Despite what you may have heard, a cat café is not a café built for cats.
Rather, it’s a regular café—the kind built for humans, with coffee and such—and there are all these cats inside that you can just sit and chill with.
Super popular in China and Japan—58 in Tokyo as of last year—America’s first cat café opened in 2014, in Oakland, CA. Then came New York, San Francisco, and a couple dozen other cities.
Now it’s Pittsburgh’s turn.
Three days ago, Olivia Ciotoli, a recent Point Park graduate, and Indigo Baloch, a student at Chatham, launched a Kickstarter seeking $20,000 to open Black Cat Market, Pittsburgh’s first Cat Café, by the fall. They are already more than halfway to that goal.
Black Cat Cafe will be the same as any other café, except that for an extra $3, a person can enter a separate room with adorable, adoptable(!) kitties inside.
We had a chance to talk with Ms. Ciotoli (she goes by Livy) over the phone:
Why is meow the right time to open a cat café in Pittsburgh?
It’s really just starting to come into the United States, this trend of cat cafés. And I think with Pittsburgh being one of America’s most livable cities, we definitely need one. Also, we’re in general a very pet-friendly city. I think people really care about animals and pets and things of that nature. You can look up the best pet products right now on Petside.com. So I really think that Pittsburgh is the perfect place for it and this is the perfect time for it.
How many cat cafés have you visited? What’s the experience like?
I have actually not been able to visit one yet but we have done a lot of research, and they all have their own differences and quirks. Ours is going to be slightly different from other ones in that our cats are going to be adoptable, and you can actually adopt them on the spot. Animal Rescue League is going to be providing us with the cats and they’re also going to train us on how to adopt them out. So you can literally come in, look at the cats, and adopt one that day.
How many cats do you plan to have on hand at any given time?
It depends on the size of the storefront we’re able to get. When we talked to Animal Rescue League, they said the ideal amount of cats in one room would be about four or five, just so they all get along and they’re not overstimulated. If we are able to get a place where we have two cat rooms, that would be awesome because then we could have approximately 10 cats at a time.
Is it too early to say which neighborhood will be the purr-fect fit for Pittsburgh’s first cat cafe?
We do want to want to keep a pretty open mind about it in case something really cool and unexpected comes along, but our ideal would be Lawrenceville, Bloomfield—something in the East End would be pretty cool. Regent Square is also a place that we’re definitely looking pretty closely at.
What would you say to someone who is worried about the hygiene or sanitation issues that come with having so many cats in one space?
Obviously, the cats are not going to be anywhere near the serving area. They’re going to be in their own, separate room, hopefully separated by two sets of doors. We’ll have hand sanitizer and stuff like that. And the employees who will be serving the coffee will be nowhere near the cats. We’ll have different staff for different areas.
Besides coffee and cats, what else is on the menu?
We’re going to have a lot of really good baked goods, and a pretty strong focus on some vegan and gluten-free options so all kinds of people can come in and enjoy our snacks and our drinks.
Will I be able to buy a saucer of cream or some tuna to coax the cats into paying attention to me and not the other patrons in the cat room?
We’re actually considering having a candy machine filled with cat treats, so you could put a quarter in and get a handful of cat treats and feed the cats a little bit and have them come over to you.
You’re only two days into your Kickstarter and you’re almost halfway to your goal. Are you surprised by the outpouring of support you’ve received so far?
I’m honestly pretty surprised. I figured we would get a pretty good following at first and we’d slowly chug along, but it was amazing. I honestly almost cried the first day when we got so many positive comments and contributions.
So you’re paw-sitive this will be a hit?