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Life & Arts

Austinite Plans City's First 'Cat Cafe'

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Cat lovers may soon have a new Austin hangout: Plans are underway for the city's first cat café.

The idea for what Rebecca Gray is calling the Blue Cat Café is still in the early planning stages. She hasn't secured a location yet, but Gray envisions a space where people can play with adoptable cats while grabbing coffee or a bite to eat. She hopes to open sometime this year.

The concept of the cat café is hugely popular in Japan: The country has around 150. The establishments have experienced a surge in popularity in the U.S. over the past year as well, with cat cafés opening for business in New York, Portland, Denver and Los Angeles.

“I knew about them from surfing the net and seeing blogs and seeing them happening in other countries and I thought ‘Man, that would be so awesome, especially here in Austin,’” says Gray, a self-proclaimed “cat lady.”

“I will hopefully house up to two dozen cats at a time in the café. People who can’t spend time with cats, whether it be they work too many hours, or they’re a student at UT, can come and play with them and get some pet therapy,” she says.

Before entering the café, all shelter cats would have to go through a screening process to ensure only healthy cats are put up for adoption.

Associate Professor of Philosophy D.E. Wittkower at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., has some theories as to why we’ve seen a rise in cat culture, specifically online.

“I think it’s right to connect the rise of cat cafés with a new prominence of cats in popular culture and internet culture. We see cats as a popular medium of expression through memes, lolcats, and so on, even amongst those who are not fond of cats.”

It's difficult to deny the recent advent of widespread cat obsession, and Wittkower has a theory as to why we feel so comfortable around cats.

“We’ve had a long history with cats,” he says. “They represent the complexities of human relationships. There’s something roommate-like about them. They live with us, but they are not ours. Or at least if they are ours, it’s in a similar way in which we are theirs.”

The Blue Cat Café might also see a partnership with animal activist groups such as the Austin Humane Society, a collaboration Gray would absolutely agree to.

Current city health codes require that food and cats remain in separate areas, but Gray says that won't present a problem. Anyone interested in volunteering with the cat café can email info@thebluecatcafe.com. There will also be a Kickstarter in March, Gray says, coinciding with South-By-Southwest.

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