Popstar and “TIME” Person of the Year Taylor Swift has had a record-breaking year – and one local animal shelter is hoping to shine some of her spotlight on their adoptable cats.
The Brooklyn Cat Café, in partnership with Felix Cat Insurance, has recognized 13 of the café’s adoptable kitties as “Cat of the Year” finalists, complete with their own TIME-inspired magazine covers and Swift-themed names.
Julia Rosenfeld, director of rescue at the Brooklyn Cat Café, said the café team are big fans of Swift — they have held several well-attended “Taylor Swift Appreciation Nights,” with trivia, karaoke, and friendship bracelet-making — and even hosted a party for Swift’s birthday on Dec. 13.
The events help raise money for the café and bring people in to meet all the adoptable felines who live there, Rosenfeld said.
“At all of our events, we hope people get a chance to meet the cats,” she said. “But the Taylor Swift parties have really been a way to bring different people into the café — although there is a great deal of crossover between Taylor Swift and cat fans.”
When Felix approached the café about the Cat of the Year campaign, Rosenfeld said, the team knew it was an opportunity to show off their “harder to adopt” cats — cats who are shy, or have health issues like feline leukemia, or have lived at the café for a long time without finding their forever home.
“We were able to feature a lot of those cats as Cats of the Year, which was really exciting,” she said. “Many of the other cats who are featured are also cats who’ve been for awhile and are waiting for adoption and have great stories — and posed incredibly well.”
One cat — named Red, after Swift’s fourth studio album — is known as Melman inside the shelter. He has been looking for his forever family for more than a year, Rosenfeld said.
“He is a great cat,” she said. “He’s definitely not a starter cat, he needs someone with some cat experience, but he is such a great guy, and he had so much fun at the photoshoot. He posed, he loved the scarf, he thought everyone came to see him. So it’s a really great chance to bring out some of those cats and try to get a little bit more spotlight on them.”
Another of the cats, Inspector Christopher (aka Fearless) was just a scrawny, scared kitten when he was rescued in an empty lot, Rosenfeld said. After a course of treatment for feline infectious peritonitis and some time at the cat café, Inspector Christopher has transformed into a “total love bug” who is “mostly brave.”
“It was so fitting that his Taylor Swift-inspired name was Fearless,” Rosenfeld said.
Earlier this year, the Brooklyn Cat Café expanded, opening a second floor with space exclusively for cats with feline leukemia, or FeLV.
Cats with FeLV often have a harder time finding a forever home — so the Cat of the Year campaign was a perfect chance to promote the FeLV+ residents of the café — like five-year-old Mr. Purr-fectly Fine, formerly named Tito, who has been up for adoption for well over a year.
“He is the perfect cat,” Rosenfeld said. “He’s this perfect mush who just wants to cuddle. Because he has FeLV, he hasn’t been able to find his forever home, because it’s a lot harder to find adopters who are willing to take a chance on FeLV cats.”
There’s also Travis, aka Hangman, another FeLV+ cat. Travis — named after Swift’s new beau, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — was rescued from a construction site, where he was found dangling from a piece of wire wrapped around his leg. As a result of his injury, Travis is also a tripod — he has only three legs.
“He is also just the sweetest guy,” Rosenfeld said. “You open the door and he immediately wants to say ‘hi.’ Just super, super friendly. He just has a lot going against him in terms of appearing easily adoptable, but he’s just such a wonderful guy.”
Just a few days into the Cat of the Year campaign, two of the cats featured were already set to be adopted – and Rosenfeld was hopeful the increased attention would lead to even more adoptions.
Felix also made a $34,000 donation to the café in the name of Swift’s cat Benjamin Button, who appeared slung over her shoulders on one of her TIME covers.
Rosenfeld said the donation was “mind-blowing,” especially since the café focuses on cats who need extra care and attention.
“Having a donation like that just really allows us to continue to take in the cats who might have larger or more ongoing issues,” she said.
All of the Brooklyn Cat Café’s adoptable cats — whether they were featured as Cats of the Year or not — are available to “meet” virtually online and in-person at the café on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.
“One of the things that was really special for us is that the Cats of the Year were not necessarily forgotten cats, but overlooked cats,” Rosenfeld said. “A reminder — don’t forget the tripods, or the cats with FeLV. All cats really are Cats of the Year, you just have to give them a chance.”