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Is Grand Rapids purrrfect for a cat café?

May 7, 2015
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Cat Cafe
Cats and coffee could come together in the future at the Happy Cat Cafe. Photo via

Cats and coffee: it’s a match made in viral heaven.

It’s also the idea behind a kind of cat haven café that Grand Rapids native Kati Palmurkar wants to start in Grand Rapids by next year.

Her dream is that “The Happy Cat Café” will be a coffee shop that also serves as a cat adoption center and space for cat lovers to interact with their feline friends.

“Imagine enjoying a gourmet espresso and house-baked pastry, all while a purring cat sleeps on your lap. The cats are benefited by socialization with humans and are exposed to potential owners,” Palmurkar wrote on her new website.

“They also have the opportunity to roam free, and in turn municipal shelters are able free up cage space (that means less euthanized cats). The café also acts as a community location for cat/pet lovers, volunteers, and activists.”

There are hundreds of cat café’s worldwide, said Palmurkar, social media manager for Bobarino’s at The B.O.B. The concept started in Taiwan in the late 1990s, but really took off in the last decade in Japan and has even spread into Europe, she said.

The first cat café in the United States — Cat Town Café — opened in October in Oakland, Calif., with at least a half-dozen more popping up in larger cities like New York, San Diego and Denver shortly thereafter.

The reason cat cafés are growing is because more and more metropolitan apartments are not allowing pets, Palmurkar said. Cat absence is making the hearts of young talent and away-from-home college students grow fonder.

A cat café hasn’t been tried a smaller city like Grand Rapids yet, she said, but she believes the community is ripe for the opportunity.

“I’ve wanted to do this, have watched the trend happen, and decided this would be the perfect time to put Grand Rapids on the map as being one of 10 places in the country for this,” she said. “I love cats and I knew that this would be a really viral concept.”

So far, she’s been right. Palmurkar recently launched Happy Cat Café on Facebook and had 500 likes within the first 24 hours. The site is now up to almost 2,000 likes. At this point, she’s looking to launch a Kickstarter page for her idea and has already been in talks with the city about the policies of opening a cat café here.

“The plan would be to put the café in the Wealthy (Business) District, but we are open to suggestions of where the public outcry is. We don’t think downtown is feasible because we’d like to have parking,” she said.

“Per the health code, you cannot serve food in the same room as cats, so the cats are in a different room from the café part. It’ll probably be two storefronts, with an adjoining room … so you buy your food/coffee in the front and bring it into a room with cats.”

Palmurkar hopes to start with about 10 cats and said she is in talks with Grand Rapids nonprofit Crash’s Landing Cat Rescue and Placement Center to help her with providing the cats and monitoring the adoption process.

After all, she’s a cat lover at heart.

“There is a real need for this niche café in the Grand Rapids community,” Palmurkar wrote on her website. “With the boon of tourism from the Pure Michigan campaigns, the new slogan will be:Beer. Art. Cats.”

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