Cats are beloved pets by millions, but many people can’t have them because they live where pets aren’t allowed or are subject to other restrictions. However, over the last decade, a national phenomenon has sprung up to help cat-less cat lovers get their feline fixes: the cat café. Andres Ortega has opened a cat café in West Columbia, and there are similar cafes in Greenville and Charleston.
The idea is that customers can come in to have a cup of coffee or other drink and a snack, and then go upstairs to visit numerous cats that not only are friendly and companionable, but also up for adoption. Students at the nearby University of South Carolina find the couches and desks a relaxing place to study, and petting furry friends that they can’t have in their dorms makes it all the more homey.
Co-owner Maria Garcia says that petting cats is therapeutic. “Mine is registered as an emotional support animal,” she adds. USC student David Varney finds visiting the place “a breath of fresh air” and a fun alternative to activities like going out to bars or the movies. Pre-med student Meghan Adams is a member in the café, which gives her low admission and other perks, especially, of course, lots of time with the cats as she studies. The concept started in Japan in 2005, and is gaining such popularity that Ortega can envision himself opening more cat cafes in the Midlands in the future.