Gahanna has a purr-fect place for fans of cats to gather -- its first cat cafe at 959 E. Johnstown Road.

The Coffee Cat Corner opened April 16 with about five resident cats from PetPromise, a nonprofit animal rescue and animal welfare organization in Columbus.

Sally Held, the owner of the cafe, operated a candy store and bakery at Creekside in 2015 before moving to Johnstown Road at what was formerly Coffee Time Bakery & Cafe.

She said the names and business concept have changed to match her passion for coffee and pets.

All of the cafe's breakfast and lunch food items are prepared outside of its facility. The business also offers different coffee-style drinks, as well as sodas, teas and other beverages.

Held said she starting thinking about the idea of a cat cafe two years ago.

"My youngest daughter, Deanna, has been very involved with PetPromise," she said. "We're a big pet family. I had rehoused six or seven cats through PetPromise."

Held said cat cafes are becoming popular across the country.

A door separates the actual cafe from the Cat Lounge, where the felines are free to visit with customers while they enjoy a beverage.

"People can bring in food that's bought from here," Held said.

Bistro tables and chairs are in the lounge for customers, who are encouraged to interact with the cats.

Held hopes to offer special events, such as a Saturday morning pajama party with cartoons and a senior-citizen day.

Gahanna residents Jim and Marjie Penn visited the cafe and lounge April 22 after seeing an ad in a coupon pack.

"I've had cats most of my life," Marjie Penn said. "I was just curious. We have a cat, and she would love to have a playmate, but we might not have curtains left."

Jim Penn said the couple also feed two feral cats that they caught and had sterilized.

Steve Clark supports the cafe as a behind-the-scenes worker.

"Every time a cat sits on my lap, they say, 'Let me get you an adoption paper,' " he said.

Angela Christianson, PetPromise's cat foster-program coordinator, said the cat cafe is an awesome opportunity.

She said PetPromise is a foster-based rescue group that has existed for 17 years.

"We don't have a shelter," she said. "All animals stay in homes or go to an adoption space. One of our fosters is Sally's daughter."

Christianson said all the PetPromise cats have come from bad circumstances, including being on death row at shelters and wandering on the streets.

"Our job is to rescue, recover, relax and readopt," she said. "We take on the hard cases. The cats at the cafe will be friendly. We're trying to help adults as well as kittens. Sally has asked for a mix. We're incredibly grateful to her."

She said anyone who wants to adopt a cat from the rescue must commit to keeping the animal indoors.

One cat up now for adoption at the cafe is Mama June.

"One of our fosters has a camper at a campground in the Sunbury area," Christianson said. "Over time, people let cats out there. We did a trap-and-neuter program there."

That's where Mama June was found.

"She was a little scared at first, but she's ready to be re-homed," Christianson said.

Mama June's kittens, named April and May, also are available for adoption through the rescue.

Most felines up for adoption cost $75, which includes vaccinations, spaying or neutering, microchipping, de-worming and flea treatment.

Christianson said the promise part of the organization's name is that if circumstances change and the adopter can't care for the animal, the cat will go back to the organization.

"The cat comes back to us," she said.

"It will always have a home with us. That's the promise part."

The organization is supported through grants, donations and the annual PetPromise Rescue Run 5K race-walk that takes place on Memorial Day weekend at McFerson Commons Park in the Columbus Arena District.

The May 27 event will promote awareness of the pet overpopulation program. It supports efforts to change the future of all homeless pets through education, rescue, sterilization and adoption.

The Rescue Run will begin at 9 a.m.

"You can bring your dog," Christianson said. "It's a festival from 9 a.m. to noon. That's where we get a good (amount of funding)."

The year she became cat coordinator, five years ago, she said, 54 cats were adopted.

Already from the first four months of 2017, more than 100 cats have been adopted.

"That's half of what we did last year," Christianson said. "Last year, we did 205."

Applications to adopt cats through PetPromise are available at the cafe and at petpromise.org.

The Coffee Cat Corner is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to noon Sunday. The Cat Lounge is open at 10 a.m. daily and closes at the same time as the cafe.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla