In Los Angeles, Catfe connects shelter cats with potential forever families, all over a cup of joe.
Here’s what’s missing from your third-wave specialty coffee joint: cats. You haven’t had a chai latte until you’ve had it in the company of kitties—or so goes the wisdom of Carlos Wong, the hero behind Catfe. Catfe is Wong’s ambitious project to bring the pet cafes of Tokyo to Los Angeles. Wong opened up his first pop-up cafe this week in L.A.’s Chinatown, hoping that the temporary shop will mobilize support for a permanent location and compel potential customers to donate to his Kickstarter campaign.
Customers pay per visit ($10 an hour, or $13 for unlimited face time with the fur balls), plus the cost of drinks and snacks. Catfe serves basic cafe fare: coffee, tea, and typical snacks. The four-day pop-up’s “talent” comes courtesy of the Best Friends Animal Society, and customers have the opportunity to adopt any of them should they find their feline soul mate. And, just like their Japanese progenitors, these cafes will also be staffed with cat maids and butlers.
Cat and mouse (and keyboard)
While for some, mixing cats and coffee might not seem like the most sanitary sensory experience, Wong insists that this won’t be an issue. When living in Japan, he frequented the local cat cafes and didn’t encounter any problems.
“I can tell you that a lot of the concerns us Westerners have about these new feline frappachino foundations are null,” he wrote on his site. “While at these pet cafes, I never once was overwhelmed by any pungent aromas nor had to pick cat dander from my teeth.”
Sounds heavenly, but surely this constitutes a violation of Los Angeles city health codes? Wong has it covered. He’s been in contact with the L.A. Department of Health, and they have greenlit the project. Cats will be sequestered in their own area, far away from food preparation, and cafe workers won’t have any contact with them.
The first cat cafe in the world showed up in Taiwan in 1998. The store, called Cat Flower Garden, was a big hit with locals and tourists but the idea really took off in Japan. The country now has at least 39 different cat cafes. But in this part of the world, cat cafes are still just a novelty, though Wong’s Catfe is not the first in the United States. Earlier this year, Purina ONE hosted the first-ever American cat cafe in New York.