Kawaii Kitty Cafe to be first of its kind in Philadelphia

The new animal-friendly business venture puts a spin on traditional pet adoption centers.

Kristen Eissler, owner of the Kawaii Kitty Cafe, sits in her Ambler apartment with her cat, ZIssou. Kawaii Kitty Cafe, a hybrid cafe and cat adoption center, is set to open this fall in Philadelphia. | Jenny Kerrigan TTN

With cozy environments, hot drinks and loveable felines, cat cafes are a rising trend in the world of animal adoption. Now Philadelphia is set to be the future home of Kawaii Kitty Cafe, just one year after the opening of the first cat cafe in California.

Kristin Eissler, a Philadelphia native, recently quit her corporate job as a fashion designer for Jessica Simpson to pursue her vision of opening Philadelphia’s first cat café.

“A cat cafe is basically a coffee shop with cats running around,” said Eissler. “It is an idea that I’ve always had in the back of my head, and now that these cafes are more popular in the United States, I figured that this was the perfect time to just go for it.”

Cat cafes originated in Taiwan in the late 1990s, with the first cafe, Cat Flower Garden, opening its doors in 1998. The concept was widely popular because pets were often prohibited from living quarters. The cafes offered the opportunity for relaxation and companionship with animals, sans-commitment of ownership. Due to overwhelming popularity, cat cafes spread to Tokyo and very recently, the United States.

The adoption rate at these cafes is higher than that of traditional animal shelters, which Eissler attributes to the relaxing atmosphere of cafes – the cats live in the cafe until they are adopted.

“A cat cafe allows people to play with the cats in a home-like environment,” said Eissler. “We are going to have couches and toys so people can sit down and play with the animals to get a better feel for their personality.”

The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, which is Philadelphia’s largest no-kill animal shelter, will provide the available-for-adoption cats for the cafe. PAWS has two adoption centers in the Philadelphia area, as well as two low-cost health clinics for pet owners who are struggling financially. Eissler approached PAWS with her idea for the cafe and they were very receptive, she said.

“I liked [PAWS] the best because they are no-kill and their adoption center in Old City was beautiful,” said Eissler. “They had great light and windows so that you could see the cats from the street. It was very similar to what I wanted for the café.”

PAWS executive director, Melissa Levy, was supportive of Eissler’s café because it posed another way to reach PAWS’ ultimate goal: making Philadelphia a no-kill city.

“At PAWS we always are looking for new opportunities to put adoptable pets in front of new potential adopters,” said Levy. “Kristin approached us with this idea and after talking with her, we could tell that she was being thoughtful and realistic about the cafe and was looking for our help. We are always looking for new life-saving opportunities.”

Crowdfunding for the cafe is set to begin in early July using the fundraising platform Indiegogo, which helps its users raise money for a cause online. Eissler says that the fundraising for the cafe will work on a perks system.

“If you donate $25,  you’ll get a t-shirt. If you donate $100, you’ll get a ticket to the grand opening night, which will have music and food all included for the price of the ticket,” said Eissler. “For the higher donations we offer larger incentives – if you donate $10,000 dollars, we will name the cat lounge after you.”

The final location and opening date for the Kawaii Kitty Cafe are to be determined, with potential locations in Fairmount and Fishtown. Although the estimated date for its opening is this fall, Eissler is hopeful that the process can be sped up once a location is selected.

“If one of the locations works out we may be able to open sooner,” Eissler said.

Eissler is eager to open the Kawaii Kitty Cafe and hopes that it will have a positive impact on the adoptable cats.

“Visiting a cat cafe is like having your own cats but without the commitment,” said Eissler. “The hope is that the cafe will be a sanctuary for these animals until they are adopted by a loving owner.”

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