[Warning all cat haters and people who hate things that are soft and cute: This piece will be brimming with kitty photos.]
When I first read on a local happenings website that a new cat cafe called The Meow Parlour would be coming to my neighborhood, I was damn excited.
The description of the place sounded like something straight out of "Portlandia," and an utter cat lover’s paradise—a trendy spot that had kitty cats for people to play with and / or adopt, and food and drinks and cat toys and rainbows and glitter, at least that’s how I imagined it in my fantasies.
I waited with eager joy for the word that the Meow Parlour would be ready to take in its first customers. When I finally got the word that the spot was open for business, and that I could make a reservation online to go to kitty heaven (which I thought would make a great, fun and surprising additional Christmas gift for my husband, a mutual cat fan) I raced to my laptop and visited the website to learn more. There was already a 2 month wait list.
I signed up, paid the $8 charge for (2) 30 minute visits with my debit card and excitedly clicked away, making it all a reality.
Miss Puss, my 7-year-old rescued calico girl, isn’t exactly the most playful feline, but she and I have developed a pretty good relationship over the years.
When my husband and I first went to go meet her for the first time, she immediately sped away and hid under a bed.
“She doesn’t like us,” I said.
My husband was persistent. “No, she’s just scared. She needs love."
We brought her back to our apartment and began the long process of gaining her trust. It took years, lasers, mouse toys, food, snacks, love, patience, gentle cuddles and lots of time. We changed her life. And she changed ours.
She wakes me up at 8:30 am by chewing on the loudest thing she can find, and then I wake up and I feed her. It’s a constant battle for me to keep plastic away from her. She drags bags and bottles out of the garbage, out of my purse, sometimes I don’t even know where she gets them from, specifically to chew near my ear in the mornings. She’s the cutest animal alarm clock ever.
Coming home in the evenings after a long day now has an upside -- I know my soft, furry friend is waiting for me. When the elevator doors open and I start the walk down my hallway, I hear her meowing my name in cat language. When I put my key into the lock and open the door, she is there waiting. When I’m sitting on the couch with my computer, she makes a bed on my leg or stretches out beside me. When I sleep at night, she turns the space between my shins into her own cozy bed.
She has the softest fur I’ve ever felt and sometimes when we’re cuddled up and she’s purring, I swear she loves me back.
So why do I even need to go to a cat cafe and give my attention to other cats? My husband and I have been toying with the idea of adopting a second cat for awhile. Sometimes we think it’d be good for Miss Puss to have a play friend. And of course, I was just curious to check the place out.
Two months passed quickly, and I almost forgot about the approaching date. Finally, the day came when my husband and I would go spend lunch with a bunch of stranger kitties.
We arrived on time. Our appointment was at 12 noon. We rolled up to the door at 11:52. When we got there, we joined a small gathering of about 4 other women who were waiting outside the shop in about 12 degree weather while someone inside worked at a computer within eye sight. I looked around at the group and didn’t see anyone who might fit the stereotypical image of “cat lady.” I was covered in more cat hair than anyone. (It’s a never ending battle, I have rollers in every room of my house).
The other people (who, I admit, were all women), were normal looking, attractive gals.
Finally, the door was opened at a couple minutes past noon and we all scurried inside. The first thing I noticed was the smell. It smelled like …well…a place full of cats--a litter-y cat store kind of smell. After a couple moments, my nose adjusted and I didn’t notice the smell anymore.
You have to remove your shoes before you go from the first glass door through the second glass door, which is something of a balancing act in a small space, so if you get a chance to visit the cat cafe, wear shoes that are easy to kick off.
There are a whole slew of rules on the website when you register and you are asked to read them again and sign upon arrival. Many of the rules are common sense but worth mentioning, such as, “Don’t bring food with you,” and “If a cat is sleeping, you may pet it gently, but don’t wake it up and try to play with it.” There are also hours especially for young people over the age of 10 to visit and other information that is useful to read on the website.
After a relatively painless registration process, we were finally all checked in, shoes and coats removed and hands sanitized by 12:05 PM with 30 robust minutes to play, romp, frolick and goof off with a room full of kitties!
Except that it was mostly a room full of humans. There were only a few cats present and they didn’t want a whole lot to do with this new batch of weird non-cats.
The kitties could come and go as they pleased from a back room with a small, cat head shaped door. There seemed to only be a few good toys, and the people who entered the room first got the best of the selection – fishing poles with feathers on them, which are essentially irresistable to cats. BYO toys are not allowed.
The people with the fishing poles had all the fun. My husband and I sat nearby and observed as the cats jumped and twirled in delight over the toys. A couple times, I made an effort to walk over to a cat and engage it in some play, but it would either run off or be drawn to one of those damn poles.
“Do you have a fishing pole with a feather on it? No? Then, we have no business,” the cats all seemed to say with their eyes.
I tossed a stuffed mouse in the direction of one cat as it ran by. No interest. I called out to a cat who seemed to be hiding under a table, offering it my hand to sniff. No thanks, it responded. My husband was kind of obsessed with a one-eyed white furred guy who lurked high up above us in the kitty cabinets, observing the scene.
“That’s the boss,” he assured me. “That’s the one in charge,” he insisted, like some kind of cat whisperer. “I like that guy,” he said, cooing over the kitty who didn’t seem to notice him too much at all.
Yep, you definitely have to vie for the cats' attention. Next time, I’ll get there early and make a mad dash for the fishing pole.
After about 10 minutes of trying to get a cats' attention, I gave up and spent the rest of my 30 minutes just watching and taking it all in.
Though Meow Parlour still has a few wrinkles to work out, in general, it’s very well done and comfortably arranged. They claim max capacity is 20 humans, but that seems like it’d be too many. The 8-10 people who were there on the day we were seemed to fill the space pretty full. You really have to be willing to get on the floor and get in another stranger’s zone and even compete a bit for the cats attention, or you’ll be watching from the sidelines.
Ultimately, Meow Parlour is doing a great thing by donating their time and resources to caring for and helping animals find homes. The cats are adoptable, and we were hoping to connect with a cat enough to perhaps make adoption possible, but it didn’t happen for us this time. The woman at the counter said that many cats have been adopted so far.
Their Yelp page offers mixed reviews, but ultimately, it seems Meow Parlour is developing a devout fan base, and I can guarantee I’ll be back again.
After all, it’s a cat-themed hang out joint in my home neighborhood. I like the idea that for about $20, you can hang out there with your laptop and enjoy the wifi and cat-mosphere for 5 hours, the max amount of time you’re allowed to stay and play.
The cat-geist is real. For all the people who “hate cats,” there are a whole slew of us who love the soft, fluffy, sweet faced creatures that make our lives a better place. Meow Parlour’s time has come.