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Feline Festivus at Purr Haus aims to raise funds for rescue while encouraging adoptions

Brian Myszkowski
Susan Bechtel, volunteer with Ruff Life, poses in front of the Festivus pole at Purr Haus with a pair of kittens up for adoption. Purr Haus hosted their first Festivus celebration on Dec. 23, 2023, taking donations for Ruff Life while weaving in some of those classic holiday traditions like feats of strength.

EMMAUS, Pa. — It was a Festivus for the rest of us felines at Purr Haus on Saturday, with the popular Emmaus cat boutique coopting the holiday to help a few kittens in need while having fun with the fictional-ish celebration.

Purr Haus, located at 27 S. 7th St. in Emmaus, held its very first Festivus celebration on Saturday, Dec. 23, taking in donations and contributions from customers to benefit Ruff Life Rescue Rehabilitation, based in Breinigsville.

Visitors were encouraged to “channel your inner Frank Costanza and celebrate one of our favorite fake holidays,” and “gather round the Festivus pole and air some grievances or perform a feat of strength by donating cat food or litter.”

“For Festivus, we know that there's a feat of strength that people are supposed to perform. Everybody who has cats knows that lifting cat litter is a feat of strength every day, so we decided to use that as the Festivus feat people are doing. They're lifting cat litter next to our authentic Festivus pole, and we're donating it all to Ruff Life Rescue, which is the rescue that's here today.”
Purr Haus owner Laurie Mason Schroeder

Purr Haus also offered up tickets to a basket raffle filled with treats, toys, and everything a cat could want for a holiday – maybe not Festivus, though, as there are no presents.

Special guests included a few adorable furry little felines who were up for adoption: Spike, Ace, Crew, and Winfred might still be babies – they’re just under four months old – but by the looks of it, they sure know how to ring in the holidays.

“We do love a fake holiday around here, so we decided, since we have different cat rescues coming every weekend, we would try to find creative ways to raise money and supplies for them,” Purr Haus owner Laurie Mason Schroeder said.

“For Festivus, we know that there's a feat of strength that people are supposed to perform. Everybody who has cats knows that lifting cat litter is a feat of strength every day, so we decided to use that as the Festivus feat people are doing. They're lifting cat litter next to our authentic Festivus pole, and we're donating it all to Ruff Life Rescue, which is the rescue that's here today.”

Brian Myszkowski
A pair of kittens from Ruff Life Rescue and Rehabilitation came out to the Purr Haus Festivus celebration on Dec. 23. Purr Haus accepted donations to the rescue on Saturday, and offered up a basket raffle benefitting Ruff Life.

According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters in the United States each year. Of those, around 2.1 million are adopted, and around 100,000 strays are returned to their original owners. This means plenty of purr-fectly good pets, including those who are older and others with special needs, still need a permanent place to live.

And that’s where Purr Haus helps out, creating connections between local shelters and cat lovers across the Lehigh Valley.

Schroeder added Purr Haus has hosted other faux holiday celebrations as fundraisers, including Galentine’s Day in February, which has helped raise awareness and funding for local rescues like Ruff Life. To date, 14 different rescues have used Purr Haus to host adoption events, leading to 142 cats and kittens finding their furr-ever homes.

Less than an hour after kicking off the celebration, a slew of local cat fanatics and supporters had flocked to Purr Haus to drop off donations and spend some quality time with the kittens. Schroeder said her customer base is pretty reliable when a call goes out for contributions to help local shelters, which greatly appreciate the partnership.

Susan Bechtel, volunteer with Ruff Life, said events like Festivus at Purr Haus go a long way toward facilitating adoptions and collecting supplies for animals in need in addition to being an opportunity to indulge in some holiday fun with furry friends.

“I thought it was pretty exciting because I'm a Seinfeld fan, and it's cute, and I love that she came up with the idea to do it,” Bechtel said.

Joanne Moll, a customer who stopped by Purr Haus for the holiday, brought a bag of litter to contribute to the cause, though she admitted it was a bit hefty to lug in. Nevertheless, she loved the opportunity for some cheeky fun, and a chance to congregate with the kitties.

“It's great what she does here, having these rescues coming in,” Moll said. “They can play and be out here and even if you're not adopting, you can come in just socialize with them and hold them, and it helps them get ready for good homes.”

Brian Myszkowski
Crew hangs out in a little festive little location at Purr Haus, which hosted a Festivus celebration benefitting Ruff Life Rescue and Rehabilitation on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Festivus was first celebrated by author and editor Daniel O’Keefe, originally a holiday commemorating the first date he had with his future wife Deborah.

The holiday shared some similarities with the Festivus most are familiar with, which was introduced in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld, though there was no pole – rather, O’Keefe would place a clock in a bag and nail it to a wall.

O’Keefe’s son Dan would skyrocket the popularity of the event when he wrote the script for that Seinfeld episode, “The Strike,” where Kramer took up the holiday after learning of it from George Costanza’s father, Frank.

Hallmarks of the holiday include the traditional aluminum pole, followed by a meal of meatloaf on a bed of lettuce, the airing of the grievances – where each attendee has an opportunity to unload their frustrations with anyone else in attendance – the feats of strength – a wrestling match between the head of the household and a challenger – and the Festivus miracles, often mundane occurrences with no real spectacle.

Over the years, Festivus has gained popularity as an alternative holiday, with references appearing in other media, as well as the real world. In 2022, Seinfeld’s official social media account attempted to craft a Change.org petition to make the celebration official.

Over at Purr Haus, the holiday included most of the traditions – but sorry, no meatloaf for the kitties – including the pole, which served as a marker for customers to drop off donations for Ruff Life Rescue Rehabilitation. While some of the kittens partook in wrestling matches as their feats of strength, a few humans jokingly noted lifting a heavy bag of litter was proof enough of their physical prowess, as Schroeder noted.

As for the airing of the grievances, none of the customers or volunteers had much to gripe about, and it appeared the kittens in attendance were perfectly happy palling around together, playing with toys, and hiding in a cozy little cat house.

But perhaps a few more treats would have been welcome if we’re being honest here.

Schroeder said her business routinely updates its social media pages when they are having fun events like Festivus, but you don’t have to wait if you want to help local rescues in need – it’s quite an easy feat of strength to check their pages and find out which shelters Purr Haus works with so you help them after the holidays.

Follow me on social media and you'll see all the different rescues that come here, and you can pick a rescue that speaks to you if you like their mission, and you can donate to them directly,” Schroeder said.