If cat lovers could design their own heaven it would mostly likely have a least one cat café—a quiet retreat where warm beverages and sweet treats are in plentiful supply and a variety of affectionate cats roam about, graciously accepting your attention.The cat café concept is a reality in many parts of the world. At these kitty havens, patrons can relax with a beverage and a snack while watching and interacting with the cat café’s feline residents. The concept is very popular in Asia and is catching on in Europe as well. CNN reports that Japan has approximately 150 cat cafes, more than anywhere else in the world.
Paris, London, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Madrid, and Dubai also have their own cat cafes. Melbourne, Australia, is set to welcome its first cat café soon. And while the United States is lagging behind a bit, it could catch up to the cat café craze very soon.
The first cat café in the United States was a limited venture that opened in New York in April. Sponsored by Purina One, the pop-up cat café was open for four days. It was intended to raise awareness about pet health and show people what healthy, happy cats look like, explains Niky Roberts, a spokesperson for Purina One.
The cat food company partnered with the North Shore Animal League America, a rescue group that provided 35 adoptable cats for visitors to meet and interact with at the café. The good news is that all 35 kitties have been adopted, either during or after the event, says Roberts. In addition to cappuccino and baked goods, the event featured speakers throughout the four days including a veterinarian, cat behaviorist and a pet shelter director. “We had a great experience,” says Roberts.
Because the cat café was an event and not a long-term business, the biggest challenge for Purina One, notes Roberts, was working out the logistics of being the first in the U.S. to bring kitties and a café atmosphere together.
Long-term establishments for felines and those who love them may follow. In North America, the promise of cat cafes in cities including Boston and Toronto has generated a lot of press, but so far few are close to opening.
However, a Quebec cat lover is preparing to open Café Chat L’Heureux in Montreal as early as this summer. Clement Marty, the owner of Café Chat L’Heureux, says he became intrigued by the cat cafés he saw on his travels around the world. He decided to launch his own cat café in Montreal to educate the public on how to properly care for cats while providing a resource for cat lovers who can’t have a pet of their own. An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is providing the start-up capital, says Marty.
The café will have eight to 12 cats in residence, an optimal number for the space that takes into account cats’ territorial needs, he explains. “The cats will come from different shelters in Montreal, with each one a sort of ambassador for the shelter,” says Marty.
In San Francisco, all software developer David Braginsky and entrepreneur Courtney Hatt need to do is find the right space for their cat café, to be called KitTea.
KitTea will be be a “cageless adoption center” where visitors can spend quality time with the resident cats and also have a cup of tea and something to eat, explains Braginsky. Local regulations require that the two functions be strictly separate, so the food prep area will be in a completely different space than the cats’ area, says Braginsky. Local cat shelters will provide adoptable cats with the right personalities for the environment.
“A cat café seems like a valuable thing to have in the city,” notes Braginsky. He expects a lot of interest in KitTea because San Francisco is home to lot of people who live in apartments that don’t allow pets or live with roommates who don’t want cats.
The real estate search has been difficult, Braginsky says, because he and Hatt want KitTea to be located in a neighborhood that caters to residents, not tourists. Rent and renovation costs are also important considerations. A crowdfunding campaign is powering the launch of KitTea, but private investors are also needed, he adds.
Braginsky says he was inspired by London’s very successful cat café Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, where kitties with names like Artemis and Carbonelle lounge around soaking up the attention. Lady Dinah’s is so popular that the establishment is booked solid through October 2014.
The British cat café set ground rules that eliminate many concerns surrounding a venture that combines cats and the public. First, Lady Dinah’s has a booking system that permits only a limited number of people in the space at one time. It also has a small cover charge. The establishment has banned children under the age of 8 to eliminate concerns about what very young children might do to the cats.
As for allergies, Lady Dinah’s states on its website that staff are able to provide only basic first-aid attention in the event of an allergic reaction.
The cat café phenomenon doesn’t appear to be slowing down, and it will be exciting to see where these fun feline locations open next.
Photo credit: Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium via Facebook