The first cat cafe in the U.S. opened almost five years ago in Oakland, California. Since then, a number of them have debuted in other cities all over the country, including New York, Seattle, Atlanta, St. Louis and Orlando.
St. Petersburg could be next.
We know, we know. A place called Downtown Tabby promised to introduce St. Pete to its first cat cafe back in 2015, which didn’t happen. However, a new joint, Sunshine Kitty Catfe, aims to make the long-awaited project a reality — fur-real.
Billed as a coffee shop with a twist, Sunshine Kitty is the brainchild of founder and “CE-Meow” (get it?) Amanda “AJ” Jones. Cat owners can’t take their own felines to the catfe for some catnip, but they can sip cups of joe in a calm locale while spending time with kitties they’ve never met.
They might even end up giving one a forever home.
“There will be a cat lounge where adoptable cats will live, and you can get to know them,” Jones said. “It’ll be like a big foster home for cats. People can come hang out with them.”
According to the registered nurse who works at St. Anthony’s Hospital, providing cats with a home-like environment decreases their stress, because this kind of setting is understandably more relaxing.
Guests in line for java will admire Sunshine Kitty’s four-legged furballs in residence through a glass divider that separates the cat lounge from the coffee shop. The catfe will also offer lounge reservations on an hourly basis and accept donations in lieu of entrance fees.
Although she hasn’t found the right partnership yet, Jones plans to join forces with an area shelter to help supply the adoptable cats.
“It’s important to me, in building a community business, to support other small businesses, so that’s why I chose to have the cats come from a local St. Pete shelter,” she said.
Jones is in the beginning stages of fundraising for Sunshine Kitty, which she’d like to open downtown or in the Grand Central or EDGE districts. To start, branded T-shirts are available for purchase online, and proceeds will go toward the launch of the catfe.
Fortunately, word of mouth and social media have drummed up interest and excitement within the community.
“It’s a newer idea that people love,” Jones continued. “So far, it’s been embraced, and everyone is excited for it. They usually say it’s the one thing missing.”
Jones wants Sunshine Kitty to become an educational experience that brings felines and feline admirers together.
“Providing a large-scale foster home like this frees up space in the shelters,” Jones said. “I want to save all the cats, but also provide a therapeutic place where people can come, relax and enjoy the company of cats.”