Cat Cafes: A Novel Way to Adopt

Coffee, tea, and kitty makes three . . . or four or more.

Cat cafes are a place to soak up local color - and perhaps end up with something more cuddly than a napkin on your lap.

Starting later this year at the CatCafe Lounge in Culver City, California, pet pur-ferring patrons can enjoy sipping their favorite wake-up beverage with a clowder of calicos, tabbies and Javanese slinking around them.

For a cover fee as yet undisclosed, patrons can sit, sip and sidle up to one or a number of feline friends and hopeful companions. The cafe’s goal is to promote adoption in a warm and friendly atmosphere - a far cry from the confined cages of the shelter and the nerve-racking transport to and from traditional shelter events. Here, founder Kristi Galvan hopes, pet and potential parent can relax and be their best, increasing the chances for a forever match between cat and human.

Galvan was so moved and inspired by her visit to a cat cafe in Japan, she decided to open up her own version in the West. While CatCafe Lounge won't be LA's first cat cafe (Crumbs and Whiskers opens in West Hollywood on September 30) it will be the largest of its kind in the western U.S. and, according to Galvan, the first fully non-profit cat cafe in the Los Angeles area.

The concept of placing cat and cat-lover together in a gastronomic establishment originated in Taiwan with the opening of the “Cat Flower Garden” in Taipei n 1998. Japanese tourists were so smitten with the experience that “Neko no Jikan” (Cats Time) opened in Osaka in 2004. Between 2005 and 2010, nearly 80 cat cafes have opened in Japan. Cat cafes can now be found throughout Europe, Asia, North and Central America and New Zealand.

But not everyone is all aflutter over felines and human friends sharing commercial space, for profit or no. In the U.K., groups including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Cats Protection and Celia Hammond Animal Trust are critical of combining large numbers of cats in a confined space with a revolving human population.

Whatever their stance on cat cafes, charities agree that such establishments need to be closely regulated. Certainly there are issues to consider. How are sanitary conditions in food and drink preparation areas maintained? Will workers and volunteers be trained in cat behavior so as to avoid an unpleasant situation? Are outside animal companions (i.e. therapy pets and assistance animals) welcome? What are the liability issues if a patron trips over a cat while on the way to the bathroom?

With ingenuity and an emphasis on animal welfare and patron safety, I believe a strong case can be made in favor of the cat cafe concept. Operation Blankets of Love has proved that shelter animals are more adoptable when swaddled in the warm trappings from home. So why wouldn’t a cat extracted from the confines of the shelter and placed in a home-like setting under ideal conditions be that much more adoptable?

What could be better than walking into a cafe with a taste for java and walking out with your heart - and your arms - full?


Click here for a list of Conde Nast Traveler's best cat cafes in the world.