The Age Of The Animal Café

A café concept that debuted in Taiwan in 1998 is making it to the US midwest. The cat café — coffee and food in one room, and a furry staff of friendly kitties in the other  — is a café format taking off in apartment-heavy cities around the world where pet restrictions are very common. Customers stop by and pay by the hour to spend time with furry friends, reaping the benefits to health and well-being that spending time with animals delivers.

The concept got its start in the city of Taipei eighteen years ago has moved to cities around the globe since. Chicago made news last year with the construction plans for its first permanent cat cafe and the developers are making progress through the city council’s approval process.

In February, Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) sponsored an ordinance to allow for an “animal shelter cafe permit” under city code. The council will vote on the ordinance next month.

The ordinance bans alcoholic beverages and requires the cafes to be in an enclosed area of a licensed shelter. No food can be served, just drinks such as coffee.

Only service animals are allowed to pass through the café, and drinks are meant for prospective adopters or people otherwise utilizing services at the shelter — which includes a vet clinic, classrooms and more.

In June, Jenny Schlueter, director of development at Tree House, said one floor plan for the cafe included the separately partitioned coffee room next to two additional rooms that held adoptable cats, where patrons could take their drinks and visit with the cats.

Considered And Rejected

As a lifelong animal lover, I wholeheartedly approve of the animal cafe business concept.  That said, in the drafting of this blog post, there were a number of cat cliches I considered and rejected.  These included references to apartment dwellers being rubbed the wrong way by animal lease restrictions, press releases letting the cat out of the bag and cat cafe entrepreneurs thinking outside the (litter) box. 

These cliches give me pause, and I avoided them by a whisker.

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