In an era filled with cat memes and Instagram selfies at cool, “Hipster”-themed cafés, it seems only natural that the two trends would eventually combine into what’s known as “cat cafés.”
Cat cafés, an international phenomenon that first began in Taiwan in 1998, are cat-themed cafés in which patrons pay a cover to sip hot beverages, relax, and play with cats. Depending on the size of the café, there can be anywhere from a dozen to four dozen cats intermingling with patrons, many of whom don’t have the time or space for a cat but love them all the same. Although there are cat cafés in several different countries including Korea, Malaysia, Austria, France, and Germany, the country most enthralled with Cat Cafés is Japan; Tokyo alone has 39 cat cafés.
Most recently to join the craze is Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London, which opened last month, and KitTea in San Francisco. Set to open in fall 2014, KitTea will be America’s first cat café thus far. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is wildly popular; the reservation-only café is booked solid until July, with no signs of slowing down.
Opening a cat café differs depending on the country’s food health and animal safety regulations. In America, mixing the two has been what’s prevented cat cafés from opening previously. KitTea co-founder Courtney Hatt recently told The Daily Beast that due to such health concerns, KitTea would have a slight variation on the traditional cat café layout. KitTea will have two rooms: one where the food will be served and the other the “petting zone”. Patrons can choose to take their food and drink into the petting zone with them, but would not automatically be served there.
While some animal rights groups, such as England’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have some concerns about the well-being of the cats, many of the shelters, including Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium and KitTea, are committed to partnering with rescue shelters and steering their patrons towards adopting feline friends of their own.
Depending upon the logistics and success of KitTea, cat cafés may become a reality in all fifty states very soon. That is, if the nation’s cat ladies had their way.