The Purrrfect Cup: Wyoming’s First Cat Café Opens in Casper
Me-ow. It was bound to happen. The only thing better than a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee while you're sitting next to a cat. Somebody, somewhere, realized this and the very first cat café was created in 1998, in Taipei, Taiwan. It was called 'Cat Flower Garden' and it started a trend that eventually made its way to America.
Throughout the succeeding years, more and more cat cafés popped up around the United States and it was only a matter of time before Wyoming got one of its very own.
It's called 'Whiskers and Meows Cat Café and, as the name implies, it's part drink-shop, part cat rescue.
"Cat cafés started in Japan in the '90s and they were really big there," The owner (who, at this time, wishes to remain anonymous) stated. "It's something we've always wanted to do."
Finally, this year the owner said, they decided to take a chance. But they had to do their research first.
"We traveled a ton this summer, visiting multiple cat cafes in Florida, Hawaii, California, Washington State, Colorado, Montana, and more," the owner said. "We probably visited about 20 cat cafés this summer."
In order to start a successful business, it's important to study what works and what doesn't work. For Whiskers and Meows to be successful, it would take more than a coffee pot and a couple kittens.
"We knew there wasn't anything like that here," the owner said. "And we wanted to bring something kind of unique to Casper. It's definitely a different adoption process. It's an animal sanctuary where cats are free roaming, so you can get to know their personalities a little bit better. It's not like if they're in cages. Cats act a lot different in a cage than being out and being able to interact with humans. We're working closely with Metro Animal shelter and our goal is to rescue them when they're at capacity. We're a no-kill animal shelter."
Being that it's not just a shelter, but also an establishment that will also be serving food and drink, there are other regulations that must be put in place.
"We had a few big obstacles," the owner said. "Obviously the health department was one of them, because there are no cat cafés in Wyoming. It doesn't exist. So we had to work diligently with them to kind of write things. It's definitely doable, there are about 150 of the in the U.S. But, as far as Wyoming goes, we are the first."
Of course, being the first of anything means that there's a certain learning curve. Mistakes will be made, to be sure. But this is very much a DIY project, every step of the way.
"We had to take the space that we were leasing and completely renovate it," the owner revealed. "So with the exception of the frame of the wall, myself and my kids actually did all of the construction. We sheet rocked, we mudded, we taped, we painted. We didn't do the plumbing. I'm sure I could have YouTubed that but we didn't do that. But we did do all of the decorating and the layout. They're in completely separate rooms. The café is on one side and the cat room is on the other. You can purchase food and drinks and you're allowed to take it into the cat room. It's totally up to you. We'll also do private events. We actually have our first private event this weekend for a birthday party."
The point of Whiskers and Meows is not just to provide a cool place to hang out, pet a cat, and drink an Italian Soda (Whiskers and Meows serves an assortment of unique beverages, though they don't actually serve coffee). The main priority is to make sure that these cats find homes.
"Our goal is to adopt and foster them until we can find suitable homes for the cats," the owner said. "And we're not a first come-first serve adoption agency. We're a best-fit adoption agency."
One of the goals of Whiskers and Meows is to offer education and awareness about cat adoption as well.
"Most importantly, we just want to bring awareness to a lot of the issues that people have in being able to take their pets with them," the owner said. "We also want to offer that interaction before adopting a cat. Because a lot of cats are returned to the shelters after they're adopted because people don't get to know them first, and their personalities are completely different when they're in an open environment."
But where do they get the cats to put in the café?
"When we first started out, our goal was to work the Humane Society and Metro," the owner said. "Metro was at capacity; I think they had, like, 125 cats or something. So we have about five rescues from Metro and we've taken in a few other rescues from people that have just called. We had one person called about a lady who just passed away and had this cat her entire life. They went and cleaned out her house and they just threw the cats outside. Those cats have been house cats their entire lives and now they're living on the streets. They have no idea."
So, Whiskers and Meows exists to not only educate, not only to find homes for cats, but to find the right homes for cats.
"I just want people to know that this is a safe space for them to go," the owner said. "You don't have to adopt the cats. Obviously, all of the cats that we have in there are adoptable, but if you just need a place to go and hang out, we're there."
Whiskers and Meows is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday-Friday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays. It's located at 4010 S. Poplar Street, in the Sunrise Shopping Center.