Photo by Kate Karp, with illustration by Dennis Dean.
I like coffee, I like tea, and I don’t really mind a cat hair or three. And in Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, named for Alice’s pet cat in Alice in Wonderland, how the fur flies is entirely up to the customers.
“Everything is stored in another room and kept clean,” said Lauren Pear, Lady Dinah’s proprietress. “Once it is on the customer’s table, they must be diligent about their food and drink items—it would be terribly awkward if we hovered over them!”
At Lady Dinah’s, your chamomile and marmalade are paired with a chat with a moggy. It’ll be my first stop next time I’m in London. And if you, too, would go out of your way to have cats with your caffeine or whatever you drink, chances are that you don’t care one way or another about the cat hair and doubtless wouldn’t notice it anyway.
Establishments called cat cafés are proliferating in the way cats generally do, and the results hopefully will help cancel out that latter multiplication here in the United States, where the new shops feature adoptive cats.
Besides Lady Dinah’s, there are cafés in a number of countries including Taipei, China, France, Germany and Canada, and they’re in our backyards, too, from coast to coast.
Their popularity isn’t surprising: CatCon has just had a successful inaugural weekend in L.A., celebrity cats like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub the permakitten have their pusses slapped on canvas bags and T-shirts; cat videos have taken over YouTube and are now unabashedly enjoyed by not only crazy cat ladies; and crazy cat ladies themselves have come out from under the bed and have taken on a memetic quality.
Cat cafés fit right into the mosaic.
I’m using the term cat café for any establishment that serves up a beverage or plans a jolly event and has cats running around in a protected area where folks can socialize with them. Lady Dinah’s schedules cat yoga as well as teas, and KitTea, an establishment that promises to open soon in San Francisco, will be a cat tea house. And there’s a pop-up carnival coming right up, complete with popcorn and lemonade—more about that in a minute.
Outward-facing cat at Lady Dinah’s Emporium. Photo courtesy of Lady Dinah’s Emporium
The first cat establishment recorded, not counting what must have been de rigueur in ancient Egypt, opened in Taipei as an attraction for both locals and tourists. Some visitors from Japan took the idea home with them and opened the first cat café in Osaka in 2004.
“They’ve become very popular in Japan, with Tokyo home to at least 39,” wrote Tony Wang on the history page of his own San Diego cat café’s website. “Japan as a whole has over 150 cat cafes. Because many apartments in Japan forbid pet ownership, the popularity of the cafés has been attributed to a desire to interact with cats to help relieve the stress of a busy urban life.”
Wang’s concern is simply called Cat Café, and it’s one of the kindle that has opened in the U.S. The first one was temporary—a 2014 pop-up in Manhattan that was sponsored by a pet food corporation and took the form of an adoption event.
Ann Dunn and Adam Myatt (which sounds like the noise that a hungry cat would make) grabbed the idea like a ball of yarn and unraveled it across the country to the Left Coast.
They opened Cat Town Café in Oakland, the first permanent cat café in the country. Dunn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Oakland rescue Cat Town, and Myatt, a photographer who likes to snap kitties, founded their café as a nonprofit. As with Lady Dinah’s and other locations, reservations are required or encouraged.
Of course, establishments in the United States where pets reside and food is sold generally have to follow city, county or state health regulations and attend to the possibility of a kitty flying the coop. Wang’s dedication to this requirement inspires awe.
“We have a double door to keep the cats from escaping into the outside,” he said in an interview. “On top of that, we have a third door that separates the area from which the coffee is served so that adopted cats won’t go near the coffee cart on the way out.” Similarly, Cat Town has a Cat Zone that’s separated by a double door.
And, of course, there must be standards for the well-being of the cats. “What we do is have a staff person who’s always in the playpen—the area where the cats can roam,” Wang said. “We brief the people when they enter the room, and we keep an eye out. It’s generally been not too much of a problem—once we tell people not to do something, they generally don’t do it anymore. Children under 12 must be supervised by their parents, and they’re happy to comply.”
Those who don’t comply at Lady Dinah’s will be up against Lauren Pear’s governess hat. “If we want the cats to be happy and the nice, empathetic customers to return, we have to manage the not-so-empathetic ones,” she said. “It’s fairly straightforward—we just ask them nicely to stop. If they don’t, we ask them slightly less nicely. We ask them to leave if we need to, and ban them if we need to. All the staff are expected to protect the cats, and they do their best.”
