By AMANDA REGALADO There were 25 of them. Some snoozed atop hanging shelves, some swatted catnip-filled mice, others massaged their claws into fleece blankets.
A 20-something-year-old couple plopped down on a couch where a tiny fur ball slept. The woman whipped out her iPhone, Snapchatting selfies as proof of her day lounging with kitties, which would no doubt make her friends jealous.
Here at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe, cats rescue millennials from feeling lonely without their beloved pets.
Just over the bridge, 20-year-old New York University student Lea Aftimos celebrated her birthday in Meow Parlour, a cat cafe on the Lower East Side. “I missed being around animals and pets,” she said. She longed to be home with her cats, Taj and Stinky. The cat cafe was the next best thing.
Millennials are obsessed with pets and rank as the most pet-owning generation, according to a Wakefield study. But, with almost half of millennials renting their homes, many are not allowed to have pets.
Cat cafes solve this problem.
“Cat cafes allow millennials to interact with cats without having to make the commitment of living with one,” said Tony Wang, 48, the general manager of The Cat Cafe in San Diego. Millennials can interact with cats without accepting the responsibility of feeding them, housing them, or changing their litter box.
While 24 cat cafes have popped up in North America, only two dog cafes are in business: one in Los Angeles and one in Jacksonville, FL. Why are dog cafes not as popular? This is likely because dogs require more maintenance than cats.
Cat cafes are the more economical option for both business owner and consumer. “Cats are uniquely suited for cities. They leave a smaller footprint, require less activity, and can use vertical space in an apartment to hide,” said Anne Levin, 42, founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition and the Brooklyn Cat Cafe.
Cats are simple beings. They require food, water, a litter box, and some love. Dogs, however, demand constant attention and daily walks on top of that. Cats are small and well-behaved enough to stay in the cafe space through the night. They do not need to be brought back to a shelter or put in cages, Levin said.
These differences are reflected in the cafe’s admission price. A cat cafe typically charges $5 to enter, while a dog cafe charges $15-$20.
For just $5, a millennial can bask in a cat’s presence. They visit cat cafes to destress and get happy, according to 21-year-old NYU student Sophia Sun. The moment their hand touches a cat, the neurochemicals oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins activate in their brain. Their heart rate slows and they feel calmer and happier, according to a study published in the National Academy of Sciences.
Millennials may be so attracted to pets because they are a child replacements, according to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State. They offer millennials an opportunity to take care of another life, possibly due to their parental, nurturing instincts.
One thing is certain, however. Millennials, like 22-year old NYU student Mira Malmosi, love cat cafes because they miss their pets from home. About 65% of households have a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. That means 79.7 million homes have pets.
“I missed my cat at home and wanted to hang out with cats,” Malmosi said.
Cat cafes are more than places where millennials can get their kitty fix. They are glamorous shelters where rescued cats can display their personalities to future adopters. The Brooklyn Cat Cafe partners with the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition with a goal of finding cats loving homes.
“We get maybe 500 people visiting a week,” founder Levin said. “About 10-20% of visitors on a busy week are here adopting.”
Levin said her cafe differs from a shelter because people feel “less depressed” when visiting. “Most of the cats are happy here, so people do not feel like they are coming into a shelter.”
The Brooklyn Cat Cafe makes it a little difficult to adopt a kitty. You must fill out an application, get three references, pay an adoption fee, and have a home visit. “We just want to make sure all homes have screens on the windows and no alligators in the bathtub.”
While adopting from a cat cafe may be rough, visiting is easy.