Can you imagine a cute, fun-loving fur ball purring against your leg, looking up at you with its big beautiful eyes as you sip on a nice cup of joe with your girlfriends? Now, imagine there are several more adorable kitties running around playing with toys, while a couple other cats lounge around, living the life. It’s not called cat heaven, but it sure feels like it! This special place is called Orlando Cat Café.
Orlando Cat Café serves as a safe haven for sweet cats who are looking for new companions young and old, as well as their forever homes. Aside from the cat component of the café, it’s also a great local hang out spot for those looking for a unique and tasty coffee shop! The café is relatively new, having opened September 8th of last year. Since its grand opening, the café has hosted over 5,000 visitors, and there have already been nearly 40 cat adoptions.
Sandy Cagan, owner of the Orlando Cat Café, said the café’s partners are both the Animal League, which is a local a no-kill shelter that’s been in business since 1988, and Axum, a philanthropic coffee company.
The first cat café concept originated in Taiwan in 1998 and gained immediate popularity as the trend moved to Japan in 2004. Since then, more cafés have begun popping up across Europe and have made their way to the US., but the Orlando Cat Café is the first and only of its kind here in Florida.
The idea of a cat café crossed Cagan’s mind one day while watching a particular human interest story on NBC Nightly news. The last news cast on December 31, 2014 was covering the cat café that opened in New York, and being a cat lover, Cagan thought it was a really neat concept.
“I thought, ‘I have 20 years in property management and development,’” Cagan explained. “People talk about following your bliss (and) your passion!” Having been a cat-owner for the last 37 years and knowing how much enjoyment and happiness cats have brought her and others, she decided to open up a shop.
“Some of the cat cafés just have resident cats — they live at the cafes. I wanted to have an adoption component in there,” Cagan said.
Due to the square footage, the café is allowed to have anywhere from 12 to 20 cats at a time and on an average day usually has between 12 to 18. The kitty play area is closed on Mondays because that’s the day the adoptions are processed, but the coffee shop side of the café is open seven days a week.
All of the cats at Orlando Cat Café are up for adoption and are already spade or neutered, microchipped, and healthy. Adoptions don’t necessarily happen by a first-come first-serve basis, but rather, by a first-best-match policy. According to Cagan, you have to fill out an adoption application and the Animal League will talk to you to determine if the cat’s personality will work well with you and your family. They ask questions such as if you have other pets at home, if you live in an apartment with a landlord who allows them, if you have a veterinarian, etc.
“The number of adoptions we’ve had so far is the most gratifying part of this for me… it’s why I do it,” Cagan said. “Not only are we giving these cats their forever homes, but I know how happy the families will become when they get this new family member. So I feel like if I can be just a little part of that, making the world a better place in that way, then I’m really happy.”
The café sees lot of visitors from near and far. It’s a great place for visitors who are missing their cats at home, locals who enjoy stopping by and learning more about cats, and those who can’t have cats at home due to other family members’ allergies. There are two separate air conditioning systems in the building too — one in the play area and one in the café room so that there is no cross contamination and so that those who have allergens can still grab coffee and enjoy looking through the viewing window at the cats.
The cost to visit the cat area is $8 for adults and $4 for children, and reservations are strongly suggested because only 20 people are allowed in the kitty play area at a time. You can book your reservations online at orlandocatcafe.com, and the reservations start at the beginning of every hour and last for an hour.
If playing with cats isn’t enough, the café periodically offers Kitty Yoga a couple of times a month, on Fridays and Saturdays. Cagan said it has been has been insanely popular so far, and they’ve added adult coloring times and family coloring times as well for folks to have a nice place to come have fun and destress.
Another convenient thing about this cat café is people can bring their cafe purchases into the play area as long as the drinks are not in glass containers. But be careful not to have your food taken! Cats can have big appetites just like us, and one of the café’s employees Chelsea Sirois recalled when one cat’s appetite took over.
“Hannah is our coffee and food thief, and someone was getting ready to take a bite of their sandwich,” Sirios explained. “Right before it met their mouth, she jumped into their lap, grabbed it and took off with the whole sandwich, and we had to chase her to get it back!”
There’s no denying that this place is something special. It just took a simple concept, a few big hearts, a lot of determination and a strong love for cats to get the operation going, and it has been a big success so far.
“I never really understood the term ‘Labor of Love’ until I got involved in this,” Cagan said.
Orlando Cat Cafe
532 Cagan Park Ave., Clermont, FL 34714
Saturday and Sunday 8am-7pm
Cat Play/Adoption Area
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 6pm
$125.00 for kittens up to 6 months old (baby & toddler)
$100.00 for adult cats 6 months and older (teen & adult)
$50.00 for cats 7 years and older (senior)
$25.00 for senior cats if the adopter is a senior (65 years of age and up)