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  • AdelleChattre

    The Journal is paywalled, so here's the text:

    A public cafe that combines the cat-loving cappuccino set with slumbering felines. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out: ill-timed belly rubs, great escapes, protests from animal rights activists and reluctant landlords claiming to be “dog people.”

    These are the travails faced by entrepreneurs around the country who have opened more than 40 “cat cafes.” It can be a frisky business. “I wasn’t ready for all the things that can go wrong,” says Sana Hamelin, owner of the Denver Cat Co.

    Ms. Hamelin once lost a cat inside the 1,500-square-foot cafe for two weeks, although “Gus” crept out at night to nibble food. A cat named Morpheus bit a hands-on patron. “You shouldn’t go for the belly rub,” Ms. Hamelin says. “The belly rub is dangerous.” Then there was the vandalism this summer. “Someone who hates cats threw a brick through the cafe window at 3:30 a.m.,” the cafe speculated in a June Facebook post.

    Cat cafe proprietors took a page from Asia, which started the trend, and brought cats to U.S. cafes. These institutions typically rely on shelters to supply the cats, which can number a dozen or more. They often hang cat-themed art and serve coffees like “caramel meowcchiatos.” Patrons may pay a cover charge to interact and sign a waiver from all kinds of catastrophic consequences.

    The concept is warm and fuzzy. Stressed-out humans get comfy chairs and time with free-roaming, mostly adoptable cats. The reality is hairier: soul-scratching attempts to win over neighbors and an operation that hinges on unpaid staff, cats, which won’t take orders, because they are cats.

    Cafe rules can look like they were written by the felines themselves. Don’t make loud noises; don’t wake sleeping cats; don’t pull tails or ears; don’t pick up cats against their will; and “if you upset them and something goes wrong, please don’t sue the humans,” say the “House Rules” at Le Cat Café in Philadelphia.

    The rub here is that cats can sleep 12 to 16 hours a day.

    “It’s almost like going to a meteor shower and not seeing any meteors,” said Jeff Ivey, a San Diego truck driver who felt “ignored by the cats” who wouldn’t frolic on a recent cat cafe visit. “I’ll admit it,” he said, “I wanted to get in there and play with them and throw a feather at them.”

    Rebecca Arevalo, a 59-year-old family therapist in La Habra, Calif., said she and her husband seek out cat cafes on trips. “We’re weird that way,” she said. At San Diego’s Cat Cafe, owner Tony Wang said an orange tabby took issue with a patron’s attempt at petting. He said the customer interrupted a “clearly grouchy” feline.

    “He just jumped on her legs and hugged them,” Mr. Wang says of the 2016 incident. “It was not super aggressive, though obviously he’s got claws.”

    Ashley Brooks and a friend raised $23,000 in a Kickstarter campaign toward the opening of Pounce Cat Cafe & Wine Bar in Charleston, S.C., in late 2016. By early 2017, Ms. Brooks’s skin was red and itchy. She sought treatment. “The doctor said, ‘Yep, you’re allergic to cats,’” she says. Aided by allergy shots, she is staying. “I’ve already sunk so much money into this business, I can’t just walk away,” she says.

    Cats show no such loyalty. At Cat Café Mad in Wisconsin, a reddish-haired feline named Sunny outfoxed the door attendant and when the door opened, ran like a cat out of he...

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