How Austin's new cat cafe wants to change what pet adoption looks like
Watch your step when you walk into the newest cafe, Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, on South Lamar. Staffed by about a dozen friendly cats, there’s always someone underfoot, lounging on a fuzzy surface, or scaling the obstacle course on the walls. They mill about the pillow-lined room with lots of cat toys and snoozing stations, choosing their favorite human visitors from whom to demand attention and scritches.
Because cats aren’t exactly hard workers, Purr-fecto Cat Lounge’s drinks are made and delivered by Irie Bean, the coffee shop next door. While sipping a kitty-themed drink (the hot “Choco-cat” or “Cat’s Pajama” latte), visitors can get acquainted with the adoptable residents on loan from the Sunshine Cat Fund Rescue and Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue.
Owner Lupita Foster wants people to spend more time getting to know cats before adopting them. She saw the effects firsthand when her fiancé fell in love with their shelter cat, Romeo, while the couple was volunteering. Romeo had been called the “problem child” and barred from meeting people because he was too territorial. But as the pair spent time with him, they found his sassy attitude more charming than they could have guessed, eventually taking him in as their own.
“Here you're going to be able to see — kind of like speed dating — who you're vibing [with], and who you've got a crush on,” says Foster. “Maybe you’ve got a crush on one, but she's not vibing with you.”
The vibes must have been immaculate during opening week; five cats have already been claimed by Friday, July 22, going home with their crushes as soon as the application is approved or boarding at the lounge until things are ready at home. One such cat, a melty black and white kitten named Zobby, clicked with a visitor right away, and is enjoying a little more time with his brother until he departs. Zobby is a charmer, and even though other people have asked to adopt him, Foster respects the bond between the original pair.
Although, obviously, the goal is a perfect meet-cute, hanging out in real life also ensures cats don’t go home with the wrong people. One visitor came in specifically to see Ice Man, a five-toed black kitten always on the move, but realized she (Oops! Not all ice men are men!) was too skittish to live in an apartment with her dog. Even though Ice Man didn’t get adopted, she gets love and attention from other visitors until her time to shine comes. And the hopeful adopter will keep stopping by until she meets a perfect match.
“The idea of this cafe was for them to find a home. But also, if not, to get a lot of love,” says Foster. “You're going to have a lot of people that want to cuddle with them. She's enjoying that you're petting her, and that's going to make her day.”
Visitors book by time slot, with no advance notice necessary, and since the lounge leaves the adoption paperwork to the rescue organizations, it runs on affordable booking fees. Hanging out with cat friends supports the business just as much as taking them home. To encourage more of that community-space feeling, Purr-fecto will soon offer yoga (August 13 in partnership with Oak + Lotus Yoga), painting, and actual speed dating for cat lovers who want to make sure their date will appreciate their fuzzy roommates at home. The space is also slated to open up to kids younger than 3, as soon as Foster can make sure everyone is handling the cats safely.
“New York has many [cat cafes]. Dallas has many, San Antonio has many, and we didn't have any,” says Foster. “This will be the perfect space for all these kitties to have opportunities just like Romeo had. We gave it to him because we were there the whole time.”