Pear added that no one has ever deliberately attempted to harm a cat; the main challenge, she said, is that people become overly excited. And extreme fits of cuteness are to be expected.
A cat café would fit right into animal-loving Long Beach, and there have been some rumors about a couple opening. Nothing solid yet, but this Saturday, June 20, from 1 to 4PM, Helen Sanders CatPAWS and Apostrophe Books on Second Street are popping up that carnival I mentioned on the bookstore’s patio. Priscilla’s Puss ’n’ Books Kitty Karnival will present a big top that’s full of kittens to socialize with and adopt.
The event is named for the late local children’s author Priscilla Maltbie, who was born with disabilities that didn’t stop her from writing acclaimed books for children about renowned artists and authors such as Picasso, Claude Monet and Mark Twain. And oh, she loved and advocated for cats.
Free popcorn and lemonade will be on hand (for the kids, not the kitties), children’s books will be available to read to the cats (that’s part of socialization and is also a positive experience for children), and there are shelves full of quality reading to take home even if you don’t bring a cat with you. There will also be coloring pages, stickers, and a raffle for movie tickets.
Another way to bring a cat into the house.
There will be staff present at all times for supervision and to facilitate adoptions. Remember that the kittens aren’t carnival prizes but orphans in need of good homes, and there are several parameters for adoption, as follows:
- You’ll be given an application to be completed onsite.
- There will be an onsite interview between you and a staff member from CatPAWS.
- If your application is approved, you’ll sign a contract.
- If you adopt a kitten (or kittens!) that are adoption ready, you’ll accompany one of the volunteers to Petco, complete a Petco contract, receive a coupon book, and purchase the necessary items needed for the kitten—a carrier, a cat box, food, toys, and so on. You’ll also receive a free wellness check for your new buddy at Los Alamitos Animal Hospital.
- If you adopt a kitten who isn’t ready to go home, i.e., needs to be spayed or neutered, arrangements will be made for pickup at a later time.
- If your application isn’t approved onsite because more information, reference checks, and so forth are needed, you’ll be contacted by phone within 24 hours by someone on the adoption committee.
I know that I’m not fooling any of you about the first two-thirds of the article—it was pretty much a deliberate ploy to get you to come to the Karnival and adopt cats, but the whole cat café history is interesting, and they’re proving to be an effective way to hook you in. A little hair of the cat in your beverage to you!
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life—music and cats.
First Lady Kristi (right) and brother Remi
Above are but a few of the special guests at the Kitty Karnival! You can meet them in person and enjoy their company.
Private adoption: Do you have room in your heart and hearth for two 14-year-old cats, which are sisters and have never been separated? Because of a move, the owner can no longer keep them. She has to be out of her apartment by the end of this month and will take the cats to a shelter if she can’t find a home for them together.
Cali, the first one pictured, weighs between 15 and 20 pounds, likes to have her head scratched occasionally, and can be vocal.
The second is Chloe, who weighs between 20 to 25 pounds, likes to have her ears scratched, and is very quiet. They eat only dry cat food and are box trained. They’ll both need a treadmill the first few months, no doubt, and a low-cal diet prescribed by the vet. If you’re interested, e-mail [email protected].
Friends of Long Beach Animals Humane Education Program: Free, Ongoing until July
Reserve a date for this necessary program now, as it will go on hiatus in mid-June. Friends of Long Beach Animals (FOLBA) stands by its word when it says it actively supports teaching children kindness to and respect for animals. FOLBA has provided several copies of humane books to all of the libraries in the Long Beach Unified School District, all the Public Libraries in Long Beach and Signal Hill, as well as to Raising-a-Reader and to Mary Bethune Transitional Center (assisting homeless children who need reading improvement so they can attend regular LBUSD classes). This interactive humane education program is free to all schools in the Long Beach Unified School District, Girl and Boy Scout Troops, Long Beach Parks and Libraries and Community Groups. Basic elements of the program are as follows:
- Humane treatment of all living creatures
- Basic pet care
- Proper behavior around animals
- Responsibilities and rewards of pet ownership
- Handouts and study materials
- Follow-up activities
For information, contact Friends’ office, 562.988.7647
Monthly Mutt Mingles, Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and PawBar: 4818 East Second Street, Long Beach, third Wednesday of every month; and 222 East Broadway, third Thursday of every month, 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Join P&P for their monthly mixer, and enjoy special treats, toasts, and plenty of in-store tail-wagging. Mutt Mingles are a great way for your dog to learn valuable social skills. It’s a chance for them to experience and interact in a social setting with food, drink and plenty of other distractions! It’s important for your dog to learn how to behave around other dogs and people so that they’ll be the stars of the dog park and the dog beach. The indoor facility provides for a very comfortable setting and fun atmosphere. Dogs may be off-leash if supervised closely by their owners. For their protection, we lock the front door so dogs are safe from the street traffic.
