Best of the City 2020 Winners: Kids & Pets


A new cat café, a science cheerleader, interactive theater, and hand-embroidered pet portraits make our list of the best kid and pet offerings the Queen City has to offer right now.

Photograph by Lance Adkins

Pet Portraits: Stitching Sabbatical
For the pet owner who has it all and wants more, Michelle Staub offers a unique gift: a hand-embroidered, lifelike animal friend portrait suitable for framing. Her work is incredibly detailed and occasionally three-dimensional, with each piece typically taking 45 hours to complete and costing between $950 and $1,900 (depending on size and complexity). More basic outlined portraits start at $85, and all work is done on commission through an online waiting list. Her Stitching Sabbatical Instagram feed has more than 138,000 followers admiring her “thread paintings.” •

Icon by Brittany Dexter

Pandemic Trend: SPCA Pet Adoptions
There have been few silver linings to the months of downtime we’ve spent by ourselves at home (hello, sweatpants!), but an unforeseen benefit was the surge of local pet adoptions since March. SPCA Cincinnati reports more than 300 dog and cat adoptions each month in May, June, and July (there were only 68 adoptions in April). Once people realized the pandemic was going to last longer than originally thought, they sought out furry friends to quarantine with—a win/win for them and for overloaded shelters. The SCPA says adoptions were down slightly in August (212) and September (190) but still well ahead of pre-pandemic levels—and that’s after the organization closed its Northside facility to consolidate in Sharonville. • 11900 Conrey Rd., Sharonville, (513) 541-6100,

New Cat Café: Purrfect Day Café
Northern Kentucky native Chuck Patton has opened his second Purrfect Day Café in the bustling Pike/Madison area of Covington. Like the original in Louisville, the space is equal parts cozy café and cat adoption center. The front café has cat-themed tea, coffee drinks, and pastries as well as wine, local brews, bourbon, and specialty cocktails, while you can reserve time online ($15 for 50 minutes, eight masked visitors at a time) to play with a dozen or more cats in the back room, managed by Kenton County Animal Services. Set up an adoption or just hang out with the kitties. Since opening in 2018, Patton’s Louisville café has arranged more than 3,500 adoptions. •

Photograph courtesy of A. James Jones, The Children's Theatre

Interactive Theater: The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati
Like all arts groups, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has been trying to find new ways to engage without the ability to perform for families and schools. Seeking outside expertise in virtual programming, they partnered with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s audio video production program, which recommended an interactive video platform called eko. Together they created Pick-A-Path, a series of streaming educational shows featuring interactivity that allows viewers to make active choices on their screens and send the story in different directions. The shows (Harriet Tubman: Straight Up Outta’ the Underground; Jacqueline and the Beanstalk; and Martin’s Dream, about Martin Luther King Jr.) were performed and staged by Children’s Theatre staff and filmed and edited by Cincinnati State students. Each show was rewritten a bit to take advantage of the eko platform, but Producing Artistic Director Roderick Justice says The Children’s Theatre is now commissioning new plays to take full advantage of the interactivity. • 4015 Red Bank Rd., Columbia Twp., (513) 569-8080,

Icon by Brittany Dexter

Science Cheerleader: Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson’s YouTube series Science Around Cincy has introduced students to a new generation’s Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, goofy-joketelling version of TV’s Bill Nye the Science Guy. His 10-minute interviews of local scientists, naturalists, and animal specialists have been picked up by Cincinnati Public Schools for use in virtual science classes and are broadcast on KET public television across Kentucky. Anderson’s goal is to fight the disturbing rise of science denial by presenting elementary- and middle-school students with fun visits into the everyday lives of Cincinnati scientists, who, he reminds us, are real people trying to solve real-world problems. •

The Young Ones: Five ways to help the kids and pets in your household.

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

DIY Craft Lady: Jen Dalton
Local 12 morning traffic anchor Jen Dalton moonlights as Cincinnati’s unofficial kid craft curator, highlighting easy DIY craft and science projects to keep kids’ hands and minds busy. Find videos and instructions on her Instagram feed. •

Help for Hard Conversations: Susan Steinberg
Clinical psychologist Susan Steinberg provides practical advice for helping guide children through these uncertain times, focusing first on acknowledging what they’re experiencing and following up with positivity and problemsolving techniques. More than anything, she says, parents need to be good role models. •

Dog Training: Harper
Trying to provide your puppy with structure when you’re just as crazed and unfocused? The digital training app Harper offers more than 30 step-by-step training guides and 100-plus games that help you and your new friend bond at your own pace. •

Amusement Park Reopening: Kings Island
Finding a middle ground this summer between Florida’s crowded theme parks and California’s complete shutdown, KI finally introduced its new Orion rollercoaster in early July. They welcomed back families with temperature checks at the gate, timed tickets for popular rides to control lines, and aggressive cleanliness, for a small slice of summer normalcy. •

Pet Defender: Animal Abuse Tracking
Cincinnati City Council passed a motion in October to have city administrators work with Hamilton County officials to build a searchable database of people convicted of animal abuse. Those names will be available to animal shelters and adoption/foster organizations so they can vet potential pet owners and avoid repeat problems.

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