Sipping coffee with cats

Downtown Express photos by Zach Williams The Cat Café, complete with felines to pet, will be at 168 Bowery through the weekend.

Downtown Express photos by Zach Williams
The Cat Café, complete with felines to pet, will be at 168 Bowery through the weekend.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS  |  The first cat cafe in the United States will open its doors this week in Downtown, but they won’t stay that way for long.

For four days starting on Thurs., April 24, clientele at 168 Bowery will frolic with dozens of affection-seeking felines — a ‘cat’achino’-slinging barista a short walk away. While the duration of Cat Café  will be short, educational programs as well as adoption opportunities will be available for cat lovers poised for longterm commitment, according to organizers.

“Our goal for the Cat Café is to create a rich, interactive environment that empowers cat owners to learn more about their cat’s health and nutritional needs,” reads the statement released on April 21 by pet food company Purina which is sponsoring the event.

Cat cafes are a popular cultural phenomenon in Japan but the concept has spread in recent years throughout Asia, Europe and North America — including Canada and California. Two Bay Area cafes are expected to open later this year.

Despite additional popularity within social media such as Facebook and YouTube, many people Downtown have yet to hear of the concept of combining two popular pastimes within the local community: drinking coffee and enjoying cats.

However, the idea of getting a caffeine fix while petting a kitty has rubbed some the right way.

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“I’ll be one of the patrons there,” said Soho resident Gilberto Miranda who said he had never heard of cat cafes before walking by 168 Bowery with his daughter and grandson Tuesday.

While Sarah Gonzalez, a Boston resident on vacation, expressed dismay that the Cat Café would be short-lived on the Bowery, her girlfriend Pam Schwartz said she has been intrigued by the concept.

“I think it’d be pleasant to have cats around,” she said.

The venues are especially popular in other countries, especially with individuals unable to keep cats at home but who yet pine for the opportunity to interact with them. While caressing fur, scratching chins and feeling the purr is attractive to many humans, some said they view the animals in a more intellectual light.

Cats’ disdain for disturbances and preference for some alone time, are two ways Soho resident Eric Chan feels “solidarity” with them. The viral popularity of cats and kittens online might be borne out of an innate mixture of cuteness and rebellion, he added.

“They do what they want, when they want,” he said. “At the same time, when they want attention, they’ll do whatever they need to.”

The café will be open on Bowery near Delancey St. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sun., April 27.

Despite enthusiasm for the event, a permanent cat cafe is not likely to come soon to New York City. Cat Café will soon end at 168 Bowery and its historic distinction will be relegated to the annals of U.S. cultural history.

No applications for a cat cafe has ever been made in New York City where live animals, except for service animals and fish, are currently illegal in food service establishments, according to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

An exemption to such regulations was not necessary in order to stage the 168 Bowery event, according to Danielle Bickelmann, an event organizer.

Regardless of barriers to bringing a permanent cat cafe to the city, it is an issue of importance to those who feel it’s not safe to keep a cat at home.

“They should have [Cat Café] forever,” said dog owner Isabel Deng who works in the fashion industry in Soho.

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