Janette DeLoach’s heart broke as she learned about the extent of the homeless and feral cat population in her area of Central Florida. So, she combined her love of plants and cats to save lives, putting a quirky spin on the popular cat café business.
A blooming business
Janette, a former vet tech, bought a 23-foot camper and transformed it into a colorful mobile cat lounge that she brings to community events and other places. She named her camper, now a full-time business, Botany Cats. The plant theme is everywhere: An artist painted the trailer green and added images of Bear, one of Janette’s own cats, and plants she sells. While visitors cuddle with kitties, they can shop for plants like catnip, cat grass and silver vine (instead of coffee and muffins), and related products like catnip toys.
“I have a lot of people come in just to get their kitty fix because someone they live with is allergic or they are college students who can’t have cats on campus,” says Janette. “Sometimes people come in just wanting to play with the cats. They fall in love and end up adopting.”
Since opening in February of 2022, Janette gets a handful of calls a week — and several a day during kitten season
— from people seeking help with stray cats, many with litters of kittens. She takes them in, gets them spayed and neutered, and puts them up for adoption at Botany Cats. Foster homes house the kitties until there is space in the
camper, where up to 12 kittens at a time (and a few adults) live.
“I like to keep every cat we have as happy as possible until they have their forever home,” Janette says.
Knowing the possible fate that awaits cats in Polk County, where animal control reported euthanizing almost 150 cats a month in early 2022, Janette passionately works to rescue as many as possible and give people an alternative to a high-kill shelter. Botany Cats visitors adopt three to five cats a week, where they either pay $5 for a walk-in visit session or $7 for a half-hour reserved session.
A success story
Trinity Valeriano, a student at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, started visiting the Botany Cats van for a kitty fix. On her second visit, an 8-month-old kitten named Mocha caught her eye. Mocha was shy and usually hid under the couch. Trinity would stick her hand into Mocha’s hiding place to coax her out.
“She would look at me and purr so intensely,” Trinity says. “I fell in love.”
After seven visits over about two weeks (and approval to have an emotional support cat in her dorm), Trinity adopted the young cat, who is now named Mavis.
The environment at Botany Cats makes the place seem extra inviting, like magic. “It’s beautiful, and all the decorations are so colorful,” Trinity says. “As soon as I entered the trailer, I thought, ‘I could stay here the rest of my life.’”