The Cat Cafes of Ohio

Affogato-08.jpg

When you consider all four of Ohio’s cat cafes together, the state might not just have some of the best in the US, but the world.

All of these feline emporiums- Gem City Catfe in Dayton, Kitty Brew Cat Cafe in Mason, AffoGATO Cat Cafe in Cleveland and Eat, Purr, Love in Columbus- are delightfully unique, but have one commonality beyond facilitating adoptions for rescue cats.

They all deliver a top-quality experience.

It’s really difficult work managing a cat cafe, even more so a successful cat cafe, which is why this grouping is particularly special. Whether it’s outstanding service, amazing coffee or beautiful interiors, each location offers such a memorable visit that you may want to consider circumnavigating Ohio on your next road trip.

I, for one, am a huge fan and unexpectedly, a champion for Ohio tourism.

Precious Kitty: Gem City Catfe, Dayton

Gem City-047.jpg

I loved visiting Gem City Catfe so much that I felt a twinge of jealousy when I left. I was envious of those lucky Dayton residents who literally have a gem of cat cafe and coffee shop in their hometown.

Gem City-137.jpg

My trip to Gem City (also, a nickname of Dayton) had been months in the making. I had exchanged emails with Karin, the owner, after she extended a lovely invitation to visit anytime. When AffoGATO (Cleveland) opened in January, I made a plan to visit all four Ohio cat cafes over President’s Day weekend in 2019.

I made my way through St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood admiring the Victorian architecture and artsy vibe. When I entered the shop, a similarly historic structure, I was blown away by the interiors. Beautifully and sensitively restored, the facility is spacious, light and airy- throw in the lounge-music soundtrack and the overall environment is hip and modern, yet comfortable and welcoming.

I can enthusiastically endorse Gem City as one of the most beautiful cat cafes in the world, but this isn’t a case of style over substance. Karin and her team are serious about facilitating rescue and adoption, as well as educating the community about animal welfare issues such as fostering and TNR.

Sabrina warmly greeted me and generously offered a tour and answers to all my questions. Gem City opened on January 2, 2018, supported by a successful kickstarter campaign and since then, a loyal cadre of regulars. A social worker by training, Sabrina is a kind soul that also happens to be a cat lover and foodie- the perfect combination of personality and interests for a cat cafe and coffee bar.

Speaking of coffee, I had one of the best cups I can remember in all of my cat cafe travels- a smooth and spicy Highland Grogg blend courtesy of local coffee roaster Boston Stoker. The drinks menu is expansive, with many tempting hot and cold options including specialty coffees/teas, wine and snacks.

After my tour of the upstairs gallery- another stunning space where they hold community education events like TNR certification- I grabbed my coffee and excitedly entered the cat room.

It’s as gorgeous in the cat room as it is in the cafe- a relaxing (and immaculately clean) place filled with natural textures, large windows and cozy nooks that are perfect for cat-napping. The centerpiece is a replica of the Wright Flyer, the perfect perch for the felines to peer down at the humans.

There are typically between 14 and 18 cats living at Gem City, provided via 501c3 non-profit rescue partner, Gem City Kitties. Their stated mission says it all: Save All The Cats: We're working on creating a more compassionate community for cats in Dayton, OH.

The felines in residence the day I visited included three cats that are full-time residents (owing to their people skills that help socialize the more shy fur babies) with the rest being adoptable. They represent a delightful variety of personalities, colors and sizes. My favorites included Meowrville Wright, a playful long-haired tuxedo, Snooblet, a serious ginger, Pepper Jack, a sweet midnight colored boy and Crofty Wan Catnobi, a gray tabby with a piercing stare that laid claim to the Wright Flyer.

Gem City-113.jpg

My experience at Gem City was one to be savored. From sipping delicious coffee to basking in all the feline gloriousness, I enjoyed every moment until I reluctantly hit the road.

Between their intelligent and passionate commitment to save lives, plus top-notch combination of cats, facility, food/drink and staff, Gem City Catfe is a serious contender for best in the world. Please support their mission and prioritize a visit ASAP!

Click here for more information.

Brew Crew: Kitty Brew Cat Cafe, Mason

Kitty Brew-40.jpg

There are kind, hardworking people in this world, and then there are people like Jenni.

Jenni takes her mission of finding homes for the areas homeless cats seriously. Since opening two years ago, Kitty Brew has facilitated nearly 1300 adoptions- amongst the highest totals in North America- impressive considering the others that adopt on this level are shelter extensions and Jenni is an independent cat cafe.

Not that she doesn’t have help. Jenni works with several local shelters including Animal Friends Humane SocietyPaws CauseHart of Cincinnati, and His Hand Extended Sanctuary. Plus, her staff are A1, a loyal crew of cat lovers that also have excellent people skills. But it’s Jenni that is the heart and soul of Kitty Brew and her compassionate, tireless dedication is a huge factor in why so many people have adopted here.

Her lovely personality made my visit here an absolute delight.

It was a crazy busy Saturday when I dropped by, with a birthday party in full swing. I checked in on the cafe side and was greeted with a warm welcome and genuine smile from Jenni. She was working between the cafe and cat lounge, separate (and spacious!) rooms connected large windows that let you take in the kitty action while sipping a superb coffee supplied by local roaster Seven Hills.

