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Cat Fest in Raleigh promises a purr-fect day

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Cat Fest will occur in Raleigh on Oct. 5. Photo courtesy of Pam Miller.

It’s a celebration of all things feline this weekend in Raleigh at Cat Fest on Saturday, Oct. 5. 

To commemorate its 25th anniversary, SAFE Haven For Cats will be throwing an inaugural cat-centric festival, complete with cat yoga, a cat-themed costume contest, obstacle courses and more. 

SAFE Haven is a no-kill cat shelter in Raleigh that offers adoption, spay and neuter services and community events. One of the main goals of the shelter is to end euthanasia as a means of population control, focusing on treating adoptable cats with the care and respect they deserve. 

The event is the first of its kind for SAFE Haven. Pam Miller, the shelter’s founder and president, planned Cat Fest to coincide with the shelter’s annual 5K race and walk that occurs every October. 

This year, the 5K, "Run for Their Lives," will begin at 8:30 a.m., but participants have the opportunity to stay for the festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

“It’s a new event to celebrate our 25th anniversary,”  Miller said. “I imagine that if it goes well and people like it, then we’ll do it every year with the race.”

Miller also said Cat Fest seeks to draw attention to the plight of cats in the community. 

“We all love cats and we all want them to have a home," Miller said. "That’s what SAFE Haven’s all about and so many people in our community are all about. Because in the 14 counties — including Wake County and surrounding — more than 44 percent of all the cats entering our animal shelters are euthanized, and that’s the why of it all.”

In bringing cat lovers together for a day, Miller hopes the event will serve as an opportunity for families and children to potentially change their perspectives and alter their preconceived notions about animal shelters.

“Maybe they haven’t toured a no-kill shelter before, maybe they haven’t been in an animal shelter in 40 years and they think (they) are really dark, dirty and unhealthy places,” Miller said. “I think it’s good to show that today’s animal shelters — ours certainly — is a fun, happy, uplifting place where the animals are healthy and all they need is a home.”

In addition to the educational benefits of Cat Fest, the event also aims to provide a wide variety of activities that appeal to the young and old, such as cat yoga.

Laura Woodall, an experienced yoga instructor and self-proclaimed animal lover, will be providing 20 minute yoga flow sessions throughout the day, starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. 

She said animals have a calming effect on yoga participants because they naturally gravitate toward the energy people exude on the mat.

“They sense the energy difference, I’ve always believed that,” Woodall said. “And if for nothing else, then it’s an opportunity to be on the floor with them. Like, ‘oh, good, she’s going to get down here with me, let’s play!’ so you find yourself doing things with your body to satisfy the animals.”

Woodall said she is most looking forward to watching the participants enjoy the benefits of an animal yoga practice. 

“This is going to be different for both cats and humans,” Woodall said. “Because there could be a lot of (people) that don’t have cats at home, and they just wanted to do the yoga and see what it’s like with cats. So it’s going to be interesting to watch the dynamic and see what their reaction is.”

The Cat Fest fun doesn’t end with cat yoga. 

Sarah Newton, owner of the Purr Cup Cafe, will also be attending Cat Fest to sell merchandise and provide information about downtown Raleigh’s very first cat cafe. SAFE Haven will be providing the cats for the Purr Cup Cafe and Newton is looking forward to spreading the word.

“Usually when people haven’t heard of us, they see our big sign that says ‘cat cafe’ and they get really excited,” Newton said. “So we’re just excited to see people’s faces when they learn a cat cafe is coming to Raleigh and give them more information that they can share with their friends.”

Additionally, Newton is eager to work with SAFE Haven in their professional partnership.

“They’ve been doing this for 25 years and they run a tight ship, in a good way,” Newton said. “It’s just nice to know we’re going to have someone who definitely has our back and is easy to talk and communicate with.”

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While Cat Fest aims to be an educational and entertaining afternoon for the people who come out for the fun, the end goal is to demonstrate the importance of caring about cats.

“There’s something for everybody, but it’s all about how our community cares about cats,” Miller said. “This is how we are going to demonstrate to the bigger community that cats are important, that they matter. And taking care of them and making sure they find homes is really important.”