“It was October 25th, 2013. I saw a video that a girlfriend of mine who lives in Paris sent me on Facebook of Le Café des Chats in Paris,” says Kristen Castillo. “I didn’t even know that cat cafés existed. I was utterly blown away and inspired and pretty much had an epiphany that evening.”
And now Kristen and her husband, Sergio Castillo, own Oregon’s first cat café.
Purringtons Cat Lounge, located in NE Portland, celebrated its grand opening at the end of January with more than 300 people in attendance. Patrons waited for more than an hour to spend 30 minutes with 9 cats while enjoying coffee and pastries in the living-room-like setting.
To comply with Multnomah County’s Health Department regulations, Purringtons’ space is divided into two areas: a café, where you can purchase food and drinks, and the lounge, where you can spend time with the cats. There is an $8-per-hour cover charge for the lounge.
“Many cat cafés are up-and coming in the United States,” says Kristen. Cat cafés exist in many countries including Japan, Taiwan, England, France and Italy. “North America is jumping on the band wagon,” she says.
Kristen notes there are about 100 cat cafés in Japan and 70 of those are in the greater Tokyo region, where the tight living conditions make it difficult for many people to have pets in their homes or apartments. Japan’s cat lovers can visit these cafés to get their “cat fix” and take a break from their busy lives.
Although Kristen believes Purringtons will attract patrons who need a “cat fix,” she also expects to draw customers who would like to adopt a cat. To that end, Kristen has partnered with Cat Adoption Team (CAT), a rescue organization located in Sherwood. Purringtons will host 8-10 cats on a regular basis, all of which are adoptable.
CAT already sends some of their felines to off-site adoption locations, such as local pet stores, where the cats live while waiting to be adopted, but this is the organization’s first time partnering with a cat café.
“We are really excited about the unique possibilities there — the way the people would be able to interact with the cats in a very home-like environment,” says Heather Svoboda, CAT’s communications and development manager. “It’s a really nice way to see a cat’s truer personality, which helps you make a good choice if you are out adopting.”
Svoboda says the cats at Purringtons are at least 1 year old and are comfortable being petted and touched. The adoption process is coordinated by appointment only to make sure patrons don’t make impulsive decisions.
“I came here because I am obsessed with cats,” says Michelle Lewis, one of Purringtons’ patrons. She currently has one cat and is looking for another one to adopt. “I have a lot of friends who travel to Asia a lot and there are dog cafés and cat cafés and you hear about them, but I’ve never experienced or actually seen it firsthand. I’ve only just heard, so this is so great.”
Recently a few other cat cafés have opened in North America, including Cat Town Café in Oakland, The Cat Café in San Diego, Meow Parlour in New York, Denver Cat Company in Denver and two cat cafés in Montreal — and Kristen expects more to open their doors in the near future. For instance, she says two cat cafés are in the works for Seattle and one for San Francisco.
After its first week in business, Purringtons is already experiencing some success.
“We’ve been almost fully booked our first week and going forward! People really enjoy the atmosphere in the lounge,” says Kristen. “We have adopted out three kitties and two more go home tonight. We are to receive a new bunch in today, not exactly sure how many, but we have told Cat Adoption Team: ‘the more the merrier’!”
Svoboda also hopes patrons will enjoy the atmosphere at Purringtons.
“I think [the cat café] will be a unique opportunity for people because of the way they can interact and really get to know the cats well maybe over a period of a few days,” says Svoboda. “I think that may be a difference we see, but time will tell.”
Editor’s Note - February 3, 2015: A previous version of this article stated that Purringtons opened a little over two years after Kristen Castillo saw the video of Le Café des Chats. In fact, Purringtons opened in January 2015.