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caption: Seattle Meowtropolitan Cafe is a place where you can grab coffee, hang out with cats, and maybe adopt one. 
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Seattle Meowtropolitan Cafe is a place where you can grab coffee, hang out with cats, and maybe adopt one.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Juan Pablo Chiquiza

Craving furry companionship? Seattle cat cafe can help

With all the heavy news these days, here’s a fluff piece ... of the four-legged, furry kind.

Seattle Meowtropolitan cafe is a place where you can grab coffee, hang out with cats, and maybe adopt one.

When Seattle Meowtropolitan first opened its doors about six years ago, it was Washington’s first cat café. It not only served coffee and offered playtime with adoptable cats, it hosted art nights and other events. But the pandemic forced the shop to stop serving coffee, temporarily.

Now, the cat lounge is open for petting appointments.

On a recent Friday afternoon, University of Washington student Wanling Kratzman and her friend are waiting to be let inside the cat lounge.

“I was looking to destress before my summer finals,” Kratzman said. “I was looking up things to do in Seattle that were random, and this came up.”

Close by, Ian Sipe is also excited. He’s visiting from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“We don’t have anything like this so I thought it would be fun to check out,” he said.

Before they’re ushered in, manager John Fan, goes over some ground rules for visitors.

“So rule number one, please don’t pick up any of the cats. There are a few that aren’t fans of being held. Let the cats roam free. Let them do their thing.”

It’s OK if the cats jump on your lap, Fan adds. Petting is strongly encouraged. You can also play with them using the toys provided.

“Last rule is to just respect all cats in there and that means a lot of things. Understand that even if you have cats at home or if you grew up with cats, the signs they give you [are] going to be a little different because our cats don’t have that special bond with you yet.”

And to help visitors, there are cat language sheets on all the tables for reference.

caption: Wanling Kratzman pets Oreo, a shelter cat available for adoption.
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Wanling Kratzman pets Oreo, a shelter cat available for adoption.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Juan Pablo Chiquiza

With that, Fan leads them through double doors to the cat lounge. The lounge clearly belongs to the cats. They’re everywhere — on tables, or perched on cat trees. Some are hiding in play tunnels. The curious ones approach the visitors. You can see the different personalities. There’s Fred, who is creamsicle-colored and outgoing. His brother George, is more reserved. There’s a gray and white cat named Clouds who finds a willing lap and purrs contently.

If this sounds like cat heaven, that’s exactly what Andrew Hsieh had in mind when he started the cafe with three friends in 2015.

“My vision was Disneyland for cat people,” Hsieh said.

caption: Seattle Meotropolitan Cafe co-founder Andrew Hsieh, cradling Robin, one of the nine resident cats at the Wallingford cat lounge.
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Seattle Meotropolitan Cafe co-founder Andrew Hsieh, cradling Robin, one of the nine resident cats at the Wallingford cat lounge.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Juan Pablo Chiquiza

The inspiration came from cat cafes that were popular in Asia. But the cats there belonged to the cafes. Hsieh wanted a place for people to visit cats and possibly adopt them.

“It turns out you can work with local rescues and shelters and host homeless cats,” Hsieh said. “With this set up, cats are roaming around with other cats and other people. People kind of get the opportunity to know the cats on a more natural level.”

Seattle Meowtropolitan and the pandemic

Seattle Meowtropolitan has a mix of nine resident cats and a handful more that are up for adoption through Regional Animal Services of King County. Everything worked well for the cats and humans in the before time. Then the pandemic forced the cafe to shut down.

Hsieh repurposed the coffee side of the shop to sew masks and sold them online. It also allowed him to spend time with the cats who were craving human attention.

“They were used to playing with people multiple hours a day and all the time. And so during the shutdown, every time I go inside the cat side while taking a break from doing stuff on this side, they were like, all over you.”

When it was safe to open again, people started coming in. The pandemic had caused a shortage of shelter animals. So people got their cat fix here while waiting for their own adoptions to come through. Hsieh hopes to open up the coffee shop again, when the time is right.

Back at the cat lounge, it’s dinner time and the cats are getting bowls of dry food. With a few minutes left for this reservation, Wanling Kratzman is petting Oreo, a shelter cat up for adoption.

“I might want to come again,” she said.

It’s hard not leave the cat lounge without a smile. Hsieh says in stressful times like these, petting cats is soothing. Cats do their own thing no matter what else is happening in the world. They remind us to live in the moment.

“Sometimes life is tough,” Hsieh said. “And when life is tough, and a cat crosses your path, don’t forget to pet it.”