Looking for coffee, tea and pastries with a side of furry fun? El Gato Coffeehouse Cat Café has the same goals. When it opens, hopefully in early 2017, customers will be able to settle in for a drink and a nibble while petting and playing with resident cats who are available for adoption. Owner Renée Reed readily identifies as "a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady." She's also a full-time CPA with a background in the food service industry.
Why go from accounting to running a café? According to Reed, the seed of the idea formed when she moved to EaDo three years ago. "I quickly made friends with all these stray cats from all over, then spring came and all the cats I was feeding all multiplied," she recalls. "It became my personal mission to figure out what to do with all these cats." While many other cat cafés (they originated in Asia and are especially popular there) have resident kitties that live out their lives at the businesses, Reed is following the model of Austin's Blue Cat Café, which operates as a satellite of the Austin Humane Society to help place cats in homes.
Following suit, Reed has already begun a relationship with the Houston Humane Society. The partnership will mean that cats coming to "work" at the café will have already been literally vetted—with medical visits and neutering or spaying. Reed, then, will only have to pay for food and litter. She hopes that if El Gato is sufficiently popular, she and the Humane Society will be able to pull animals from kill shelters for adoption, too.
That covers cats, but what of the café element? Reed's boyfriend, Josh Cormier, a longtime restaurant manager and bartender, will work on sourcing drinks as well as local baked goods, which will be made for the café each day. Reed is also toying with the idea of serving beer and wine, though she worries about how pairing those with a purring cohort might be interpreted. Cormier's influence extends to non-feline entertainment as well. Reed plans to have both gallery shows and live music at the café.
The one missing piece then, is a space. Reed says that she is actively seeking a cat-friendly landlord to rent El Gato a space. Without a solidified home base, Reed also can't start working on what is sure to be a complex permitting process. But progress is being made. She'll launch a Kickstarter campaign in upcoming weeks to help fund the project and raise further awareness.
Even without a fixed location, Reed says that she is confident that El Gato will open early next year.