Last November Atlanta area native April Hill quit her job. Although she didn’t have another gig exactly lined up, she had a helluva plan: to plot, build, and operate the region’s first cat cafe. “There’s not one in the South and I think Atlanta would be such a great city for one because it’s such a pet-friendly city,” she says, adding she hopes to open doors in early summer. The wifi-enabled space will retail pre-packaged foods along with standard coffeeshop beverages.
Opening Happy Tabby Cat Cafe is a lofty goal, sure, but it’s hard to imagine an environment more rapturous than one involving caffeine and cats. Does such a thing exist? “I wanna have nights where people can come in and take a sketching class or a yoga class or a knitting class,” Hill says. “… I really wanna get my license so it can be like a BYOB situation. I think that’d be just amazing.” Um, cosign.
Hill spent the past three months hustling, gearing up to operate a cafe capable of holding and serving 15-20 humans and 15-20 cats at a time. Even though her proposed plan — like most existing cat cafes — will not allow customers to pick up the animals, they’ll have the opportunity to “get work done with a cat sitting in their lap or on the table,” she says. Those odds of ideally one-cat-per-person aren’t shabby.
She’s still in the thick of educating herself on health code and legalese, researching furniture, and scouting locations. When Hill spoke to CL, the latter was between Downtown Decatur and Poncey-Highland. “They both want me really really bad so I kind of have the upper hand,” she says. “I’m trying to negotiate a better deal. This is going to be a very expensive venture just to get off the ground.”
Although Hill plans to launch a Kickstarter to cover costs, she’s got a good start with capital from “donors around town.” She says she wants to charge customers a $5 cover to enter the cafe, with most of that money going right back into keeping the operation rolling through affording more cat food and other necessary supplies. That small fee is sure to add up quickly, especially considering Hill’s blueprint that entails 60-minute limits to keep customers cycling and give everyone interested a go at seducing a cat.
Cat cafes, although new to Atlanta, are not new in general. They originated in Taiwan in 1998, eventually spreading to the Western world. It seems this special brand of cuddly coffeeshop is most popular is very dense cities with smaller dwellings — think New York City and Tokyo — thus providing pet-less patrons opportunities to rub fuzzy shoulder and sate a very real oxytocin need. But Atlanta, though still sizable, is much more friendly to pet ownership. So, it stands to reason anyone in Atlanta who wants a cat can probably attain one, therefore … what’s the point of opening an establishment teeming with the critters?
Welp, Hill wants to do something different: all the cafe’s cats will be only temporary residents and available for adoption. Specifically, she teamed up with Fur Kids Atlanta to attain the rotating crop of cats. “It was a very easy decision for me to pick them,” she says, noting although the bulk of the cats will mostly be of adult age, patrons may expect the occasional rash of kittens, too. After all, Hill’s No. 1 M.O. in opening Happy Tabby is to “try to get as many cats adopted as possible.”