GS PETS Fall 2019
Now On Tap: Catnip Cold Brew By Joanna Clark

In Ohio and Washington, cat cafes have visitors purring

There comes a time in every young person’s life when a difficult choice must be made: do I endure a night out with friends, or do I stay home for a quiet evening with my cats?

Fortunately, cat cafes are working to bridge that gap. Since coming to the U.S. nearly five years ago, the trend has spread from coast to coast, giving many Americans the chance to finally live out their cat lady (and cat gentleman) dreams.

In Dayton, Ohio, feline aficionados flock to Gem City Catfé. The space opened its doors in January 2018 and has, to date, found forever families for more than 250 cats. The Catfé spans three areas, with a cat lounge, full-service espresso bar and upstairs gallery space. “One of our goals was to use the lounge as an example of how one could ‘catify’ their house in an intentional, attractive way,” said Becci Cornell of Gem City Catfé.

To ease the stress cats can feel in open spaces, the Catfé focused on giving its kitties plenty of safe zones. Vertical spaces at varying heights allow cats to perch high above their human visitors, and a private basement allows them to retire, when said visitors inevitably prove irritating.

Gem City

For playtime, toys — like crinkle balls, cat dancers and wands — are never out of reach. Strategically placed scratching posts encourage cats to sharpen their claws in appropriate places, and puzzle feeders keep feeding time engaging. “We’re fans of the Jackson Galaxy mantra of ‘hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep,’ and we try to provide opportunities for this natural behavior cycle,” said Cornell.

Of course, no visit to a cat cafe is complete without purchasing the swag to prove it. The Catfé has a retail section where they sell a variety of branded items, from apparel to magnets. All of the apparel is made in Los Angeles and printed in collaboration with Winks and Whiskers, a local design shop. “We love the catnip products such as cat wine and catnip bubbles. We’re huge Pusheen fans, so we also have a lot of Pusheen merch, from travel neck pillows to keychains and coin purses,” said Cornell.

Over on the west coast, Seattle’s NEKO cat cafe serves up a similar experience. Founded in 2017, NEKO is the brainchild of Caitlin Unsell and Corey James, who both fell in love with cat cafe culture while living in Japan. 

What makes NEKO unique, however, is its mission: the cafe partners with local shelters to help find homes for kitties who are Feline Leukemia positive. To date, NEKO has helped find homes for more than 65 FeLV cats, and the team is currently working on the construction of a second location in Bellingham, WA.

Like Gem City Catfé, word-of-mouth plays a big role in attracting visitors.

“We are located in a high foot traffic area and our supurrrr model kitties always draw people in that are just walking by,” said Unsell. “We also do fun events like Bingo, wine tasting nights and meditation nights.”

To the delight of those visitors, NEKO’s shelves are stocked with cat-themed swag. Humans can find greeting cards, mugs, pint glasses and apparel, while cats can enjoy a wide selection of cat wine and goodies from local artists.

“Our cats’ favorite things to wear are our bow ties made by Sweet Pickles Designs. They are always dressed to impressed,” said Unsell.

Dress code, noted.

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