In May, Oklahoma City welcomed its first cat cafe to the delight of ailurophiles — cat lovers, that is. Don’t Stress Meowt Cat Cafe combines quality time among a flock of felines with a selection of food and beverages creating a haven for cat lovers and coffee shop enthusiasts alike.
Cat cafes originated in Taiwan in 1998 and gained popularity among Japanese tourists, with the first Japanese cat cafe opening in Osaka in 2004. Strict pet ownership policies in Japanese apartments have contributed to the concept’s popularity as people seek solace and stress relief through interactions with cats. Japan now boasts over 150 cat cafes, with 39 in Tokyo alone.
The trend spread worldwide, with cat cafes now in South Korea, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. North America joined the trend in 2014 with the first cat cafe opening in Montreal, followed by Oakland and New York.
However, food service regulations present a problem in the United States — pets aren’t allowed in restaurants, even cafes. To comply with these regulations, cat cafes must separate the area where the cats reside from where drinks are served. But visitors entering the cat playpen can still enjoy their drinks in the company of friendly feline companions.
Prior to opening Don’t Stress Meowt, owners Michaela and Adam Fitzpatrick had longed to visit a cat cafe themselves. A licensed clinical social worker and a mechanical engineer, respectively, the couple planned a trip to Japan in late 2021 but changed plans due to the pandemic. “We ended up going to Miami and found a cafe there,” Michaela Fitzpatrick said. “After some research, we discovered that cafes were in almost every other state but Oklahoma.” Since then, Michaela envisioned the ideal cat cafe while Adam diligently worked on the design phase.
“The concept of the cafe is a conventional coffee shop with a cat enclosure for foster cats,” Fitzpatrick said. “The cat lounge supports no (fewer) than 15 foster cats and can hold as many as 30. We have also partnered with Safe Haven Animal Rescue in Oklahoma City, which handles the adoptions.”
The crown jewel of the cafe is the cat lounge — a space separate from the cafe area where patrons can relax with several foster cats. Reservations are required to access the lounge, and visits last one hour. However, entering the lounge is not a requirement — the cats can also be observed from the cafe area through a glass pane.
“The lounge is fully booked every day,” Fitzpatrick said. “People are encouraged to make a reservation, and no more than eight people are allowed in at a time, which is best for the animals and customers. However, adoption is not a requirement to visit the lounge. The lounge includes three resident cats not for adoption and a variety of other cats, with our youngest being 9 months old; the oldest is 10.”
One dollar from each lounge reservation is donated monthly to a different charity. For May, the cafe presented over $1,000 to the Foundation for OKC Public Schools and gave 70 books to the OKC Book Bus, which is part of the ReadOKC program. “People often want to donate money to us,” Fitzpatrick said. “However, we are not a nonprofit organization, and we encourage people to donate to their favorite animal charities or Safe Haven.”
So far, the concept has been met with a flurry of excitement. “Since this is a new business concept, we are still working out the kinks,” Fitzpatrick said. “The outreach, however, has been positive.”
To learn more about the cat cafe, menus and pricing, or to make reservations, visit the cafe’s website.