On Sunday more than 150 eager cat-lovers from across Philly and even New Jersey flocked to the grand opening of "Le Cat Cafe" in Brewerytown to enjoy coffees while meeting cats who are available for adoption.
"Without cats, I'm only one-fourth of myself," sad Caroline Graybill, 21, a senior airman stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County. She grew up with cats, but isn't allowed to have one in the barracks, she said.
"It's just nice being able to come and pet cats," she said.
Le Cat Cafe is an all-volunteer operation that grew out of of Green Street Rescue, a cat rescue charity based in the Fairmount area that rescues cats and offers them for adoption from locations such as the window of nearby Fairmount Pet Shoppe. In 2016 alone, the rescue has saved 80 cats and adopted out 40.
Now, they have an entire cafe of their own to introduce cats to potential owners while they play on custom-made cat trees and toys and hunt around tables while guests sip coffees.
"I'm hopeful for the cats," said Kathy Jordan, the founder of Green Street Rescue and Le Cat Cafe, who said she cooked up the idea after hearing about similar spots opening in San Francisco and New York. The concept has already existed in Japan for years.
Since then, Jordan has been actively looking for a storefront where the idea would work. She recently found it on Brewerytown's rapidly developing West Girard Avenue.
"It's the new adoption platform for cats," Jordan said. "If you take a cat and put them in a cafe-type setting, they’re in a much more natural environment.They’re sitting in your lap, they’re playing with a toy. You have a better idea of that cat's personality."
Like Green Street Rescue, Le Cat Cafe's mission is to adopt out cats to its customers, who for a $12 fee ($10 for students with ID, free for kids under 12) can lounge around meeting cats while enjoying a coffee from the K-cup machine (the first one comes with the entrance fee, additional coffees cost $1). All fees go toward keeping the lights on at Le Cat Cafe.
"We live from hand to paw," said Jordan, who plans to begin offering yoga classes with cats next week and will also rent out the space for special events.
"Cats are kind of my whole world," said the cafe's manager, Kimberly Kearly, who had on a pair of cat ears for the grand opening. "I love all animals. Based on my experience, my friend said, 'You would be the perfect manager for this cafe.'"
Jordan said the cafe's mission is 100 percent focused on adopting out homeless cats.
"The more that are adopted, the more room there is to rescue others, and the more that are rescued, the less that are outside suffering," she said. "It's a win-win-win-win."
Even though not every guest on the first day adopted a cat, some said they will be returning in the near future.
"It's a nice atmosphere, all the cats are really sweet. I was worried they would be stressed out. I think all cat shelters should do this," said self-described "cat lady-in-training" Mary McVaugh, 25, of Center City. "I'm totally going to be back here."
A second cat cafe, Kawaii Kitty Cafe, is slated to open in Queen Village in the coming months.