Any fan of Japan and cats knows that cat cafes have been the rage for years. They provide a safe haven for cat lovers who are unable to have pets due to restrictions of their apartment buildings. At these cat cafes – there are almost 40 of them in Tokyo alone – friends of felines pay a small fee for a cup of coffee and some cuddle time with cats.
Along those lines, Purina ONE has teamed up with North Shore Animal League to create a pop-up cat cafe in New York City, where guests can enjoy “coffee, conversation, and cats.” The four-day cafe operated from Thursday until Sunday and offered a free cup of coffee, or “catachino” with a cute little cat face swirled on top, a free pastry, and one hour of time to spend cuddling with furry creatures, which were vetted by NSAL and were up for adoption.
The project was met with large crowds eager to have the chance to pet those soon-to-be pets. That one-hour cuddle time required a three-hour wait in a line that organizers didn’t quite expect.
“I’d estimate a couple hundred people were here on the first day,” says Christian McLaren, a member of the event staff. “We had to order more stanchions” to create the serpentine line at the corner of Bowery and Kenmare.
Although not sure of the exact numbers, McLaren believes all of the cats inside the cafe were adopted as of late Friday afternoon. “I know people are filling out applications, and ten to fifteen more cats will be here (Saturday) in a bus parked on the street.”
The long line and long wait did not deter die-hard cat fans. On Friday afternoon one young lady standing at the midpoint of the line had been waiting for two hours. Dressed in Lolita fashion featuring black cats on a ruffled lace dress, she was determined to get in before the 7:00 p.m. closing time.
“Oh I’m definitely getting in, even if I have to fight my way in,” she says. “That’s why I brought this,” jokingly holding up her Victorian-style umbrella. (Alas, she didn’t make it, as she reported in a conversation on Instagram.)
It’s that kind of determination that has McLaren convinced that the concept of a cat cafe could go beyond a pop-up store in New York, just as the numbers continue to grow in Japan.
“The crowds and the press this has received could definitely attract the eye of people who can make it happen,” says McLaren. “It’s a great business model, if someone can cut through the red tape.”
Convincing the Department of Health is the first layer of red tape, as it is leery of allowing pets to mingle in a restaurant setting where food is served. But it’s proven effective in Japan, and similar places are opening in San Francisco, London, and Paris. The demand is there to continue to have coffee and conversation with cats.