New York

How an Animal Rescuer and Cat Cafe Owner Spends Her Sundays

Anne Levin never knows what Sunday will bring. When you’re the executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition — which provides animal rescuers with veterinary, foster and adoptive support — and a co-founder of its affiliated cat cafe, anything’s possible.

She could be responding to a rescue or veterinary emergency or receiving kittens or rabbits from Animal Care Centers of New York City in Manhattan. She might be preparing for feline medical procedures — limb amputations, eye removals, an infected tooth. Or she might be running a “spay-a-thon,” dispatchingsurgical teams to clinics around the city.

“We’ve done as many as 200 cats over a weekend,” said Ms. Levin, who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “But we can’t do them too often, because they’re exhausting.”

Ms. Levin, 49, had been volunteering part-time at B.B.A.W.C. when she came up with the idea for a cat cafe.“At the time, rescuers were keeping cats in their homes and holding adoption events in cages on the sidewalk in front of pet stores,” she said. She envisioned a “big foster home” where adoptable cats could sit in laps, leap on furniture and roam freely while their potential forever families got to know them.

In May 2016, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe opened in a storefront in Brooklyn Heights. In 2021, it added a low-cost spay-neuter clinic for cats, rabbits and domesticated rats. The organization has since performed more than 4,500 surgeries.

Customers can purchase food for the animals (and bottled drinks for themselves) and hang out with as many as 40 cats, which mingle with the other animals — rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, dogs and, once, a chinchilla — that are all up for adoption.

“Everyone gets along,” Ms. Levin said. “Mostly.”

ON THE WATERFRONT I am an introvert, and I deal with so many people during the week that I like to spend a lot of alone time on the weekends. I live alone, so this is easy. I was planning to do a marathon in Reykjavik, Iceland, in August. I’m not a naturally athletic person; I just wanted to complete one just to say I did it. I was getting up around 5 or 6 a.m. to run. I kind of ran along the waterfront so I didn’t have to deal with traffic. I enjoy the peace and quiet and solitude of an early morning run. Unfortunately, I got a stress fracture in July, so I started swimming at a local Y.M.C.A. I hope to get to Iceland next summer.

HEALTHY TREATS One of the best things about working with small animals is I get to buy a bunch of healthy foods and feel very healthy, even though I’m not the one consuming it. I typically buy from the green grocery in Brooklyn, and fill an Ikea bag with peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and carrots. The cats get so many treats from visitors, but the other animals don’t.

Stocking up on vegetables for the cafe’s nonfeline residents.Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

I do a little tour around the cafe to make sure that all the small animals get attention. They’re all fed and cleaned daily, of course, but I like to say hi. I don’t want to have favorites, but I have better relationships with some animals more than others, so I visit them. The rabbits and guinea pigs are really fun. I get a lot of pleasure from feeding them.

Customers can purchase drinks and hang out with as many as 40 adoptable cats.Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

PLANNING AHEAD Then I typically do paperwork. It sounds really boring, but we have surgeries during the week that I need to schedule. I’ll open up opportunities if we have the space.

Ms. Levin previously worked in animal hospitals and considered becoming a veterinarian, but “it’s a very transactional business,” she said.Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

DINNER PREP I’ve been trying to eat a better diet because of running and swimming, so I try to buy stuff and make it myself instead of ordering in. I usually cook simple protein, like salmon, so I’ll have it during the week when I’m much more inclined to be lazy and not cook. Depending on how social I’m feeling, I might see a friend, or veg at home with a book or watch TV.

CAT CALLS Sometimes someone will drop a cat off and I’ll need to go in. Or an animal might be sick and I need to see what’s going on. Sometimes we’ll have cats recovering from surgery in the clinic. This past weekend we held a small animal surgery clinic, where we neutered rabbits from the city shelter, two rescue guinea pigs and two mice that we’re holding for adoption.

Ms. Levon often meets volunteers at the cafe, lending out equipment and instructing them on how to safely capture stray cats.Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

A lot of times I have animals to take care of. I’ve gone on the B.Q.E. to rescue a couple of cats. It’s not my typical Sunday and I hope it never becomes that. Unfortunately, the cats do not schedule emergencies appropriately.

Ms. Levin says the rabbits and guinea pigs are particularly fun and she gets a lot of pleasure from feeding them.Credit…Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

Sunday Routine readers can follow Anne Levin on Instagram at @catcafebk.

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