Despite all that she was juggling that day, Jenni took the time to give me a tour (this place is spotless!) and introduce me to the cats- there were 33 in residence that day including sweet ginger Butters and snow cat Whip Cream. I was also lucky enough to make the acquaintance of outdoor enthusiast (aka community cat) Will Feral.

Kitty Brew-38.jpg

Will is exceptionally friendly and likes to hang out near the cafe, but is not keen on living inside. As we petted him, Jenni and I swapped stories and laughed about our crazy cat lives. This is what I love the most about my cat travels- the ability to make friends for life- the kind of friends that want to talk about cats as much as I do.

Easy-going, big hearted and full of good cheer (and cats!), the atmosphere of Kitty Brew matches the personality of its owner, something that will surely deliver a memorable and joyful visit!

Click here for more information.

Goodness Gatos: AffoGATO Cat Cafe, Cleveland

Affogato-47.jpg

I had been keen on visiting Ohio’s cat cafes for awhile, but was patiently waiting for AffoGATO to open.

It was so worth the wait.

They opened on January 2, 2019 and I had been stalking their social media trying to get a sense of the atmosphere. Generally, I’ve found it helpful to wait a while before visiting a new cafe since there are usually kinks to work out. By February, I couldn’t wait any longer and made arrangements to complete a circuit around Ohio over President’s Day weekend.

As I drove through the Tremont neighborhood, one of the oldest in Cleveland, I was impressed by the cool shops and arty vibe. Inside the cafe, I was delighted that the atmosphere held the same appeal- trendy, but also welcoming and down-to-earth. The folks of Affogato (Mandy, Eduardo & Lea) were very thoughtful in their planning and everything is finished to a high standard. Likewise, the staff are top notch- friendly and generous in sharing tips to make your experience memorable, such as which kitties love a chin scratch or cuddle.

I checked in with Lea, who gave me the lowdown on their history. After months of scouting locations, they began the hard work of designing the cafe and cat lounge areas which are flawless- I especially loved the enormous catwalk in the cat room which is a stunning piece of art as well a functional hero, allowing the cats a place to retreat when they need alone time.

Speaking of cats, they are partnered with Cleveland Animal Protection League and I met so many darlings that it was hard not to melt into goo. I first became smitten with Troy, a handsome ginger boy that flirted with the patrons in the coffee shop.

Then, I played with Livie and Cray, gray beauties and finally Damian, a shy tuxedo that was finally adopted shortly after my visit.

My visit to AffoGATO was amazing in every way, but I have two regrets. One is that I was having so much fun visiting with the staff and playing with the kitties, that I didn’t fully appreciate my delicious cup of coffee until I chugged it down right at the end! The other is that I didn’t order the cafe’s namesake treat, an affogato (Italian for "drowned"), an Italian coffee-based dessert which includes a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped or "drowned" with a shot of hot espresso.

No need for disappointment- AffoGATO is open and ready to wow you- be sure and visit Cleveland at your earliest opportunity!

Click here for more information.

Purr Magic: Eat-Purr-Love, Columbus

Eat Purr Love-38.jpg

I’ve had some amazing adventures visiting cat cafes all over the world, but sometimes, I experience what I can only classify as pure magic.

My visit to Eat, Purr, Love was one of those memorable events, filled with personal connections. First, I was fortunate to meet Maghen, one of the cafe’s managers who filled me in on the history of the cafe. It was originally opened two years ago by another owner, who collaborated with Columbus Humane as her shelter partner. Last year, Columbus Humane, with former staffers Maghen and Emma at the helm, took over the cafe completely.

That experience has turned out to be crucial as Maghen successfully navigated between guests and cats that day. We discussed how much effort it takes to maintain the group dynamic, trying to ensure there are enough well-socialized and confident cats to help the shy ones overcome any trust issues.

While Maghen went off to deal with a minor cat scrap, I turned my focus to the surroundings. The room is spacious, clean and completely charming, with plenty of comfortable seating for an environment that is homey and relaxing. Pleasant lighting and soft music enhance the chilled vibe.

There were 11 cats in the cafe that day including four full-time residents. I was smitten with chubby-cheeked tabby and white Walter and petite black kitty Alexandria.

The cats for adoption were a loving bunch- supermodel ginger Sunny, treat-seeking Lane and Tonka, a cuddly black cat with the softest fur ever!

I was bonding with Tonka when a couple, Christian and Megan sat down near me. We made introductions and engaged in that friendly, yet kinda goofy conversation cat lovers have in the heady presence of so many furry felines. I joked with them about cuddling with Tonka while they could, since he was so loving and social, he wouldn’t remain adoptable for long.

Turns out, Tonka had just become a member of their family that day, making him adoption #401.

Eat Purr Love-24.jpg

After lot of congratulations and well wishes, I realized I had taken some ace photos of Mr. Tonka which I happily shared with his parents on the spot. Ah, the benefits of today’s technology!

Between meeting Christian and Megan and visiting with Maghen, I was feeling a lot of love and found it hard to leave.

Eat, Purr, Love features some of the nicest people around- both the staff and patrons! Top it off with cute and cuddly kitties and a great cup of coffee, and you have all the ingredients for a top cat cafe experience.

Click here for more information.

The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafes, rescue/adoption & TNR, and has been featured in Miau Magazine, Katzenworld Blog, The Catnip Times and Taiwan Scene. She is currently on a quest to visit every cat café in the world- 215 in 29 countries so far!  Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Instagram/ Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.