People are feline good at a cat café in downtown Gainesville

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Panini, a 4-month-old tuxedo cat, tapped a paw against the front window as guests walked by to enter the Feeline Good Cat Café in downtown Gainesville.

In the café, Panini shares a room with 10 other cats waiting to be adopted, while the smell of fresh coffee and pastries fills the café. The cats sit comfortably on a couch, running up and down the cat post and climbing the playground wall while waiting for customers to play with them.

Feeline Good Cat Cafe is a partner of the Humane Society of North Central Florida. In just over 100 days since the cafe opened in June, around 115 cats have been adopted, according to marketing and accounting manager Gabby Hall.

Owner Francesca Hall, Gabby Hall’s sister, opened the café after adopting her cat Stevie from The Witty Whisker Cat Café in St. Augustine in 2020.

“Our family has always been the ultimate crew of cat lovers,” said Gabby Hall. “We’ve always had cats at home since we were very young.”

Cat cafes are quickly spreading across the country.

The first of its kind, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taiwan in 1998 Floss. The concept started as pop-up shops in the United States until the first permanent cat café, the Cat Town Café, opened in Oakland, California in 2014. By 2018 there were 43 more, and CNN reported more than 125 in 2019.

Florida now has 10 and growing.

“We’ve seen cat cafes in pretty much every major city,” says Katie Logue, owner of Tally cat cafe in Tallahassee. “They are getting more and more popular and you can see that any animal shelter they work with definitely increases cat adoption.”

The main focus is on finding a home for cats. Most of the cafes work with local animal shelters, with all income reinvested directly into the animal shelters. The café itself makes money selling coffee, pastries, donations, and entrance fees. Tally Cat Café works with the Leon County Humane Society; You have helped find permanent homes for more than 1,000 cats.

When the pandemic started, Logue had to close her cafe and care for kittens. In the past year, however, the café experienced an enormous surge in acceptance.

“We went from five adoptions a week to 15,” she said. “That’s pretty crazy.”

Phil Arkow, coordinator of the National Link Coalition, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that works to stop violence against people and animals, said it views cat cafes as a form of animal-assisted activity and sees potential for growth in the industry.

“It’s a fur repair,” said Arkow. “It certainly has the benefit of being a stress reliever for the people who go there.”

The success of cat cafe adoptions is no accident – at animal shelters, people choose a cat based on its appearance, but not its personality, the owner of the said Orlando cat cafe Sandra Cagan.

“At a cat café, you can come in and play with the cats and see how they react to people and other animals,” said Cagan. “People can come in and see their personality and get a cat that suits them. It’s just a better way. “

As her 50th birthday approached in 2015, Cagan pondered how she wanted to give back to her community and leave a legacy. After watching TV news about a cat café in New York, she opened her first in Florida in 2016. Since then, it has adopted more than 1,500 cats.

While cat cafes are business ventures, they also fulfill lifelong passions. Angeli Rodriguez worked in a company job before it opened The fun Whisker Cat Café in 2020.

“I decided to take my MBA and create a business plan,” said Rodriguez.

Before opening hers, Rodriguez visited six cat cafes in the United States. The Witty Whisker can accommodate up to 15 cats at a time. Guests can enter the cat lounge for a fee of USD 10 per hour. Adoption fees are set by Feline Canopy of Care, a St. Augustine animal shelter. Kittens and cats aged 4 and under are $ 135, cats 4 to 10 are $ 110, and cats over 10 are $ 95.

Orange cats and Siamese cats are the most popular breeds in the cafe, Rodriguez said.

Not all cat cafes have the same attitude towards adoptions. Tammy King said it was open The caffeinated cat, in Jacksonville Beach in 2019, out of desperation. King is also directing Mayport cats, a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of feral and abandoned cats.

“Donations began to decline and medical costs tripled … quadrupled,” she said. “In order to continue helping these cats, we needed a way to raise these funds.”

The caffeinated cat receives around 50 visits a day during the week. Since this is also a rescue, there is no entry fee to interact with the cats. King said their main goal is to educate the community about cats and help them gain popularity.

The café is home to up to 26 cats at a time, four of which – each with their own unique story – are considered employees and cannot be adopted.

“They are my daily reminder to be humble, to stay within my mission, and to focus on the cats,” said King.

In 2019, Deborah Arroyo adopted her cat Luna Sophia from the Orlando Cat Café.

Deborah and Omar Arroyo celebrate with their daughters Khamil (left) and Khiara (right) and cat Luna Sophia on their adoption day at the Orlando Cat Cafe in Clermont. (Courtesy photo by Deborah Arroyo)

Arroyo and her husband Omar both grew up with cats but had no plans to adopt them. Arroyo heard about the cat café from one of her best friends and one day visited her daughters Khamil, 11, and Khiara, 9, when bad weather ruined their original plans.

On their second visit they saw Luna Sophia.

“She chose us,” said Arroyo.

The Arroyos adopted Luna Sophia on their third visit.

“The girls love to visit the Kitty Cabana and get their cat-shaped cookies,” said Arroyo. “My youngest daughter even wanted to celebrate her birthday in the café.”

Hunter Malin adopted his native Minnie short hairstyle from The Witty Whisker in March. He was not interested in adopting a cat, but his daughter Lexi, 18, suggested visiting the cafe.

“I said we could go,” said the father, “but we won’t adopt a cat.”

The Malins noticed Minnie. After a second visit, they adopted her.

Lou Ellen Combs began volunteering at the Orlando Cat Café in 2018. The next year she adopted her short-haired house cat, Walton.

“He’s been there for about three months,” said Combs. “Every time I saw him I fell more in love with him, so we finally adopted him.”