Southern Pines throws kitten costume party

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The third Costumes and Kittens hosted by Southern Pines Animal Shelter had cat-lovers of all shapes and sizes visit the Town Square Café in Downtown Hattiesburg to enjoy coffee, breakfast foods and furry creatures.

Starting at 9 a.m. and running until 11 p.m., those in attendance were allowed free coffee while crafting small toys filled with catnip for shelter cats that were selected by the adoptions coordinator of Southern Pines Animal Shelter Hayley Ridpath.

Ridpath said the shelter has just finished kitten season, and it is no longer overrun by cats, making her job of choosing kittens for the event easier.

“I picked the ones that were the sweetest and the squiggliest that we had [for the event],” Ridpath said. “The two older kittens we had are both boys, and I picked them because as soon as you pick them up they start purring. The other two smaller ones we had were actually bottle-fed babies, so they love people and being held.”

Ridpath said the event is called a friend raising event, meaning the shelter takes animals to go out into the community to try to get people involved with the shelter rather than focusing on adoption. She also said the event has not caused many adoptions in the past.

“The people who sign up [for the event] are people love cats and want to interact with them, but can’t necessarily adopt right now,” Ridpath said. “We haven’t done a lot of adoptions at the costumes and kittens event, but it really raises awareness for what our mission is and what we do.”

Ridpath said events like this also help community members connect with the shelter.

Julie Gore, a first-year graduate student getting a master in librarian information science, has been volunteering with Southern Pines since December 2017.

Gore said there are two versions of volunteering for the shelter, on-site and off-site. Events like Costumes and Kittens are off-site and focus on bringing animals to places like Town Square Café, pet stores and other venues, including Southern Miss, while on-site focusing more on caring for and cleaning animals and their habitats.

“A lot of [events] aren’t dress up events. Most times it is loading up a bunch of animals, taking them to Petsmart or Petco and trying to get them to adopt,” Gore said. “This is a bit of a special case where I get to dress up like a princess.”

Gore, dressed as the Disney princess Elsa from Frozen, helped children interact with and care for the kittens in the cafe.

Town Square Café sectioned off one outdoor patio for the event to take place. Children and adults were seen dressed as cats, anime characters and  princesses. Among the kitten-lovers was Adrian McDonald, who would like to adopt a cat but does not have space for another kitten.

“I know that a lot of people hate cats, but little do they know [cats] have little personalities. They are cute. They are cuddly and they warm my heart,” McDonald said.

Costumes and Kittens is reminiscent of Cat cafes that have become popular in larger cities in states like California or places like Tokyo Japan. McDonald said this model is very successful because the type of people that love cats also love coffee.

“Half of my coffee mugs have cats on them,” McDonald said. “When [cats and coffee] are linked together, it easier for people to want to come to the event.”

The next event held by Southern Pines Animal Shelter is Barktoberfest, which will take place on Oct. 28 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Barktoberfest is a trunk-or-treat event that is both family and pet-friendly. Ridpath said they are still looking for volunteers to set up their cars for the event. For more information, contact the shelter by calling (601) 544-6632.