Photos, story by Jill Beckel
Cats, freshly brewed coffee and sweet treats – what more could one want? The Kawaii Kitty Café is the perfect place to stop in for a quick cup of joe or relax and play with a cute cat. Located on 759 South 4th Street in Philadelphia, it just opened at the end of June. Explore Philly stopped in just a week after the opening and got to meet the proud owners, Kristin Eissler and her boyfriend, Joe Ronca.
How did they come up with such a unique name? According to their website, “In Japanese, the adjective Kawaii translates to ‘Cute, Pretty, Charming, Dear, and Pet’ and has sparked an entire colorful ‘Kawaii Culture’ based on all things adorable; pastel colored inanimate objects with cute happy faces, doll-like fashion and music straight out of a Hello Kitty cartoon. About 10 years ago, the first cat cafes began popping up in Tokyo. Since then, the concept has spread to countries worldwide including England, Australia, Canada, Taiwan and recently, the United States with the first locations opening in Oakland, Portland, and New York City. When it came time to start planning Philadelphia’s first cat cafe, it only seemed appropriate that we pay tribute to the roots of the concept and honor the Japanese ‘Kawaii’ culture that started it all.”
Kristin has always loved animals, especially cats. Before opening the café, she worked for Jessica Simpson’s maternity clothing line which was a stressful job at times. She would go to Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Philadelphia’s largest no-kill shelter and provider of low-cost vet care) on her lunch break to destress and realized that those visits were when she was the happiest. She decided to quit her job to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with animals by opening Kawaii Cat Café.
Kristin and Joe found the perfect place on 759 South 4th Street to make their dream a reality. In October 2015, they got the space and then had to pass all the city building codes and get the proper permits, which took several more months. Indiegogo supporters helped fund the café opening by buying T shirts, cat yoga classes, etc. Kristin and Joe painted the whole café themselves and soon people were offering to help by donating cat books, creating artwork for the café (the “Bad Kitty” series is hilarious) and more. Kawaii’s goal is to provide a safe, friendly living environment for cats before they are adopted with a focus on older cats who have been at the shelter for a while.
Kristin has two cats of her own. One is named Beef and he’s 17 lbs. and part Bengal cat. He’s like a dog and plays fetch! He gives his stamp of approval for the café and was there supervising the whole decorating process as proven by lots of social media posts leading up to the opening. Her other cat Zissou, a pretty orange and white kitty, hates the car so he hasn’t visited the café and is perfectly fine with staying at home.
All of the cats in the café come from PAWS with 12 cats being the maximum number allowed in the café. Kristen, Joe and four baristas run the café which is open every day of the week besides Monday. The staff brainstorm cat names during meetings with many creative ones such as Luke Skywhisker and Daniel Day-Mewis. If interested in adopting, people can request adoption papers and then will have to go through the PAWS screening process. If approved, you can come pick up your cat right away! It’s a $50 adoption fee for adult cats and $100 for kittens. As soon as a cat is adopted, PAWS brings another one to the café to play with some new kitty friends and get the chance to be adopted as well.
The cat lounge area is a spacious room filled with cat artwork, knickknacks, books and adorable cat beds (the stuffed shark bed seemed to be a favorite among the felines) and cat toys. Custom enclosed litter boxes created an odor-free cat lounge. Due to building codes, they have to keep the food and drinks in the café separate from the cat lounge. Most of the visitors that came in made a quick pit stop at the café counter first to grab a freshly brewed coffee or pastry. They also offer a daily selection of healthy sandwiches and other snacks. Visitors are welcome to bring their drinks and food into the cat lounge area to enjoy while they cat-watch and play. Visitors can also browse the selection of T-shirts, cat toys, catnip bubbles, cat treats, cat cards, brushes, cat decorations, etc. for sale.
During the first week, there were 8 cats and 3 had already been adopted when Explore Philly stopped in for a visit. We loved petting Mr. Ravioli on the couch with his stuffed puppy toy and got a kick out of the cat legs that were sticking out from under one of the couches the whole time we were there. All of the kitties seemed very happy and healthy and got along well. Whether you want to stop by to get your cat or caffeine-fix, Kawaii Cat Café is a lovely place to be. Make your one-hour cat cafe reservation by clicking here.
Kawaii Cat Café Hours:
Open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed 3 – 4 p.m. daily for cat naps