The Cat Café Is Here
Some people think that everything is better with a cat. A walk in the park, say, or a cup of coffee. Mostly everyone else thinks those people are misguided, especially the New York City Department of Health, which generally frowns on the presence of live animals in places where cooked animals are served as food—with the exception of service animals and fish in tanks, of course. One measly mouse can spell trouble, and “four or more live animals in establishment” might mean a failing grade in the window and a padlock on the door. Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia, pet cafés of all stripes and spots—for cats, dogs, goats, turtles, rabbits, and penguins—have been popular for more than a decade. This sort of hygienic uptightness is part of what’s wrong with America, you might say.
The nice people of Purina, however, want to change all that and restore America to its greatness. For the good of the country, and the hundreds of cats awaiting their “forever homes” at the North Shore Animal League shelter on Long Island, Purina has created a pop-up cat café on the Lower East Side—one part marketing ploy, two parts adoption drive, and a dash of caffeine. Today through Sunday, patriots and feline fanciers alike can enjoy a “cat-achino”—there’s a cat face in the foam—while petting one of sixteen cats.
Before Cat Café opened to the public, a horde of reporters was invited to meet with the felines. Eight cats—carefully screened for their sparkling personalities and tolerance for people—travelled two hours from the shelter, in Port Washington, in a specially outfitted bus. Despite the cats’ reputation for being aloof and skittish, the animals fully inhabited the space, climbing on intricate structures designed by the New York artist Linda Griggs. A six-month-old, all-white female cat named Duchess patiently posed for photos and videos. Connor, a mischievous gray tabby, scaled a tall room divider and perched happily next to the GoPro camera, which would broadcast a livestream of the café. One of the humans fetched a ladder to coax the cat down from its perch, but Connor declined the help and found his way down himself.
The cats frolicked happily in front of the wrap-around windows, attracting stares from passersby, which raised the question: weren’t the Purina folks afraid of a visit by a Health Department inspector? And how did they get that A grade on the door, anyway? Turns out that a set of doors between the café—serving coffees, cookies, and sandwiches, all free as part of the adoption drive—and the cat play space is a suitable separation. Feel free to take your beverage and pastry and then grab a seat and a cat.
In one corner, a reporter found Ciarra, a spunky four-month-old kitten, all black except for a white patch on her chest. Purring enthusiastically in response to every question, Ciarra proceeded to groom her scrawny black legs and lick the reporter’s hand with her sandpaper tongue, and curled up to nap in the reporter’s lap. The reporter petted the cat’s silky soft fur and fell into a hazy reverie. For a few days, pet cafés in the U.S.A. are no longer just a dream.
Photograph by Amy Sussman/Invision for Purina ONE/AP.