We visited these 5 Cat Cafes and now we are connaisseurs about the makings of a great concept.

We did a summer road trip through four western states of the USA in the summer of 2018. Without prior planning, our trip turned out to be heavily cat-themed.

We were driving down the pacific highway from San Francisco towards San Diego when we stopped in a motel in Santa Barbara. We were feeling a little bit of traveling stress so when we came across a flyer that said “cat therapy” we were basically sold (we were also missing our own cat back home in The Netherlands). We knew about cat cafes because they have also been popping up in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has “Kopjes” and Rotterdam has “Pebbles”.

Cat Therapy is tucked away in an alley on the main street of Santa Barbara.

It was less of a cafe and more of a lounge. We came in on a Thursday afternoon in the end of June and besides us there was one other couple and one or two individuals so the atmosphere was very easy going. Funnily enough we noticed that they had the same air purifier as we have at home. Actually, they had two working at full speed in the back room.

Cat Therapy worked with color coded collars that indicated whether a cat was cuddly or feisty. Good to know before you approach a cat and get scratched. We actually have a feisty cat ourselves so we like the little love bites. A fun particular thing about this cat cafe is that they have yoga classes amongst the cats.

This was the boss and the junior at the time we were there. The boss was a bit bossy towards the other cats but really cuddly with us.


The following applies to all cat cafes we visited:

First of all you have to sign a release waiver because the kitties have claws. Second, the cafes usually have a social goal of bringing cats from shelters into contact with people in a more relaxed environment where you can get to know them and adopt them. Besides that people are welcome to just hang out with the cats and enjoy their company. For us, this worked out perfectly because we had to miss our own cat for two months. Other guests include cat loving people with allergic partners or housemates, parents with young kids – basically, anyone who’s into cats.


The next cat Cafe we visited was in Denver called the Denver Cat Company. This one was actually more of a cafe because they had a bar. It claims to be one of the country’s first when it opened in December 2014. This goes to show that the Cat Cafe is still quite a new trend in the western part of the world. The concept is said to come from Asia where there is an issue with stray cats and not enough shelter services to aptly take care of them.

In Denver we had the most interaction with the young kitty. These are of course always the most playful and the most attracted to the cat toys. We also scored cat leggings and a funky fridge magnet. Denver was definitely the biggest in cat merchandise.


We went up north a bit towards Salt Lake City for Tinker’s Cat Cafe. This was the first establishment that separated the cafe part from the cat lounge, although you could bring drinks into the cat lounge. Like Santa Barbara, they had a time limit on the time you could spend in the cat lounge: 1 hour.

The cat cafes also have rules about how to behave with the cats. For example, you do not wake sleeping cats. This rule is especially challenging for Milica because cats are extra cute when sleeping.

Here is Milica sparring with a bossy cat whom she just woke.

When we got to Salt Lake we were quite mellow from the mountains biking we had done that morning. Gaspard employed the strategy of nestling within a comfy chair and waiting out a cat to come into his lap, which worked. 



This kitty tried to steal Gaspard from Milica while she wasn’t looking.

This cafe too had a bunch of merchandise: we purchased so called ‘catnip joints’ here (they work really well).


On our way back to California we thought we could visit another cat Cafe in Las Vegas. Unfortunately it seems like their crowdfunding was unsuccessful. Maybe the vibe in Vegas is too poker focused but we still want to encourage the initiative takers not to give up. We think especially a bustling place like Vegas could use some wholesome kitty time.


In West Hollywood we visited Crumbs and Whiskers. This was definitely a premier and also quite popular cat Cafe. We needed to make reservations at a specific time and it was literally one group in one out. The prices were also a bit more WeHo like. However, we found that this cafe especially had managed to create a really good space for relaxing with mostly furry floor mats and cushions. The cats definitely were very relaxed and playful. We also got a complimentary polaroid.  

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What we also appreciated was some back story to the cats. Something that the Santa Barbara and Denver employees also gave us. Some of the cafes also had magazines with photos of the current cats and some info on them.

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Carlos is a cuddler and was obviously already adopted.

In San Francisco we visited our last USA Cat Cafe. Kittea. As the name suggests, a visit to the cat lounge is inclusive of as much Japanese tea as you want.

This one, again, had a separation between cafe and lounge and worked with reservation times. We found that this one in particular was a bit too small for the amount of people and having food inside also distracted the cats a lot. What we appreciated was that they kept a couple of cats as permanent residents in order to keep a certain steady base. This makes it less stressful when new cats come in to determine a pecking (or scratching) order.


Ponder Cat is pondering.

Finally, we would like to reflect on whether these cat cafes are a hype, soon to close their doors after the initial interest fades or if they are an enduring concept that will claim it’s place in the urban cityscape. Having originated in Asia, where shelters for cats are less common, they combined the rise of the urban middle-class and tourism with a real need to take care of cats that ended up on the streets. But is there a large enough group of urban bohemians who will trade their regular coffee bar for one full of cats?

We think that the amount of professionalism in terms of the “cat experience” will be a determining factor. The cafe part should be less important and is rather just for convenience of the guests to have a drink. Having (human) food in the same area as the (previously stray) cats is not a good idea. Asking higher entrance fees and complementing it with extra services like a polaroid, better cat toys, more places to cuddle up, better air purifiers and merchandise is in our humble opinion the better business model. We don’t need more coffee bars with a quirky concept, we need more urban spaces where we can escape the hustle and bustle, and the calming qualities of cats might just be the right kind of medicine.

Gaspard & Milica
cat-loving couple


Here is our “Michelin guide” to the cat cafes we visisted:

Cat Therapy – Santa Barbara

  • color coded collars
  • cat yoga
  • not a cafe

Entrance fee:
10 USD / hr (Thursday happy Meow’r 7 USD)

reservations required?

# cats adopted until now:

Denver Cat Company

  • lot of quirky cat books and merchandise
  • huge space
  • cat themed painting classes

Entrance fee:
8 USD (6 for seniors)

reservations required?

# cats adopted until now:
nearly 600

Tinker’s Cat Cafe – Salt Lake City

  • cafe separate from lounge
  • clean space with a calm feel
  • explicitly LGBT+ friendly 🙂

Entrance fee:
8 USD / hr

reservations required?

# cats adopted until now:

Crumbs and Whiskers – Los Angeles

  • mostly floor lounge space
  • complementary polaroid
  • only children 7+

Entrance fee:
25 USD / 70 min

reservations required?

# cats adopted until now:
291 (also counting Washington DC)

Kittea – San Francisco

  • everyone takes shoes off before entering the cat space
  • a couple of cats are ‘permanent residents,’ creating a sense of calm for the other kitties
  • complementary Japanese tea

Entrance fee:
15-25 USD (depending on days/times) / 1 hr

reservations required?
No, but recommended

# cats adopted until now:


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