UPDATE: Since this story was originally published, the Kickstarter campaign for Blue Cat Cafe launched.
Rebecca Gray is on mission to provide Austin with caffeine and kitties. This University of Texas at Austin biology grad and self-proclaimed cat lady plans on opening the city's first cat cafe, a dual exploration into pet adoption and the coffee shop business.
"I've always been the girl where people said, 'You're going to grow up and be a crazy cat lady.' I said, 'Is there something wrong with that?'" Gray jokes. Blue Cat Cafe hopes to be a magical place where cat ladies and gentlemen can enjoy delicious treats while playing with feline friends — all of which are up for adoption.
"I've always been the girl where people said, 'You're going to grow up and be a crazy cat lady.' I said, 'Is there something wrong with that?'" Gray jokes.
Though her idea for the Blue Cat Cafe is still in the very early stages of development and a location has yet to be picked, that hasn't stopped Gray from visualizing the end goal. "The cats will be inside in cat-specific therapy zones," Gray tells CultureMap, while food and drinks would be available through food trucks on an outdoor patio area. (City health codes require the food and cats be in separate areas.)
So far, Arlo's food truck has been tapped and Gray hopes to bring in more vegan food options as well as a retail space stocked with locally made cat goods. One obstacle Gray says she would like to tackle is letting the cats hang out on the patio area, which the City of Austin currently does not allow.
The concept of the "cat cafe" is hugely fashionable in Japan and has experienced a surge in popularity in the U.S. over the past year. The idea is that for a small fee or donation, patrons can grab a light bite while hanging out with cats in a fun, playful setting. In the U.S., the trend first manifested in the form of pop-up kitty cafes. Today, a handful of permanent establishments are open in places like New York City, Portland, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The difference in the U.S. as compared to Japan has been an emphasis on cat adoption rather than just play time. Gray plans to implement a similar model with Blue Cat Cafe — a social hangout mixed with a cat adoption agency. Gray is currently reaching out to kill shelters around the Austin area and plans to tap veterinary offices and the local community to find cats that need of a home.
Gray will launch a Kickstarter campaign in February to get the ball (of yarn) rolling and raise the $50,000 for Blue Cat Cafe. "What I'm trying to do is build up a community around it so when I start a Kickstarter in a month — if people in Austin really want a cat cafe — they can support it," explains Gray.