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What it's like at Buffalo's first cat cafe, Purrfect

Grumpy Cat memes and funny kitten videos have flooded our social media feeds. Boutique coffee shops have launched tenfold.

So it makes sense a bridged, sensible version of the two has crept up over the last couple decades: the cat-filled cafe. Buffalo now has its own, with last weekend's opening of Purrfect Cafe and Gallery on Hertel Avenue.

What is a cat-filled cafe?

The first of its kind -- a cafe with baked goods, coffee and roaming cats -- opened in Taiwan. In 2014, New York City housed its first feline cafe, a no frills-named “Cat Cafe.” The closest one to Buffalo was in Toronto, until last weekend, when Jessica Brandon opened Purrfect.

You can visit with the resident cats and buy packaged baked goods and bottled beverages. (The full kitchen will be open within a few months by chef Ryan Walser, Brandon's boyfriend.)

Apparently, the City of Good Neighbors is also a city of cat people. Buckminster's Cat Cafe will be opening on Niagara Street, soon.

At Purrfect's opening weekend, the cafe welcomed 150 guests.

A cat climbs between platforms at Purrfect Cafe and Gallery. (Francesca Bond/Buffalo News)

So what's it like?

After taking a Zyrtec, I went to the cafe where Walser opened a small tellers window to greet me and ask I remove my shoes, so as not to step on a small paw with my heeled boots.

The cafe is modern, sleek and, most importantly, spotless. Mounted steps, slides and scratching posts embellish the white and lime green walls. A few couches and cushioned chairs in pink, green and blue hues surround a table topped with cat-themed books (a cat edition of "Chicken Soup for the Soul") in one sitting area.

A stretch of open space leads to the other seating cluster, near the front windows and giant kitty play place. One television played "The Secret Life of Pets." The other circulated cute and comical cat videos. Cats roam every corner, leaving no space cat-free.

After signing a waiver (play at your own risk), grabbing a sparkling water, paying the $8 fee for an hour with the cats, it was play time.

Fourteen cats -- old and young -- strutted around, playing with people and on the elaborate equipment. A group of children played with the cats, cuddled them, chased them and taunted them with feathered sticks and toys. The cats were all enjoying it to varying degrees. Currently, you must be 8 or older, but there will soon be a designated children's hour for younger cat lovers.

Each of the resident cats has their own bio online.

Homer, a playful tabby, “may not be the brightest of the bunch” but has “comical mishaps and [a] loving personality.” Wanda, a long-haired cat with fur of nearly every color, brown-black-gray and streaks of orange on her face, loves “cuddling” and “lengthy belly rubs.”

Okay. It should probably be noted that staunch dog people may find this a tad ridiculous. Maybe "Garfield" was never really your thing or if playing with cats is something you can already do happily and for free in your comfortable living room, then it's not for you. It's more of a haven for true cat-lovers, children, or those who can't have cats due to apartment restrictions or roommate's allergies.

Four cats are available for adoption through Ten Lives Club. After each pet gets adopted, they’re replaced with a new adoptable one.

Homer lounges under a chair. (Francesca Bond/Buffalo News)

Prior to getting their own storefront playground, the eight resident cats lived in the owners’ home, along with a couple of other cats and a dog. Walser said their home is happier now, relieved of eight cats.

Some of the cats understandably get a bit overwhelmed, but they’re also getting a lot of affection. When one has had enough, the cat retreats to cubbies behind the front desk or high up on a kitty’s playground, out of petter’s reach.

Postings describing cat’s warning signs (when they might scratch or need space) are worth a read, because they will scratch. I mindlessly pet one while in conversation and after a little while the long-haired, seemingly cuddly, black and white cat scratched me. Play at your own risk.

The children could not have seemed more excited, running around and giving each cat equal attention in the fair way only a child could. A group of young adults checked the place out, approaching the cats in hope of reciprocated love. It was.

Leaving with teary eyes, either from the pets’ cuteness or allergies (definitely the latter,) I bode goodbye to Homer and Vex, Wander and Ashi, Juno and Raffi and Gru, and left for my sadder, pet-less apartment, with an increasing desire to adopt a kitten and pick up another bottle of allergy pills.

Purrfect Cafe and Gallery

1507 and 1509 Hertel Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.

Parking: Street.

Cost: $8 an hour. Prices vary on bottled drinks and baked goods.

Important to note: They take their last customers an hour before close. Also, their max capacity is 15 people at a time; book reservations ahead of time online.


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