Cozying Up to Cat Cafés

New Jersey and cat cafés: Purrfect Together.

Owner Kristin Barber plays with some of the adoptable cats at Rahway City Hall. Patrick, left, climbs down wall shelves, and Cubby sits in her lap.
Owner Kristin Barber plays with some of the adoptable cats at Rahway Kitty Hall. Patrick, left, climbs down wall shelves, and Cubby sits in her lap.
Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser

At the beginning of this year, New Jersey didn’t have a single cat café. Now it has three.

The first of these lounge-like sanctuaries, Rahway Kitty Hall, opened in April in Rahway. Catsbury Park in Asbury Park and PURRsonal Space in Palmyra will follow this summer.

Cat cafés first became popular in Japan, where many apartment buildings forbid pets. They’ve since spread to New York, Copenhagen, London and other cities around the globe. Now the concept is blossoming in Jersey.

Patrons pay a cover fee, generally hourly, to play with the cats while enjoying coffee or light refreshments. Some guests find the visits relaxing and enjoy the pleasant environment. Others, who perhaps live with a roommate or family member who is allergic to cats, simply enjoy the opportunity to be around cats.

The cats benefit, too. All three Jersey cat cafés opened with adoption in mind, partnering with local animal shelters to find adoption-ready cats to house.

“The whole point of the business is to get cats adopted and to help shelters,” says D.J. Bornschein, owner of Catsbury Park. Bornschein visited more than 40 cat cafés around the world before opening his own.

Kristin Barber, owner of Rahway Kitty Hall, agrees: “Our whole goal is to get them out of a cage and into an environment where potential adoptors can get to know their personalities.”

In an effort to prepare the cats for domestic life, Barber keeps a television on and frequently vacuums. “I wanted to set it up like somebody’s living room so that, if you wanted to adopt, you could see how cats behave in your house,” she says.

It appears to be working. Rahway Kitty Hall opened with 11 cats on April 2. By the first week of May, the business had recorded five adoptions.

Lori Genstein, owner of PURRsonal Space, is thrilled that adoption awareness is being raised across the state. “We’re more than just a fun cat lounge,” she says. “We’re saving cats’ lives.”

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