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Bobbi Jo Forte, Founder of Morgan’s Cat Cafe

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The year 2015 was a life-changing one for Bobbi Jo Forte. Over the summer, the co-owner of Living Eden, a Red Hook boutique devoted to eco-conscious goods, learned that her ringing ears and increasing loss of balance were the consequences of a rare brain tumor. Despite the onslaught of seizures and nerve pain that followed, the 42-year-old mother did not succumb to self-pity. As she awaits news of a promising radiation treatment, she is staying strong by channeling all her energy into the passion that’s guided her for more than 20 years: animal rescue.

Forte, a native of Elizaville who grew up “extremely poor,” says she was drawn to saving animals because of her challenging upbringing. “Watching the pets my family couldn’t provide food for slowly deteriorate was traumatizing for me,” she explains. “My inability to help them as a child generated what I do now, and it’s so rewarding. I have an innate, genuine connection with them and want to help.”

After leading dog rescue efforts in Arizona for more than a decade, Forte headed back to New York nearly 10 years ago, eager to start a family. “There’s something so beautiful about the Hudson Valley. It’s progressive and cultured and a lot of amazing people land here,” she points out. Once settled in Red Hook, she shifted her rescue mission to feral cats “because there are so many of them, and they aren’t protected by law like dogs are.” Canines are regulated by licensing requirements, but according to the New York State Bar Association, state and municipal shelters “are not required by law to take in cats whether they be domestic or otherwise.”

Whether she’s prowling nearby farms for strays — once caught, she has them neutered/spayed and vaccinated — or bottle-feeding kittens in the home garage she’s transformed into a makeshift shelter, since her return Forte has given thousands of cats a second chance at life.

Today, most of her attention revolves around the launch of Morgan’s Cat Café, which is about to open adjacent to Living Eden. Named after her daughter, the café attests to the rapid rise of these feline-focused establishments, which now can be found everywhere from Japan to Hungary. At this cozy joint, visitors will drink cappuccino and other tasty beverages amid the company of 10 homeless cats eager for adoption. Instead of being trapped in cages, these kitties will roam freely throughout the space, taking to windowsills and playing with toys so they can fully “express who they are,” says Forte. Those looking to adopt, as well as feline fanatics who just want to hang out, are all welcome. “We want to be a community resource,” says Forte. “Whether it’s by volunteering or fostering, we’re getting cats off the street.”

For more information about Morgan’s Cat Café, visit www.morganscatcafe.org.

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