Cat cafe opens in Chicago today despite hurdles, controversy


There’s a new cat cafe on the block in Chicago, but it may not pass muster for many as a good place for coffee and kitty love.

When I think cat cafe, I imagine deep, cushy pillows, hot beverages, and cats casually wandering the area, slinking up under your arm for pets and scratches while you lazily chat with your cat-loving friends. I imagine happily typing away on a laptop with a mug of tea next to me as a smart tabby strolls up and casually plops its fuzzy butt on my keys. But even though many cat cafes in Japan and a handful wandering west embrace that reality, the Purrfect Roast Cafe in Chicago, which opens today, seems to be missing the mark.

Eater Chicago describes the cat cafe in detail, revealing that it’s a far cry from the barista-run experience people might expect. Rather, the cat cafe has a self-service coffee and tea area separate from the cats, making it more of a place to come play with cats that happens to have coffee sitting around, waiting room style. Furthermore, the cats are available by appointment only rather than lounging around in an open cat room. It sounds like my local humane society, honestly, which also has cats available by appointment and a self-service coffee dispenser.

Furthermore, Chicago magazine details a more troubling controversy than just a lack of expected facilities. To be clear, the place was originally intended to be more of what you’d expect from a cat cafe, with a full coffee bar and all. But some shady combination of money mismanagement (the project went way, way, way over budget) board members of questionable integrity, and a euthanized cat sparked protests as the cafe neared completion. Tree House Humane Society, the group running the cat cafe project, even recently removed the no-kill policy from their site, angering past donors and volunteers who had helped the shelter specifically due to that policy.

Next: Caturday blogging: Does your cat actually love you?

The result is that, while the cause of the cat cafe—getting more cats adopted—remains a good one, the whole affair has turned the Purrfest Roast Cafe into a rather deceptive front. I’m all for cats getting adopted into loving homes, and if this “cat cafe” (if we can call it that) results in more of that, then its mission was obviously a successful one. But it sounds like, if you’re traveling to Chicago and want to drop in for a cup of java and a kitty snuggle, you’re out of luck. It’s worth noting at least that Tree House is a state of the art humane society that does have plenty of cute locations to look at, visit, and pet cats, as shown in these lovely photos. If you’re in the area, you may want to consider checking it out in person before passing judgment.