When I wrote about my recent visit to the Staten Island Zoo, I mentioned my love for animals and the fact that I’m a cat owner. Yet despite having three adorable kitties to come home to every day, there is one place in NYC I like to go when I feel the need for an EXTRA kitty fix: The Brooklyn Cat Cafe! Though not the first cat cafe in NYC, it IS the first in Brooklyn and visiting is always a blast.
If you’re not already familiar with the concept, you might now be wondering…what the heck is a cat cafe??? They are basically cafes where you can go and have a coffee and play with a bunch of cats (most of which are also up for adoption). Kinda like visiting a shelter but more unique and hospitable (and caffeinated!) They’re great for city-dwellers who live in apartments that don’t permit cats but who still need a little kitty-love in their lives. And…they’re just as fun for those of us who DO have cats but love cuddling with even MORE cats whenever we can.
The concept of the cat cafe originated in Taiwan in the late ‘90s and really caught on in Japan in 2004. Tokyo alone has over 50 cat cafes, and there are more than 150 scattered about the country ( they have recently started owl cafes as well, which sound pretty awesome to me!)
In the U.S., the first cat cafe didn’t open until a decade later when Cat Town in Oakland, CA opened its doors in 2014. Very soon after, Meow Parlour opened in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, becoming NYC’s very first cat cafe (and which we, of course, went to visit within the first few weeks they were open). The Brooklyn Cat Cafe followed shortly after in May of 2016.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is a nonprofit organization that is 100% volunteer-run. They were founded by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, who provide general management and oversight. But the cafe itself is staffed by volunteers during the open hours, and volunteers do all the open prep and closing cleanup as well. (I’d say that if you’re interested in volunteering you should contact them to sign up, but they have had so much interest that they’re not taking on any additional volunteers at the moment!)
As you might imagine, U.S. health codes for restaurants are very different than in other countries and so running a cat cafe here can be a bit tricky. For the most part, you can’t have animals present where you’re preparing food in the U.S., so any cat cafe here is strictly regulated, with the cafe section typically being separated from where the cats are located.
At Meow Parlour, their cafe was next door, and we were able to buy our coffee and then bring it into the cat space with us. The Brooklyn Cat Cafe, however, doesn’t currently offer any drinks or snacks that aren’t pre-packaged, but they recently moved into a beautiful new space and have plans to partition it so that they can begin to serve coffee and other drinks and snacks in the future.
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe’s first location was on Atlantic Ave, and their recent move in the fall of 2018 has taken them into a much bigger space on Montague Street that was formerly home to a restaurant. Having visited the old space a couple times, it only seemed fitting to check out their new digs and say hello to all the furry felines currently in residence.
To visit, you can either reserve a spot in advance or simply show up. Slots are sold for either 30 minutes or an hour, and you’ll save a buck on the fee if you have a reservation ($6 for a reserved half hour as opposed to $7 for walk-in). You pay on the way out, though, so keep an eye on the time if you don’t want to pay more.
On the day we visited, it was a spur of the moment decision over brunch, so we just headed over there and walked right in. You have to sign a waiver, which you can do in advance if you want to save time when you visit, and you’ll also be asked to read and abide by their rules when visiting and interacting with the cats.
Once you’ve taken care of that business, you’re free to head on in and start petting or playing with the cats! Some with red collars are known to be a bit…how shall we say this…feisty? So you’ll want to proceed with caution when interacting with them. Several red collared cats we met were perfectly friendly, but they definitely wanted to do everything on their own terms.
There is quite a collection of cats at the cafe at any given time. Kittens and adults, big and small, every color and pattern you could think of. They also had a couple with missing eyes or other issues, but one of the one-eyed babies was having herself a blast playing with us! You can check out their site to see who is currently at the cafe, though I can say that there are always quite a few more at the cafe than they have listed online.
The cats you see at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe are all rescues who are up for adoption, so if you fall in love with one of the little ones while you’re visiting, you can apply to adopt him or her! They also have more cats in foster homes, and you’re welcome to apply to be a foster as well if you’re not able to make a long-term commitment to owning a cat.
During our visit, there were two cats who caught my eye in particular. The first was a full-grown beauty named Amy. She would be easy to miss if you didn’t see others gawking at her, but in true feline fashion, she had somehow managed to find herself on top of a door. Yes, the very narrow, not-even-two-inches-wide top of a door. And she was just lounging there, resting, or occasionally playing with passersby.
The new space has a bunch of wooden rafters, too, and you can tell the cats just love it. Several were sleeping up above the room, and it must feel like kitty paradise to them to have such high perches to climb up on!
The other cat I fell in love with was an adorable kitten who was having so much fun playing. She had the most beautiful little eyes, and when she tired out, she let me pick her up and cradle her like a baby. She immediately passed out and we took turns passing her back and forth while she slept, which would make her wake briefly before falling right back asleep. She was just so impossibly cute!
Many of the younger cats were playing and were eager to have so much attention and so many toys to delight them. The older cats, unsurprisingly, were a bit lazier and enjoyed a good lap sit or some gentle pets while they snoozed. All of them, though, are adorable, and I hope they’ll find loving homes!
According to the Brooklyn Cat Cafe’s website, many of the cats they’ve hosted at the Cafe have found their furever homes in the 2.5 years the Cafe has been open. To be specific, more than 250! And within their first year of being open, more than 35,000 people visited to meet and interact with all the beautiful cats who call the Cafe their temporary home. Clearly, the concept of the Brooklyn Cat Cafe has been popular with New Yorkers, and if it means cats get a nice warm and loving space to live while they wait for a purrmanent home, then I hope the Cafe is here to stay!
If you love animals, too, and haven’t had a chance to visit, I hope you’ll get to the Brooklyn Cat Cafe soon! Check their calendar for upcoming events – they’ve been known to offer yoga or movies with cats! Or if you’re severely allergic but love cats anyway, then check out their kitten cam, which has a 24/7 live feed of a group of adorable kittens. It’s down at the moment since they just moved a month or so ago, but they promise it will be back up and running soon and it’s a great way to add a smile to your day!
Have you ever been to a cat cafe? Or have you been to the Brooklyn Cat Cafe already? Let me know if you enjoyed the experience as much as I did!
Plan Your Own Visit
Where to Go
- Brooklyn Cat Cafe: 76 Montague Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
When to Go
- The Brooklyn Cat Cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday.
- Adult-only hours are available on Thursdays and Saturdays from 5:30 pm to close.
- Check their calendar for upcoming events!
Tips for Visiting
- If you want to save a little money on the visit fee, make a reservation in advance. And if you want to save time on the day of your visit, fill out the waiver before you arrive.
- Cats with red collars tend to be a bit more spirited and may not be as friendly and open to your attention as others, so do approach them with caution or better yet, let them approach you.
- When children are at the Cafe, they often like to run around a lot and try to play with all the cats, even the one you may be trying to hold and pet yourself. If you’d like a more subdued experience, visit during the adult-only hours on Thursdays and Saturdays.
- Be sure to look up, look down, and look all around because the cats are all over the place, and you may just find them somewhere you’re not expecting!
- Most importantly, remember that you’re visiting cats, and cats will ALWAYS be cats! Some won’t want you to pet them, some will be sleeping and won’t want to play, and some will prefer the friend you brought rather than you. Cats do as cats do, and it’s no different here!