SpcaLA Friends for Life Summer Camp, June–August, spcaLA P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center: 7700 East Spring Street, Long Beach
Paws down, this is the best summer camp around. Kids eight to 13 will learn the basics of pet care and responsibility, respect for all animals, and the beginnings of dog training—all while making the best kinds of friends—those who care about animals! There are 10 sessions available, each running Monday through Friday. Enroll on our website, available at this link.
#Pizza Rev Pets Campaign, throughout June
In celebration of National Pet Adoption Month, PizzaRev has launched the #PizzaRevPets campaign to help find forever homes for sheltered or abandoned animals. Throughout June, animal lovers are encouraged to share their favorite adopted pet photos and their adoption story via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, using #PizzaRevPets. PizzaRev will choose one grand prize winner to receive free pizza for a year.
The winning photo will be displayed at PizzaRev restaurants across the country. Ten winners will receive a $100 PizzaRev gift card. PizzaRev, where you can craft your own pizza, has devoted time and funding to pet adoption, and many of the employees have adopted pets of their own; the Long Beach store is located in the Towne Center, 7551B Carson Avenue, near the movie theater.
Low-Cost Pet Vaccination Clinics, Thursday, June 18, 4:00PM to 7:00PM, Scherer Park, 4600 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach
Pet owners must be 18 years or older. All pets must be on leashes or in carriers. Only healthy and non-pregnant animals will be vaccinated. If you have a prior rabies vaccine certificate, license tag or license renewal notice for your pet, please bring it with you to the clinic.
Vaccination and microchip services are provided for pets residing in any city. Licensing service is provided for residents within our jurisdiction: Long Beach, Signal Hill, Cerritos, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach. For more service information and pricing please visit Southern California Veterinary Vaccine Clinicshttp://www.scvvc.com.
Priscilla’s Puss ’n’ Books Kitty Karnival: Saturday, June 20, 11:00AM to 4:00PM, Apostrophe Books, 5229 East Second Street, Long Beach
Cats and books—what more could you pussibly want?
Friends of Long Beach Animals 26th Annual Membership Meeting: Wednesday, June 24, 6:30PM, Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 East Anaheim Street, Long Beach, free
Join FOLBA for an evening of pet-themed events featuring Terry Long, a certified professional dog trainer, behavior consultant and owner of DogPACT, a Long Beach-based dog-training company. Terry and her team of certified trainers provide a variety of classes for pet manners, agility, and nose work, as well as private consultations for serious behavior problems. Her dogs, Kiwi and Pretzel, will provide entertainment that’s not to be missed. Refreshments will be served. FOLBA would love volunteers!
Friends of Long Beach Animals Yard Sale: June 20 to 21
14th Year Anniversary of Rosie’s Dog Beach: Wednesday, June 24, Rosie’s Dog Beach, 5000 East Ocean Boulevard between Roycroft and Granada Avenues
Rosie’s Dog Beach remains the only off-leash dog beach in L.A. County. It was established to celebrate the life of Rosie the Bulldog, who was the first swimmer into the water when the beach was dedicated 14 years ago. Look for the wonderful design designators that mark the boundaries of the beach, and splash away with your best buddy. Find out more about Rosie’s Dog Beach here.
Pours for Paws, Saturday, June 27, 6:00PM to 9:00PM, Howl Event Space, 237 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach, $50 single, $90 couple, $100 foursome
Join the Seal Beach Animal Care Center (SBACC) for a delightful evening in the courtyard of a historical house to enjoy live jazz, hors d’oeuvres, tasting great vintages, and a silent raffle and auction. It’s a great evening out for you and an even better one that will benefit the dogs and cats at SBACC! Contact [email protected] for tickets and info.
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