How many places do you know of that serve drinks in hopes that their customers will soon be rolling around on the floor, speaking gibberish? To be clear, the place is a cat cafe, the drinks are coffee, and there are kittens everywhere. But the answer is one, at least in Connecticut.
Angela and Michael Pullo officially opened Mew Haven Cat Cafe on Sept. 8 in the Westville section of the Elm City. It is the first of its kind in our state. If you’ve never heard of a cat cafe, the name is self-explanatory. It’s a cafe with cats. But its mission scratches much deeper than the surface.
In addition to providing an atmosphere where cat lovers can congregate to fuss over feline frolicing, the cafe serves as a foster environment where cats can get used to people, and other cats, and hopefully find their forever home. At the time of my visit in mid-September, five adoptions had taken place. Less than two weeks later, that number was up to 20.
But not everyone who walks through the door is looking to adopt. Sometimes the enjoyment of time spent is heightened when you know it’s not a full commitment. (The grandparents know what I’m talking about.)
“People have different ideas and experiences that they want to have with cats,” Angela says. “Some people are very fit to be around cats. They would like to play, they would like to have that energy, and they want to be reminded of the impulsivity and the freeness that cats have when they play. Some people just want to relax. And we’re glad to provide that environment for them where they can just kick back and there’s a cat next to them, and they can just chat with their friends, and that’s amazing in and of itself.
“I have a person who’s come three times already since we’ve opened and he brings a book and he’s very happy reading and just being around all these animals.”
The space is a cat’s fantasy world, with a never-ending supply of toys and cool places to climb and hide. A table leg is wrapped in a Lurvig scratching mat, intermittent shelves line the walls, and the real estate boom has cat condos popping up everywhere. Smaller, darker rooms are partially cordoned off so still-skittish tenants too nervous to join the group can feel safe and secure. Ground-level window sills overlooking a busy street await for the curious ones.
All cat cuteness aside, it’s still a cafe. The Pullos take this aspect of the business seriously, knowing full well you can’t sell kibble to the public. “Michael and I are very much food people,” Angela says, “so we tasted everything as we decided what would be here.” Coffee, supplied by Kitten Coffee in New York and Kitty Town Coffee in Pennsylvania, is brewed in house. Moon Rocks of Hamden handles the gourmet cookies and Sweet Treats by Sonia in Beacon Falls supplies the cinnamon rolls. Wallingford’s Jackie O crafts the cat cupcakes, and biscotti is provided by Kathy’s Famous Cookies of Milford.
As Angela says, the time you spend at Mew Haven ($12 for an hour) is really what you make of it. First you enter a small lobby to confirm your reservation and pay. (Reservations are encouraged because the number of people allowed in the cat lounge at one time is capped at 15.) This is also where you order and receive your food and drink from the “purrista.” You then go to a second entrance with two sets of doors (to discourage the escape artists) and check in with the cat lounge attendant.
During our visit, friends from Southern Connecticut State University are sitting on the floor, talking to each other while engaging the cats with strings or ribbons. Another young couple appears to be on a date. The lounge attendant, Acadia, mentions to a customer, “Apricot loves people, but not other cats.” Apricot was the oldest of the 16 cats that were there (14 were under 6 months). He was adopted less than a week after our visit.
All the cats at Mew Haven come from The Animal Haven. “We actually cold-called a bunch of shelters and Animal Haven was the very first one that enthusiastically said yes,” Angela says of the North Haven group. “Once Animal Haven agreed — and they specifically said they wanted to be our exclusive provider of animals in order to better regulate the animals that would be there, as well as their personalities, their health and their well-being — we knew we had a partner.”
If you’re interested in finding a partner of your own and want to adopt a cat, go to mewhavencatcafe.com and reserve an hour. If you just want some hot coffee and a delicious pastry in the company of cats, that’s fine too. Because while they’re all waiting to find their forever homes, a good scratch behind the ear is a nice way to pass the time.