At El Gato Cat Café and Cat Cottage, it’s all about the cats. Customers coo at the kittens the way they would babies, lure them with feathers to sit on their laps, and snap photos with them. The cottage is designed to be as much a café as a feline jungle gym, with blocks to climb, perches to jump on, and a whole web of bridges suspended from the ceiling for cats to prowl.
The facility opened in April with an event-based calendar before introducing limited hours at the beginning of May. For around four to five hours each afternoon, feline fans can come relax, drink coffee, and play with the cats. Entry fees range from $12 for adults to $10 for students and $8 for 17-and-younger kids; this fee includes an hour with the cats and unlimited coffee supplied by Argus Coffee Co.
For those who want to do more than watch and play with the cats, an events list includes yoga with cats, crafting with cats, "Caturday morning cartoons," and a movie night—featuring Pet Cemetery—all of which can be booked in advance online.
The coffee and treats are served outside the cat cottage but may be brought inside. And although the food and drink menu is currently limited, founder Renée Reed plans to open a full-service coffeehouse, complete with an espresso menu, out of a shipping container in August at the earliest. Besides, she says, most customers are there for the cats, not the coffee.
For those looking to spend a little longer with the kittens, Reed partnered with the Houston Humane Society, so all cats are available for adoption. So far, three cats have been adopted.
Stepping into the cottage, it takes a minute to notice the cats amidst the decor. But between tables and chairs, a scatter of toys and hanging ceiling decorations, the cats are everywhere: lounging beneath tables, curled up between pillows, stretched out on countertops. Cats poke their heads out of holes in the cabinets and emerge from flaps in the doors.
Customers are at the whims of the cats. A resting cat can sometimes be teased into playing with a toy mouse, but for the most part, if they’re asleep, they’re off-limits. There are ample opportunities for cats to take a break and retreat from the humans—hidden nooks and crannies, perches out of reach, and cabinets accessible only by cat-sized holes (although when I was there, a small child crawled in).
When awake, the cats are friendly and playful. They don’t all love to be petted or picked up, but they’re ready to have fun. They swat at feathers, pounce at toy mice and chase after balls with jingle bells. Most customers prefer to play with the cats, but a few just sip on coffee and observe.
It almost goes without saying, but El Gato Cat Café and Cat Cottage is intended for cat lovers. Essentially, you’re paying to play with cats—which, for most customers, is just purr-fect.