Your donation will support the student journalists of Kirkwood High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.
Charity Issue: A purrfect home
December 2, 2021
A wall runs through the middle of the business. On one side there is a cashier counter with a vending machine and snacks. The other side is filled with couches and chairs. Throughout the room there are blue and orange accents. There isn’t music or noise from the two T.V.s, instead there is purring. The meows can even be heard on the other side of the wall. When people walk or drive along North Kirkwood Road don’t just see furniture when they look inside this new business, instead, they see many tiny faces.
On Nov. 9, Sara McGinnis opened Whisker Station in Downtown Kirkwood. McGinnis has been volunteering for animal shelters since 1998 and has also fostered cats. But with her kids leaving for college soon, McGinnis decided to open her own cat lounge.
“If [someone] is looking to adopt a cat they can see the cat’s personality better [here] than by going to an animal shelter,” McGinnis said. “[The cats] are really relaxed in [the cat lounge].”
The cats in the cat lounge come from Heartland Humane Society in Wentzville, MO, where McGinnis volunteers. Julie Bauman, Heartland Humane Society president, thinks cat lounges are beneficial for the cats and customers.
“[Cat lounges] are a fun and different way for people to relax,” Bauman said. “[They are] also a good opportunity for people who are not as familiar with cats to interact with them and get to know them before making a commitment to adopt.”
To go inside the cat lounge visitors must pay a $12 entrance fee. Right now anyone can walk-in, but in the future she plans to start a reservation system. Even though McGinnis’ lounge is for-profit, she plans to collect funds for Heartland with a donation box and fundraisers. Adopting a cat costs $125, and all the proceeds go to Heartland Humane Society. All the cats are spayed, neutered, and have all of their shots. McGinnis is excited about what her business will bring to the area.
“There’s nothing [in Kirkwood] like this,” McGinnis said. “[The lounge] has an entertainment value. On Friday nights we are going to be open until 8 p.m., so it’s something you could do before you go to dinner. It’s fun to look in the windows, even if you don’t come inside.”
McGinnis’ biggest worry about starting the business is managing and finding employees. She is excited for the opportunity to give teenagers work experience. McGinnis said friendliness is an important quality in employees.
“You can get lots of animal people that don’t want to talk to people,” McGinnis said. “But [socializing] is part of the job. You’re like the face of the cats, that’s how you get people [inside]. If you’re not friendly, [customers] are not going to go in.”
Animals are defenseless and innocent in this world. When people care for the weakest, our society will only improve.”
— Sara McGinnis
Bauman said one of her favorite parts of doing animal rescue is the feeling she gets from saving the animal’s lives. She said many foster parents keep up with their adopters and look at pictures of the cats in their new home.
“[It’s rewarding to watch cats] go from being terrified because they’re stuck in a shelter or outside trying to fend for themselves, slowly relax in the foster home and start to show affection and purr and play,” Bauman said. “You can tell that they’re getting settled in and feeling more comfortable in their surroundings.”
Bauman thinks cats have been getting more popular lately because of videos of them on social media. But she said there are more cats needing to be adopted than dogs. Margaret Gurgol, Heartland Humane Society volunteer and Whisker Station adopter, said more animals have been getting returned lately.
“A lot of people adopted animals during COVID,” Gurgol said. “Some of them are returning them because they [adopted an animal] because they were lonely. Once you make a commitment to an animal, you should be committed to their life.”
Bauman believes volunteering at animal shelters and fostering are great ways to help with animal rescue. She said there are also other ways to get involved with the cause.
“[There are many opportunities] if you don’t [have time to foster] and still want to give back,” Bauman said. “Fundraising for local rescue groups, helping with marketing, [working with] websites or assisting with a social media activity, are different ways people can give back without having to take on the care of an animal.”
McGinnis believes finding a purpose in life is important. She believes hers is helping animals. In 2016, she went back to college to get her master’s degree in nonprofit management. She said this degree has been becoming more popular. Animal rescue has always been a cause she believes is important to contribute to.
“Animals are defenseless and innocent in this world,” McGinnis said. “When people care for the weakest, our society will only improve.”