During its opening week, Spokane's first and only cat cafe, Kitty Cantina, had a hard time keeping its cat room consistently "stocked."
That week alone, 16 cats — mostly kittens — were adopted out of the new business that merges a modern coffee shop experience and cat adoption services through a partnership with the local nonprofit shelter SpokAnimal.
Last Tuesday, Kitty Cantina's instantly successful "Kitty Lounge" was the temporary home of four felines: three young adult cats — Jody, Coco and Slinky — and one rambunctious three-month-old, tuxedo-patterned male, Henry. A new batch of four kittens arrived the following day, just in time for a busy second weekend at the northeast Spokane business.
"We've done really good with cat adoptions, almost too good," says Justyn Cozza, who owns Kitty Cantina with his wife Tori.
An urban trend that began in Asia in the early 2000s, cat cafes have since become popular in cities around the world. Part of the cafes' draw, beyond helping pair adoptable cats with potential homes, is the chance for people living in residences where pets aren't allowed to interact with these sort of communal animals.
To visit Kitty Cantina's rotating lineup of resident felines, there's a $6 cover charge for a 50-minute session, which includes a $2 drink credit, or a $1 credit for alcoholic beverages. The fee helps with the business's regular overhead; most importantly the housing of the cats in their luxury, cage-free digs.
The chic, black-and-white space features dozens of cozy cat beds and soft surfaces. Hexagon-shaped cat beds on the wall above a seating area are accessible via ramps and high perches. A swinging wooden bridge is suspended between two corners, serving as an aerial cat highway or an out-of-way napping spot, evidenced by Slinky's personal preference one afternoon. The cats also enjoy plenty of sun-filled windows for both people and bird watching. Their litter boxes and food, meanwhile, are stored in an attached, closed room with a cat door.
Reservations to visit the cat lounge are recommended, since walk-ins are only available when the lounge isn't closed, full (six people is the maximum capacity), or there are no outstanding reservations, which can be made online at kittycantina.com. When walk-ins are available, there's also an option for a $3, 20-minute-or-less pop-in. Groups can schedule private reservations ($140-$160), and an unlimited VIP pass ($120) lasts for a full year.
Customers can bring food and coffee from the cafe side of Kitty Cantina into the cat room, but staff are not allowed to go between the two spaces during their shifts. The cat area is always staffed for everyone's safety.
"We don't want this to be a petting zoo," Tori says. "We don't want a constant flow in here because that is not best for the cats."
For that reason, Kitty Cantina's cat room is currently closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to give the cats a break from their ardent admirers. Those days also let new arrivals from SpokAnimal acclimate to their surroundings and each other, Justyn explains, and is when staff deep clean the cat room.
"We had a hyped-up beginning because a lot of cats did find homes, and I would like to keep up that momentum, and also to remind people why we're doing this," he says. "It's to give these homeless cats a better alternative than just living at a shelter."
He and Tori hope Kitty Cantina can regularly feature special needs or older cats to help expose them to more potential adopters who may better see past a cat's lack of youthfulness or other differences in the lower-stress setting.
"It's a lot easier for a family that might or might not be considering adopting to come and get a cookie or an Italian soda, and then they see these cats," Justyn says. "And when they do meet them, because [the cats] are so comfortable here, they might bond more."
Even when the cat room is closed or full, customers can still enjoy observing its mischievous residents through a fully windowed wall between the lounge and cafe. A long bar normally lines the long window facing the cats' space, but it's currently been replaced with tables due to social distancing requirements.
For its espresso menu ($2-$4.25) filled with cat-inspired wordplay (cat-uccino, meow-cha), Kitty Cantina is serving DOMA Coffee. Beverage options also include Italian sodas, smoothies, energy drinks and kid-friendly sips like chocolate milk and hot chocolate. Craft beer from local breweries such as Lumberbeard and YaYa Brewing, as well as wine, seltzer and cider, is available for the 21+ crowd, with daily "happy meower" offering $1 off those from 4-6 pm.
On the food side, the menu offers bagels ($3), breakfast sandwiches ($3.50-$4.25), oatmeal ($3.50) and a few simple sandwiches ($4.25-$7) like grilled cheese or turkey and Swiss. Baked goods — cake pops, cat-shaped cookies, muffins and sweetbreads ($3-$3.75) — are supplied by the locally operated Lilac City Bakery.
The Cozzas initially announced Kitty Cantina more than a year ago, and spent the time since then planning, securing funding and finding an ideal location. The couple and their 5-year-old daughter are longtime feline enthusiasts, sharing their home with two cats of their own, as well as frequent fosters from SpokAnimal.
"It's been incredibly adorable to see little girls show up with cat clothes and cat ears on, and they are just pumped up like they're going to Disneyland," Tori says. "This is our family dream." ♦
Kitty Cantina • 6704 N. Nevada St. • Cafe and drive-thru open Sun-Thu 6 am-6 pm and Fri-Sat 6 am-8 pm; Kitty Lounge open Mon, Thu, Sun 1-6 pm and Fri-Sat 1-8 pm • kittycantina.com • 509-558-7093