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The Rise of Cats

Forget every terrible cat-lady stereotype: Felines are conquering Chicago.

A member of the Rock Cats   Photo: Stacy Warnke

They’re our first line of defense in the rat wars.

An army of more than 200 feral kitties tasked with devouring rodents? They’re basically the world’s cutest mercenaries. As part of Tree House Humane Society’s program Cats at Work, they’re vaccinated and neutered before being placed, by request, in rat-infested backyards, warehouses, wherever: All you have to do in return is provide food and some outdoor shelter. (Lincoln Park, the site of a few recent major demolition projects, has been a big target for the feline hit men.)

‘The Secret Life of Hodge the Bookstore Cat’
The Secret Life of Hodge the Bookstore Cat Photo: Courtesy of Suzanne Erfurth

We’re writing novels about their inner lives.

Hodge, the beloved gray shorthair who wanders the shelves at Selected Works Used Books & Sheet Music in the Loop, published an account in January (with help from author Suzanne Erfurth) of his life as the city’s foremost bookstore cat. The Secret Life of Hodge the Bookstore Cat is full of the kind of endearing yet subtly judgmental assessments you’d assume a feline bibliophile would make. To a customer looking for a cat owner’s manual: “You seem to be unclear on the concept of hosting a cat, sister.” 410 S. Michigan Ave.

We’re jonesing to join them for coffee.

Tree House is also building a new $6 million adoption facility—slated to be the biggest in the country—in West Rogers Park. (Key and Peele even gave it a shout-out while promoting their recent kitty caper, Keanu.) The real selling point: It will include Chicago’s first-ever cat café. Come this fall, you’ll be able to sip lattes while nuzzling a calico. And if you get too attached? Take it home. All the roaming felines will be up for adoption. (Ordinances require the animals and their litterboxes to stay far, far from the espresso machine.) 7225 N. Western Ave.

Meeow Chicago provides cat trees to its boarders
Meeow Chicago provides cat trees to its boarders Photo: Courtesy of Meeow

They’re staying in nicer hotels than you are.

Meeow Chicago, the city’s first (and only) high-end feline boarding facility, boasts the king of all cat retreats: City Kitty suites, with amenities such as flat-screen TVs, personal fish tanks, and plush bedding. At 320 square feet, these luxury lodgings are probably more spacious than your first apartment. The good life doesn’t come cheap, though—stays start at $58 a night. 1765 N. Elston Ave., meeowchicago.com

They’re wowing crowds with circus tricks.

Tuna. Buggles. Pudge. These are just three stars of the Acro-Cats, a Chicago-based troupe of 14 trained felines whose repertoire includes jumping through hoops, balancing on balls, leaping through the air, and, in a spinoff act known as the Rock Cats, strumming guitars and rhythmically pawing cowbells. If it all sounds familiar, it may be that you caught their November appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which the kitties pulled off basically none of their tricks. Human ringleader Samantha Martin says that outing was a particularly abysmal one, but crowds love the cats even when they can’t be bothered to perform: “They almost like the show better when they don’t.” circuscats.com

By the Numbers

Six feet

Guinness World Record for longest jump by a cat, set by Alley, one of the Acro-Cats


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