Cat lovers and weirdos welcome | Pets Issue | Chicago Reader

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Cat lovers and weirdos welcome

The Catcade’s Instagram is not your average animal rescue account.


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Christopher Gutierrez doesn't care if you think the Catcade's Instagram posts are unprofessional. The only opinions that matter to him are those of the 20-odd cats living in the Lakeview arcade-themed rescue and lounge (and let's be honest, the cats probably don't care either).

When Gutierrez and partner Shelly Casey opened the Catcade in August 2017, their Instagram was a typical cat lover's account—mostly kitten collages, inspirational quotes about adoption, and a few too many "It's Caturday" memes. But if you ask Gutierrez, "that shit gets boring real quick."

"After about the 20th post of 'Look at how cute this cat is. He's so loving. He loves nose boops,' you just become part of the white noise of cat cafes and cat rescues being like, 'pay attention to me,'" Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said he and Casey take pride in the Catcade looking, sounding, and feeling like who they are—and he quickly realized that he should hold their social media presence to the same standard of authenticity. He decided to adopt a stream-of-consciousness approach that reflects their personalities.

Casey said she noticed Gutierrez's voice coming out in a September 2017 post about cats Rupert and Mila. His description of Mila, who is "kind of a jerk to other cats but absolutely loves people" resonated so much that one follower came in to adopt her after seeing the post.

"You looking for a serious ride or die mini-panther, Mila has your back. You wanna rob a bank? Mila is your getaway driver. You looking to chill hard and hate on dudes? Mila understands. You want to drown your sadness in a personal extra large pizza? Mila will not judge."

By October 2017, Gutierrez had gone fully rogue. And because he typically writes his captions on the couch with a cat on his lap long after Casey has gone to bed, his partner didn't see this post until morning:

"You know, I remember sitting in front of my stereo with my head in my hands, crying. I was maybe 20 years old and in one of those dark places when you have no clue what the hell you will do with your life . . . "

"I was like, 'Oh my god, what did you write? You told this weird story, and it had nothing to do with cats,'" Casey said. "But people just loved it."

People immediately started responding to the offbeat captions, Casey said, and Gutierrez had plenty more stories to tell. His midnight ramblings cover everything from adolescent angst to online dating.

The Catcade account has almost 25,000 followers now, and Casey said the following has become a big family. "They've gotten insight into not just the Catcade, but also to Chris and Shelly," she said.

Not everyone is a fan of Gutierrez's brand of brutal honesty and unconventional humor. A series of posts about a cat named Fucking Karen who was on the scene of a mock shark attack received a wave of backlash—but the posts also inspired several donations in Fucking Karen's name.

View this post on Instagram

1235 W Belmont, 4:36pm. A tragedy unfolded this afternoon at The Catcade Rescue and Lounge. A popular cat cafe and local hangout for sexy millennials, The Catcade is Chicago's hottest place for cat nerds to congregate. That was until one of the most beloved residents was suddenly and viciously attacked by an unassuming shark. Assuming the worst, millennials fled, LaCroix spilling everywhere. Panic set in and prayers were shouted to the heavens imploring Saint Bey and Tay for protection. All was in vain while Irma lay dying. Unfettered by recent online controversies, Fucking Karen came to the rescue and furiously attempted CPR. But it was to no avail. Irma's light went out at exactly 4:36pm and was pronounced ridiculously adorable at the scene. Medics rushed to the body but refused to intervene when they noticed Fucking Karen holding it down. Bodies will be on display all week at The Catcade Warehouse Of Misfortune and viewings will be open to the public beginning Sunday morning at 11am. RSVPs are recommended. c. . . . . #chicagosfirstcatcafe #chicagocatrescue #chicagocatcafe #cats #catsofig #catsofinstagram #adoptdontshop #fuckingkaren #IrmaRIP #howfuckingadorableisthisshit

A post shared by The Catcade (@thecatcade) on

While his captions might turn some people off, Gutierrez knows they attract the right crowd: weirdos are welcome.

"We're very vocal about being inclusive. 'Hey, man, are you a weirdo? Cool, so are we,'" Gutierrez said. "We don't use the word weird or weirdo in a negative way. It just means 'different.' And instead of shying away from it and trying to play nice, we lean into it."

Gutierrez's outcast mentality doesn't affect how much he and Casey care for the cats of the Catcade. With 720 adoptions in just under two years of business, they're doing just fine—no filter necessary.  v

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