By AKANKSHA SAH
From October 2 to 5, Catfe, a pop-up restaurant, was opened to visitors of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Inspired by the cat cafes of Tokyo, Catfe is a coffee house where visitors can eat and drink while they spend time with a number of cats, which are allowed to roam freely throughout the cafe. A few other cat cafes are looking to open in the Bay Area sometime in the near future, including one called KitTea, whose creator is hoping to open within the next year. However Catfe is the only one of these to have opened so far. The idea behind cat cafes is that, since many people who like cats cannot get one as a pet, whether it be because of allergies in the family or a lack of time, cat cafes can provide a place to spend time with the friendly animals without the work or responsibility that comes with owning a pet.
Along with its obvious appeal for cat-lovers, Catfe also has a charitable cause, as all of the cats come from no kill shelters, and each kitten and cat is available for adoption. Carlos Wong, the man behind Catfe, stated that he wants his cat cafe to be different from others in that it is focused upon the adoption of the cats in the shop (KPCC). Wong explained that, in shelters, cats can be afraid or skittish, and, consequently, they often get overlooked as possible pets, but in a calm, warm environment such as the one in his cafe, they are free to behave the way they would in someone’s home. This has allowed the cats and their personalities to shine, and, throughout the course of the four day event, a total of 31 shelter cats found permanent homes.
The four day event was wildly successful, garnering visitors from all over California. Social media attention on the event has been overwhelmingly positive; sites like Twitter are filled with pictures of visitors and their newly adopted pets. Visiting the cafe was free, but people had to sign up for time slots, which filled up fast. In order to avoid standing in a long line to sign up or, even worse, not getting a time slot at all, people could pay a $30 fee to reserve a 20 minute time slot in the cafe.
Wong hopes to permanently establish Catfe through money earned from reservations and from a $250,000 campaign with Kickstarter.
At University High School (UHS), students have expressed varying levels of enthusiasm over the idea of cat cafes. Norhan Abolail (So.) expressed her excitement about the concept of cat cafes, saying, “I love cats – they are so cute and cuddly and furry! I would like this kind of place, especially if I’m looking for a relaxing and stress-free environment to spend time in.” When asked how she would feel about eating around them, she said, “I don’t mind eating with cats around unless they are too close to my food.” When asked what she thought of the idea of cat cafes, Skylar Bartal (So.) said, “It sounds cute, but isn’t that unsanitary?” This question has been asked to Wong by multiple people, and he has explained that there is a “no-cat radius” where they prepare the food, and the workers maintain strictly hygienic conditions.
As for the Catfe’s cause, Bartal said, “It’s nice that they let you adopt the cats, but wouldn’t it be better if they got them from shelters that do put their cats down so they can save them?” An idea that has been brought up by many others, it is something that Wong says he would most likely look into, should he open up a permanent location. He has said he would look into getting cats from places such as the pound, which puts their cats down if they are not either claimed or adopted within a certain amount of time, but, since animals from places of the sort often have to be checked for diseases and general healthiness, it was too expensive of a commitment to take on for a four day event.
The general consensus about cat cafes, both on social media and among UHS students is that, while their appeal may vary depending on personal likes and dislikes of cats, they definitely have a worthwhile cause, and, with support, they can help save many animals and give them the happy, healthy lives they deserve.