Heavenly haven

Valerie Steinmann, owner of Cat Heaven and Cat Rescue Cafè, and friend.

All my life I have been a cat lover, and indeed, consider them to be indispensable companions.

Wherever I’ve lived (with a nomadic life of shared habitats in both Southern and Northern hemispheres), cats have sashayed in through my door, or crossed my path and required rescuing, and indicated to me “I want to live with you and be your love” – and so it was… (as I write, my 18-year-old cat is warming my lap, one of the benefits of working from home).

Recently, I had an enchanting encounter at 35 Bright Street, Somerset West – appropriately called Cat Heaven, which is an all-things-feline oriented gift shop, now with an accompanying Rescue Cat Cafè, which opened earlier this month.

I spent a decidedly pleasant, therapeutic couple of hours in the company of a wonderful and eclectic group of women and cats, as a guest of Valerie Steinmann, a local retired academic, who opened this “purrfect” little haven.

The 12 resident cats lay around in various languid states of repose, on satin-padded beds, or in lovely custom-built wooden boxes (where it was sometimes difficult to establish whose paws or tail belonged to whom, so draped over one another they were, in companionable relaxation).

There was no sign of their humble beginnings, in this light-filled sanctuary, designed to cater to their needs (and whims, given all the fun paraphernalia).

As cats are wont to do, they got up to all kinds of antics once we’d all settled down (sitting on the floor gave me the best vantage point, with my camera, and their innate inquisitiveness sealed the deal), and they showed off their prowess by climbing up the little ladders and perches to peer into the CCTV lens at the conjunction of wall and ceiling; or they admired their reflections in the little mirrors scattered about; they groomed themselves (and each other) in that peaceful, meditative way that causes instant relaxation in us humans who observe their rituals; and larked about chasing each other’s tails, then stopped such foolishness and frivolity, regained their composure, and assumed a more regal pose, with characteristic inscrutable expressions.

Visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee and cookies there, read a book, or browse the web (unlikely, given the allure of the in-house entertainment), all with a resident cat on their lap – and have a break with the busyness of the world at large.

I know many elderly people who have had animal companions all their lives, and are now living in retirement communities where they may no longer have pets, and this is the perfect place for them to spend some time with feline friends, and reconnect with the wonder that is animal companionship.

And the gift shop is a delight, with books, fabric, jewellery, toys, homeware, ornaments and all manner of cat-inspired items: some pure art, others more quirky and amusing – and a lovely place to browse for a special, whimsical gift.

Valerie is clearly devoted to cats – her own, and those in her custodianship, who need new “forever” homes. And for all you know, it might be a match made in heaven…

Carolyn Frost: Editor