Windy City Kitty Café the newest of its breed


Patrick Casey

Windy City Kitty Café the newest of its breed

By Kendrah Villiesse

Adoptable cats will soon be able to cozy up to potential owners enjoying coffee and pastries at an upcoming Chicago-themed café. 

The Windy City Kitty Café in Bucktown will be one of the city’s newest cafés to incorporate a cat adoption center, part of a new trend in Chicago. Located at 1746 W. North Ave., in partnership with Alive Rescue Shelter, 2227 W. Belmont Ave., the cafe will allow customers to fall in love with adoption-ready felines while enjoying a cup of hot coffee. 

Permit difficulties caused owner Jenny Tiner to delay the opening, scheduled for Oct. 31, and she has yet to pick a new date, she said. 

Tiner came up with the idea for a cat café after visiting one during a vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland, in November 2016. 

“I started doing more research. I had heard of them but I didn’t know what they were about,” Tiner said. “[When] I got back to Chicago, I was wondering why we didn’t have one and said, ‘We need one now.’” 

While there were no other local cat cafés at the time Tiner began her research, the Catcade, 1235 W. Belmont Ave., a nonprofit arcade-themed cat café opened Aug. 19, as reported Sept. 5 by The Chronicle. 

Since the Catcade’s opening, the arcade- has exceeded founders Christopher Gutierruz and Shelly Casey’s expectations.

“Our ultimate goal was to do 10 adoptions a month, and now we are averaging one a day. We are overwhelmed by the response,” Gutierruz said. “An aspect we didn’t expect was people who have social anxiety [coming] in. People who don’t like doing social things in general come in. They’re not necessarily looking to adopt. They are just looking to hang out with cats.” 

Although the idea of sipping a beverage and petting cats is a great way to fall in love with a pet, Tiner said the process to open a cat café is not easy. It took months of research and many long days at City Hall. 

“[I had to make sure] the zoning was right, [make] sure City Hall was on board with what I was doing and [make] sure that I was going to be getting the right licenses and permits,” Tiner said. 

Tiner said cat cafés are not only beneficial to adoption agencies, but they also expose potential owners to the cats for as long and as many times as they please before deciding to adopt. 

“[People] get to see how that cat will behave in a home-like setting,” Tiner said. “It creates a different kind of bond. It is not instantaneous. If you go to a shelter and think, ‘Oh, this cat is perfect!’ [it can turn] out that it wasn’t as great as you thought.” 

Because of cat cafés, rescue centers are able to save and house many more cats than they could have without a partnership, said Kristen Gerali, founder of Alive Rescue Center. 

“[Cat cafés] give cats exposure [to] people coming in and taking advantage of the [free] wifi and hanging out with the cats, then eventually falling in love with them and adopting them,” Gerali said. “We know this is going to make a huge impact on the number of cat lives that are going to be saved in Chicago.”