So what exactly is a cat cafe?
A cat cafe is a business idea that originated in Japan, where customers are able to pet and play with cats while sipping on coffee. In Japan, cat cafes are generally focused on creating a safe environment for the cats and humans to interact with one another, while here in the United States, cat cafes are focused more on the adoption of the cats.
Enter into a cat cafe here in Florida, and you may see anything from 8 to 60 cats at a time, depending on where you go. The Kitty Beautiful, a cat cafe in downtown Orlando, usually keeps around 15 cats in their 1500 sq ft kitty play area, and Kitty Cat Lounge, a cafe opening in downtown Lakeland, will be able to accommodate up to 12 cats. Other cafes, like the Frisky Cat Cafe in St. Augustine can average 50 to 60 cats at a time and even has a separate room for kittens.
Cat cafes are often enjoyed by ailurophiles, aka Cat Lovers, who cannot wait for the opportunity to walk into a room full of cats and kittens. However, some parents and partners who are tagging along to the cat cafe might just have their hearts' stolen by the kitties. “It's great seeing the change in attitude when a cute kitty unexpectedly settles down on their lap. You can just see them relax,” says Angeli Rodriguez, owner of the Witty Whisker Cat Cafe in St. Augustine.
One of the key parts of a cat cafe is the option to visit with the cats, which means that if you're allergic or just wanting some coffee, the cafe and cat rooms are separate so you can choose to just watch the kitties instead.
These new cat cafe businesses are a laid-back and easy way to find the purr-fect pet for your family. Since starting in 2019, The Kitty Beautiful has found more than 350 cats a home. They are located in Orlando, which is a big problem area for strays, so having a place where the cats can be safely vetted and adopted is a great benefit for the community.
At Frisky Cat Cafe, with their larger accommodations for kitties, they're able to hold quite a few adoptions as well. “We adopt on average about 30 kitties per month during kitten season,” says owner Carla Forrest. These are great adoption numbers, especially considering the fact that they serve a very high kill rate county, and most of these cats would have otherwise gone to a kill shelter.
While the cat cafes all see a majority of new customers, many see regulars as well. “One lady came every day during her lunch break, and she would literally run here. Her coworkers would ask why she ran and she told them, 'if I walk it's 5 minutes less that I get with the cats.' It was really her way of de-stressing throughout the day,” says David Strauss, owner of The Kitty Beautiful.
Kitty Cat Lounge in Lakeland, opening in the next few months, will be home to a mid-century themed '1950s diner' style cafe and lounge area. The owner, Cindy Skop, has been working on this vision for over a year when she first visited a cat cafe with her son, who has ADHD. At the cafe, she observed how he stayed engaged and focused for an hour, un-medicated, while he was playing with the cats. Seeing these benefits, and knowing the other benefits of having a purring kitty around (lower blood pressure and less stress) led Skop to pursuing her vision and starting the lounge. Kitty Cat Lounge will serve coffee, tea, and a few sweet treats, with plans to expand into a bigger vegetarian menu in the future.
If you're looking for an extra fun way to interact with the kitties, consider going to one of the special events.
“We do a purr-der mystery party and we encourage guests to come in costume. When they get there, they find out who their character is and get some background on it before starting the game and sipping on 'meow-mosas', says Strauss. The Kitty Beautiful also hosts cat yoga, nerdy trivia, and 'mocktails and meows', saying “one of the main reasons you start a cat cafe is for all of the cat puns!”
Witty Whisker has lots of fun in store for their customers too, with cat-themed paint nights where you can do a painting class led by their very talented baristas. They also have Mewsic nights, led by artists who will sing or play instruments in the cat room. One of their other popular events, Meowditation, is led by Rodriguez, who is a certified yoga instructor and leads yoga classes with the kitties. “It's so fun seeing the customers and kitties interact on the mats,” says Rodriguez, who says this is her personal favorite event for this reason.
Know Before You Go
While all cat cafes are open to the public and accept walk-ins for the cats and coffee, it is highly advisable to make a reservation first, especially on weekends. The cat cafe is a new, niche business that has grown in popularity over the past few years, so be sure to reserve your spot before you go. If you're looking to add that new, furry friend to the family, or just to get some stress relief, cat cafes are a great way to support your local businesses and kitties.