Houston's dining scene offers something for just about every taste, but the city is conspicuously deficient when it comes to the nationwide frenzy of cat cafes.
First popularized in Japan, cat cafes — a coffee shop where people who don't own a cat for whatever reason can spend time with, and possibly adopt, one — have swept the country. In February, Eater documented 24 that have opened or are in the works. Closer to home, The Blue Cat Cafe raised over $62,000 on Kickstarter to bring one to Austin.
"Hopefully, there will be a good ratio compared to the cats that are asleep and the cats that are awake."
Seeing an opportunity, Houstonian Misty James has launched a plan to bring Lola's Cat Cafe to Houston.
James tells CultureMap that she was inspired to do so by the popularity of cat cafes in other cities. "I’ve always been a cat lady and always loved cats," James says. "I did my research and decided this was something I could do and be really passionate about."
James currently works as an administrative assistant but says she worked in cafes and restaurants in college and has always aspired to own one of her own. "Once I heard about cat cafes, I thought it was the perfect combination for me," she adds.
Lola's doesn't have a space yet, but James and her husband have focused their search on Montrose, Midtown and West University Place. They're optimistic they can find one in time to be open by the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. "We’re really just trying to find the perfect little place that we can afford the rent," she explains.
Houstonians certainly seem intrigued by the idea. With only word of mouth, the Lola's Facebook page has garnered almost 500 likes in less than a week. James says she's spent a lot of time thinking about her potential customers and has identified a variety of different possibilities.
"I think that obviously the type of people who are going to come in there are people who may not be able to own a cat for various reasons such as they have a child with allergies or an apartment that won’t allow them to have a cat," James says. "I see people who travel a lot to come in and hang out with a cat after a long day’s work. I also see people who have never really been around cats coming to see what it’s all about. Maybe they’ll fall in love and adopt them."
To satisfy city requirements, the cafe area where food and beverages will be served and the "cat lounge" will be completely separate. In addition, James anticipates having about a dozen cats from local shelters and limiting the number of people in the lounge to prevent any individual cat from getting fatigued.
"We know cats require a lot of sleep and they sleep all day . . . . Hopefully, there will be a good ratio compared to the cats that are asleep and the cats that are awake."