After 16 months of preparation, Coachella Valley’s first “Cat Café” opened in Palm Springs’ Rimrock Plaza mall.
Billed by owner Claire Rogers as a local, local business, the café allows customers to buy coffee or food from local vendors like the Coachella Valley Coffee Co. Join Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, shop for merchandise like handcrafted cat-themed greeting cards by local artists, and of course, hang out with a room full of feline friends.
The cafe’s cats are all from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and can be adopted directly from the company. A core part of the café’s mission is to help socialize animals, allowing them to meet potential owners in a more natural and less stressful environment than a shelter, Rogers said.
“Then, if more customers come, they feel comfortable,” Rogers said, noting that this both improves the cat’s health and makes them more likely to be adopted.
“[There are still]a lot of people who come here who can’t adopt because of where they live,” she added. “There are a lot of seniors who live in Palm Springs and they live in neighborhoods that don’t allow cats, but now they can come here Enjoy some fur therapy.”
The store is divided between the main coffee area and a “cat lounge,” where customers can order food and drinks, and animals can climb cat trees, sleep on cat beds, or sit on your lap. California law requires compartmentalization, but Rogers said customers are free to bring food or drink into the cat lounge after purchase — as long as they don’t feed the cats. The lounge is surrounded by windows in case someone just wants to observe the cats from the cafe outside while sipping coffee or eating.
The cafe charges $22 an hour to enter the cat lounge, where you can choose a 16-ounce beverage. Rogers said the fee helps cover the overhead costs of caring for the cats and running the café more broadly. The adoption fee — approximately $50 to $100 at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter’s adoption rate — will be fully refunded to the animal shelter.
“I don’t want to profit from it,” Rogers said of the adoption fee.
She said the cafe adopted its first cat within hours of opening its doors in a “soft opening” on Saturday.
“Phantom was 2 years old, (a) big black fluffy cat, not heavy, just a beautiful, gorgeous cat,” Rogers said of the café’s first adoptee. “[He’s]shy, a little nervous and uncomfortable, but if you give him a little love and attention, he’s a real lover.”
She said his adopters were people who had recently moved to Palm Springs.
“(The new owner) actually texted me last night that the Phantom was shy at first, hiding under the bed, but came out last night at 3:30am and snuggled up in bed,” Rogers said. “So it’s been a huge success story.”
According to Rogers, the café will host 12 cats at a time, and each cat will remain there until adopted.
Normally, letting animals spend the night at a cafe would violate Palm Springs zoning laws — an obstacle the cat cafe concept faced early on — but Rogers said she was able to convince the Palm Springs planning committee to issue her an exception because the cafe would be a “Great benefit to the community”.
Rogers said her goal is to adopt 1,000 cats in the cafe’s first year, a goal she admits is “very ambitious”.
In addition to the cat adoption mission, Rogers said she hopes the cafe can help promote other local businesses and “create a sense of community” for local visitors. She said she had seen signs of it, that locals who hadn’t known each other before would meet at the place and get to know each other.
“Our business model is that everyone we deal with, they’re local,” Rogers said of the store’s suppliers and partners.
These include Coachella Valley Coffee Co., which offers stores six custom coffee and tea blends such as “The Simba Blend” and “Mrs. Frisky’s Earl Grey,” Townie Bagels (the expected bagels) and Chef’s Vegan sandwiches and wraps at Tanya’s Kitchen. All the artwork hanging in the cafe will also be made by local artists, Rogers said, and the store will also sell cat-themed merchandise such as greeting cards handcrafted by local artists.
While the cafe’s “soft opening” was on Saturday, Rogers said Thursday would be its first day of normal operation. She said opening hours were yet to be determined, pending a review of actual customer demand in the coming days, but it was safe to visit the store any time between 9am and 3pm Thursday to Monday. The cafe will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until Rogers can hire more staff next year.
She advises people traveling from far away to book in advance through the cafe’s website, friskybusinesscatcafe.com, to avoid potential waits, as the cat lounge only allows 16 people at a time.
The cafe owner noted that neither she nor her partner had family in the area and that they would be hosting a Christmas event at the Frisky Business for seniors and others who had no one to socialize over the holidays. The cafe, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day, will waive all fees for the day, including some food and drink charges, according to Rogers.
“Christmas can be lonely for people,” Rogers said. “As I said, there’s a lot of older people in town who maybe their partner passed away, or they’re alone, etc. So, hey, come join us for a coffee and a snack.”
if you go
what: lively business
when: Hours are currently changing, but in general the cafe is open Thursday to Monday from 9am to 3pm
Where: 4781 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite F, Palm Springs
More information: To make a reservation, visit friskybusinesscatcafe.com
James B. Cutchin is responsible for the Coachella Valley business. Contact him at email@example.com.