat Club becomes as popular as she hopes, Selig may open others in Metairie, Kenner, Baton Rouge, and elsewhere across the country even.

Selig said that she takes care of three house cats of her own, plus a herd of seven outdoor cats that come and go. She is having an SUV painted to resemble a cat, and is founding a marching group called the Crazy Cat Ladies and Gents.

Selig said that New Orleans will get its first look inside the Cat Club, located at 1021 Marigny St., at an open house Oct. 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. The official opening is Nov. 1.


Information from: The Times-Picayune,