Non-profit “Catcade” Leaps into Lakeview

“It’s dangerous to go alone!”

You may have been offered this counsel by an elderly cave dweller in Nintendo’s ’86 classic The Legend of Zelda. Or maybe you’ve recently stepped into Lakeview’s newest attraction, The Catcade.

Despite heavy gaming inspiration, The Catcade isn’t an arcade, nor is it another trend-bred cat cafe. It’s a co-run, donation-operated domain with a clear mission. Save the cats. All the cats. 

Lincoln Park residents and feline protectors, Chris Guitierrez and Michelle “Shelly” Casey graciously shared more with us about unlocking that mission.

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The name of the game, proudly adhered to their windows.

With the help of crowdfunding website Indiegogo, widespread generosity, and 5 months of space hunting, the two created the recently opened Catcade—a world of pillows, pixels, and rescues. Careful to evade convention, the animal lovers established a shelter with a twist. From the branding to Chris’ built-out arcade cabinets-turned cat trees, they’ve discovered a way to unite their passion for cats and video games.

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Harness the power of the merch.

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Don’t be fooled by their lack of opposable thumbs. Cats like to play too.

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Tired or taunting? We may have interrupted “sleepy time.”

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Comfort is key at this lounge.

Now, how does one enter this world? First, leave inhibitions like your roommate’s allergies and landlord’s cat hair phobia behind. Step boldly into 1235 W Belmont Ave. Contribute $15, and stay a while (about an hour per donation).

Once “in,” you can hang with up to 15 cats, try your luck at a variety of games (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Burger Time, and Space Invaders), and wash the experience down with a La Croix, soft drink, canned cold brew, or other complimentary beverage. Unfortunately, a Chicago ordinance prevents food or alcohol in the lounge.

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“Leo” anxiously awaits the next visitors.

No matter, “time spent with cats is never wasted.” And just so you know which cats you’re spending time with or consider taking home, the rescue displays polaroids of all current players.

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Gallery Cats

Where do these ultra playful and endearingly needy critters come from? Until they can source their own animals, “mentor” and Chicago shelter Felines & Canines offers The Catcade their pick of the litter. Chris explains that he and Michelle gravitate towards the friendliest, “most adoptable” cats. He’s quick to add that all cats need love, but they remain realistic about their mission and limited resources. They trust that more established and heavily-funded facilities can better provide for those a little rougher around the scratch mats.

What else can visitors expect? A daily rotation of movie screenings (Star Wars, Back to the Future, Wall-E, etc.) to enhance their “living room” simulation, special events, and cat yoga? Michelle confirms we heard her correctly. Starting September 10th, you can pose and cool down with the kitties on Sunday mornings at 9:30. Book a regular visit or yoga session online.

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Co-founders Chris and Michelle cozy up to some favorites.

While Chris insists he and Michelle have graduated from “being cool,” we beg to differ. Rescuing cats and reviving arcade games proves a level up to us.

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