An antique store in downtown Mt. Pleasant is becoming known — not for their antiques — but for their kittens up for adoption.
The Vintage Raven, at 103 S. Jefferson Street in downtown Mt. Pleasant, held their first kitten adoption event a year ago. Since then, the antique store has flourished into a kitten adoption destination known as The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven thanks to the compassion of owners Jenn and Sam Riepe and co-founder of The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven Kate Ridinger.
The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven was born out of Riepe doing something she said she would never do — taking in two pregnant female cats from the winter of 2017 to 2018. The cats had litters of four to six kittens each.
Riepe has always been nurturing to outdoor cats, however. She has a picture of her as a child sitting in a height chair with chocolate cake and a cat on her lap.
“We kept getting all these barn cats. They’d have cauliflower ears and ear mites. My mom wouldn’t let me bring them in, but I’d sneak them in at night,” Riepe said. “I used to save up my allowance in grade school to get the cats fixed or taken to the vet.”
Ridinger’s passion to save abandoned kittens was discovered when a co-worker found a 3-week-old kitten in the road. It had fallen out of a car and was injured, she said.
“The kitten came home and now lives with us, but not everyone can do that. They’re looking for a resource in those situations,” Ridinger said.
Aside from a couple of animal hospitals, Henry County has no organized animal shelters to take in stray cats.
“That’s a huge issue because if you have strays or abandoned cats, there’s no place for them to go,” Ridinger said. “They end up getting dumped. That weighed on my heart.”
The first adoption event for kittens was held at The Vintage Raven in the spring of 2018. Since then, people in Henry County and beyond have come to rely on the antique store to take in strays and as a place to look to adopt, and up to 60 kittens have briefly found their home at Riepe’s and Ridinger’s homes. “We’ve had some well attended adoption events,” Riepe said. “It’s gotten to the point where the Sheriff’s office will call us on the weekends because there’s no one to do animal control.”
Priority kittens are those found in Henry County who are under eight weeks old and pregnant cats.
“As we get more well-known in the community, we really focus on kittens,” Ridinger said. “They’re the most vulnerable population, especially under 3 months old. We’re not looking to be a rehoming service unless it’s a dire situation. We don’t have those resources. We want to keep our space for those who need it.”
As “kitten season” begins, which is the time the greatest number of kittens are born in early spring through late fall, Ridinger and Riepe will have about six kittens each at their home.
Ridinger has a designated “kitten room,” while Riepe has given up a bathroom in her home for the kittens to inhabit.
Ridinger and Riepe also give up sleep to take care of the kittens, bottle feeding them every two hours throughout the night.
While fundraising nights like the trivia night The Vintage Raven hosted on March 1, at Airport Road Vineyard, help cover some costs, Riepe said she spent about $1,000 out of pocket in 2018 to care for the kittens.
“That’s one of the hardships,” Riepe said. “When people find these litters of kittens, they’re almost always not healthy — suffering from upper respiratory infections, fleas and worms.”
Riepe said they made $1,400 at their trivia night in March, which they charged $15 per person for registration and accepted donations.
Riepe said people often slip $100 into The Vintage Raven’s change jar to go toward the Kitten Haven, and they are always accepting donations of litter, kitten food and formula.
“We don’t want to constantly be hounding people for donations, but it’s definitely something people care about,” Ridinger said. “Even if they can’t adopt a cat, I think they feel really good about helping the program.”
Riepe and Ridinger are working toward establishing The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven as a nonprofit to make themselves eligible for grant money and give donors a tax break. Ridinger said she hopes they receive nonprofit status by the end of 2019.
People who have adopted kittens from The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven have come all the way from Cedar Rapids, Ames, and even Illinois. Kittens go to indoor-only homes and must be spayed or neutered.
Ridinger said that adopters often reach out pretty quickly after taking home their kitten — sending a photo of them in their new homes.
“That’s fun to see. Those people will do praise on social media and their friends will contact us with questions (about adoption),” Ridinger said.
Adoption events occur on some weekends during store hours on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Sunday noon to 4 p.m. For more information about upcoming adoption events, visit The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven on Facebook.
Do not bring kittens to The Vintage Raven without contacting them first. Message The Vintage Raven Kitten Haven on Facebook for any questions or call The Vintage Raven at 319-201-1279.