El Jefe Cat Lounge — located on Campbell Avenue — offers a unique experience purr-fect for any feline enthusiast.
The lounge consists of three levels. The first has modern southwest décor with pops of color and velvet couches for resting and snuggling with cats. A television is set up in a fire insert which plays games for the cats to interact with.
There are rows and tiles of Mexican décor leading up the second floor. The second floor is a bigger activity area for the cats with a wider television so they can watch bird videos. This floor is used for movie nights and birthday parties.
The third floor is a half level with a large window overlooking the Catalina mountains. According to owner Tiffany Lee, the more timid cats often go up to this floor along with anyone who enjoys a quieter space.
The majority of the lighting inside El Jefe, along with a crystal chandelier, can change color to fit any holiday or occasion.
The rescue cats that roam El Jefe are available for adoption. Photos of the cats along with the adoption application can be found on El Jefe’s website. According to Lee, six to seven cats are adopted a week, likely due to people spending more time at home.
According to the official website, El Jefe has helped to get 112 cats adopted since November 2019. Finally My Forever Home Rescue, a non-profit cat rescue, partnered with El Jefe to coordinate the adoption process.
El Jefe opened its doors on Halloween of 2019. According to Lee, masks are required and stringent cleaning protocol has always been in place due to so many cats.
The pandemic has been especially tough on the cat business. Lee explained how El Jefe had to close in March before opening up again in August with more precautions in place.
“There’s somewhere around 150 cat cafes or cat lounges in the United States. A lot of them are having a really hard time right now,” Lee said. “It’s an area of business that’s been heavily impacted by [COVID-19].”
Lee explained how El Jefe cannot do some of their more popular activities anymore, such as yoga and meditation with cats due to COVID-19.
“Our cat lounge is mainly to provide a service to the community. It’s a place where people can come and relax, destress and play with cats,” Lee said. “I’ve never seen someone come in and leave without a smile on their face.”
Victoria Brown, Lee’s daughter and studio art major at the University of Arizona, expressed how working in the family business has been tough work but well worth the effort.
The family business has been a learning experience for Brown, explaining how designing the El Jefe logo was a fulfilling moment for her as an art student at the UA.
“We were lucky to have Tucson’s supportive community to help our small business, especially since we are still a new concept to Tucson. It’s been fun helping so many good kitties find homes, but we have had some sad moments,” Brown said in an email. “Only sometimes cats get sick due to the stress of leaving the lounge into a new home, and only sometimes they end up passing away. It’s very unfortunate and sad especially for my family that deeply loves cats, but that is a usual thing a lot of cat lounges go through sometimes. Even vets know sometimes cats just get sick and we don’t know why.”
Working with kittens can be challenging since they’re more susceptible to catching a cold, Brown explained.
El Jefe works with veterinarian technician Rebecca Harrington as part of their partnership with Finally My Forever Home Rescue, in order to help keep kittens safe and healthy.
Brown expressed how El Jefe has faced criticism in the past from people that forget they’re not veterinarians. El Jefe exists to help foster the cats and help as many as they can; when it gets to the point where they can’t do anything, they pass them to the partnered rescue, according to Brown.
Even with the ups and downs, El Jefe is still open and helping to keep cats healthy and safe until they find their forever home.
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