I’m not much of a cat person. I couldn’t pick “Grumpy Cat” out of a lineup and have never shared a YouTube kitten video. But I’m curious, so I went to the Bowery this weekend to check out North America’s first pop-up cat café.
The event is exactly what it sounds like: a java joint where patrons pet free, roaming felines. Although the concept is relatively new to American audiences, the overwhelming response by NYC led to hundreds being turned away.
The first cat café opened in 1988 in Taiwan. They are very popular in Japan where cramped apartments make it impractical to own pets, and a smattering of pet-and-sip establishments have opened up in Europe.
The NYC version — sponsored by Purina One and the North Shore Animal League — featured whiskered drinks called “cat’achinos;” workshops, such as “Cat-Friendly Interior Design,” and felines waiting to be adopted. The idea drew scores of people over four days — creating mass appeal for feline adoption in a former sketchy neighborhood that has become an epicenter for events du jour.
Alison Barretta was in NYC for a week on business and dedicated enough to return twice. On her first try, she stood in line for more than three hours before she was denied access. But she got a VIP card that allowed her to return and whisk by the hordes of people waiting to enter.
“I had to go because . . . cats. And free food and drink!” she said.
Some devoted cat lovers, like Samuella Becker, weren’t so lucky. They didn’t get to experience the full cat and caboodle because of the long lines. “My [now deceased] Tuxedo cat, Mr. Cuddles, and his brother, Mr. Sparkles, were both adopted from the North Shore Animal League . . . The two-hour lines dissuaded me, though,” Becker said.
Amy Buttell, a writer from Erie, Pa., thought of going to the café, but decided not to because she had attended one while visiting her son at the University of London last month. “If this were a normal day-to-day thing and not a four-day, pop-up stunt,” she said, “it would be an excellent way to bring cat lovers together, especially those who want so much to have a kitty of their own but can’t.”
Barretta was pragmatic about her own experience: “I recently lost a fourth cat, so even if I had found a cat I really bonded with at the event, I don’t know if I would have been so quick to adopt.”