a cat wearing a knitted hat with a bird on top
Rescue cats in Brooklyn are setting a new trend in feline knitwear and attracting attention from potential adopters. Photo by Eva Prokop/Whiskers-a-gogo

While New York Fashion Week was wrapping up in mid-February, adoptable cats in Brooklyn were making their own fashion statement—modeling colorful bonnets in styles that ranged from the whimsical to the avant-garde.

Photos show Stevie in a coral number with an artificial bird atop and Munchkin in a pumpkin-hued headpiece topped with a knitted taco. Peaches rocks the retro look in a frilly mob-cap, while solid-black Mooney is the picture of classic elegance in an understated olive-and-taupe cap.

It all started when Janice Purvis, a volunteer with Bushwick Street Cats, attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in January and saw crowds of people wearing pink hats with cat ears. After she returned home, she had an idea: “Wouldn’t it be hilarious to knit small pussy hats for cats?”

Her friends loved the hats, and Purvis’ own cats didn’t seem to mind wearing them, so she expanded her designs and brought them to weekend adoption fairs at a local pet store, where Bushwick Street Cats, North Brooklyn Cats and Whiskers-a-GoGo showcase their foster kitties. Volunteers with all three nonprofits wanted cat bonnets (or “kitten lidz,” as some call them) for their fosters, and a new trend in feline knitwear was born.

Purvis’ brother-in-law, Chris Glazier, who co-founded Bushwick Street Cats, admits that his initial reaction to the hats was less than enthusiastic. “I didn’t really appreciate maybe the utility of them,” he says. But he later saw that there was “a real synergy” between the hats and his group’s efforts to publicize adoptable kitties.

a cat wearing a knitted hat with a bird on top
Photo by Eva Prokop/Whiskers-a-gogo

While it’s too soon to gauge the impact on adoption numbers, there’s been a marked increase in foot traffic at adoption fairs. “People are coming in just to take pictures and text them to friends,” Purvis says. “People are excited and laughing.”

The cats, on the other hand, seem largely indifferent to their headgear, which Purvis attributes to the hats’ lightweight, ear-friendly design.

Purvis took up knitting 15 years ago but had never thought to combine her hobby with her passion for animal rescue. Now she spends her morning and evening commute on the train churning out more cat bonnets, and she recently began selling her creations to raise money for Bushwick’s trap-neuter-return and rescue efforts.

“This is so rewarding to me,” she says. “It’s a break from harsh reality [and] the horror stories you hear about animals.”

Meanwhile, photos of cats in bonnets have become the most popular (and shared) content on Bushwick Street Cat’s Facebook page.

“Who doesn’t like a cute picture of a cat?” Glazier asks. And if she’s wearing a cute hat, “that much better. It gives us a little edge.”

About the Author

Julie Falconer

Julie Falconer is a senior editor at the Humane Society of the United States. She’s passionate about a wide range of animal protection topics, which she writes about for HumanePro, All Animals magazine and humanesociety.org. She is a longtime volunteer with rescue and animal advocacy organizations and spends much of her free time immersed in trap-neuter-return for community cats—which means her car is perpetually filled with traps, carriers, cases of canned food and cat hair. She lives in Maryland with her partner and they share their home with a neurotic hound mix, three cats (one of whom they can pet) and an assortment of foster animals.


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