Seattle Meowtropolitan cat lounge. Photo courtesy of Seattle Meowtropolitan
For many of us, cats are always in style. But with the advent of cat cafés, it's easier than ever for kitty-crazy families to enjoy the company of cats (and perhaps even bring one home).
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the cat café is just what it sounds like: a café where customers sip coffee in the company of cats. The idea originated in Asia, where many families live in small apartments with restrictions on pets and work long hours away from home; Japan reportedly has some 150 cat cafés to date.
In part because of U.S. regulations on mixing animals and food in the same establishment, the trend has been slower to catch on, but that's changing with two cat cafés now open in greater Seattle and another on the way. For the cafés that are open, you're welcome to pet and play with the cats but can't pick them up or offer them food.
New cat on the block
Since we first published this story in February 2017, Capitol Hill got a brand new cat café. Neko: A Cat Café (519 E Pine St.) opened last week with a whole crew of cats in residence and up for adoption through Regional Animal Services of King County.
Offering drinks and small bites, Neko's menu includes senbei (Japanese rice crackers), Taiyaki (Japanese waffles shaped like fish) and bento boxes for $11 a pop. There's beer, wine, coffee, Japanese tea and sake, too.
Also cool: All of the cats at Neko have feline leukemia virus, which sounds scary but doesn't keep the animal from living a comfortable life. The goal is to get these often passed over cats into good homes by introducing them to Neko customers.
All the cool cats: Seattle Meowtropolitan
Located kitty-corner from Archie McPhee’s in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, Seattle Meowtropolitan (1225 N. 45th St.) serves Herkimer coffee and fancy, cat-themed treats in its café, which is separated by plate glass and double doors from the large, industrial-looking cat lounge. The cat lounge is home to six resident cats and up to a dozen adoptable cats from Regional Animal Services of King County.
Customers can sit in the café and watch the cats through the glass, or order their treats to-go and spend an hour in the cat lounge. Drop-ins are permitted at the cat lounge, but it’s better to book in advance as weekends and afternoons can fill up. The minimum age to enter the cat lounge is 8 years old, and no more than two children per adult are allowed. Regardless of age, entry to the cat lounge requires a waiver and costs $10 per person (one drink included in the price).
Inside the lounge, the cats go about their business (as cats do) while the humans try desperately to get their attention. Cat beds and toys are scattered around the room, with café tables running along two walls. An attendant times the visit and when necessary enforces the rules, which are mostly a matter of good manners and common sense (although it can be a challenge to not want to cuddle the cats). Despite their enforcer duties, the attendants are friendly and happy to answer questions about each cat's personality and history.
Younger kitty-crazy kids welcome
Families with children under age 8 or those looking for a more relaxed experience can head to the recently opened Kitty Catfe in Edmonds (9697 Firdale Ave.). They have no age restrictions or limitations on the number of children an adult can bring (common sense encouraged). Customers are welcome to stay as long as they want.
Reservations are not required, but it's worth checking Kitty Catfe's website before going, as it often closes for private parties. Admission is $5 and includes a drink, although the emphasis here is on the cats, not the coffee — there is no espresso machine, and snacks are pre-packaged. Here the cats have full run of the space, even climbing over the cash register and hiding behind the bar when they've had enough socializing.
The Kitty Catfe is newer than Meowtropolitan, and is still working to balance its cat population. It started with nearly 20 cats, but on the day my family visited, only their four permanent resident kitties were on site; the rest had been adopted. A new delivery of adoptable cats from their partner agency, Whisker City, was expected later in the day. One thing that both cafés have in common — super-friendly staff who are happy to tell you about their cats and help you make friends with them.
West Seattle purrs
Emerald City Kitty Harbor Adoption Center (3422 Harbor S.W., near the foot of the West Seattle bridge) also joined the fray this year. This café, located in the former shelter known as Kitty Harbor, is operated by Emerald City Pet Rescue. The Kitty Harbor team is open seven days a week with plenty of cat-themed drinks on the menu.
Many people love cats but can’t have one of their own — lease restrictions and allergic family members are two of the biggest reasons. In such situations, a cat café can be a good but expensive substitute.
If your child wants more continuous contact with animals, consider the Seattle Humane Society’s kids’ programs. In summer, preschoolers can attend weekly sessions ($10) to learn about animal care, while kids ages 5–10 can spend 20 minutes reading to shelter cats any weekday afternoon for free.
For those who are serious about adopting a cat but who find kennel visits depressing, consider PAWS Cat City (5200 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle). Cat City doesn't have a café, but does have three colony rooms filled with adoptable cats. Visitors fill out a questionnaire that helps volunteers identify compatible cats. Adopters can then spend as much time as they want in the cat colonies, even returning for multiple visits if they don't make a kitty connection the first time. A separate room is available for one-on-one visits with cats-of-interest.
Originally published in February 2017 and updated in November 2017.