From the ceiling to the floor, nearly everything in this South Tampa cat cafe is pink.
Guests entering through the front door will walk by glass gates that keep kittens from sneaking out. A fuzzy white sign reads “It’s so fluffy.” A coffee bar sits in the corner where patrons can order coffee or tea while they play with the dozen of kittens that are least 3 months old, either by the cat shelf wall or a hedge wall with a pink neon sign that reads “Cats & Caffeine.”
On another corner, wall art says: “Don’t stress meowt.”
Sammy, the older Maine Coon cat, prowls around keeping an eye over the kittens.
Tampa’s first cat cafe, Cats & Caffeine, has had 17 adoptions in its first month since opening on Aug. 6, said owner Brieanna Rekow (Sammy is the boss, though, she said).
University of Tampa graduates Rekow, 23, and Lindsay Marzo, 22, decided they wanted to open a cat cafe in Tampa after visiting a similar concept on a trip to California. They struggled to find a property manager who would get behind their business model — most only saw their young age and inexperience.
But Rekow and Marzo were prepared. They developed their business plan through an accelerator program at the university’s John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center.
“It was an interesting process for (property managers) to understand that there’s these young girls coming in to start up brick-and-mortar with no previous business or startup history,” Rekow said.
To visit, guests can book hourlong appointments for $22. The cafe is on 4033 Henderson Blvd., near Tampa’s Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market grocery stores. Only 11 guests are allowed during each time slot, and the cat cafe is closed between 2 and 3 p.m. for a deep cleaning. The kittens get a break, too. Guests have to be at least 8 years old to visit to ensure safety for the cats, Rekow said.
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Cats & Caffeine fosters microchipped kittens through a partnership with the Tampa-based nonprofit Cat Lovers Inc. All kittens are at least 3 months old to ensure they’re spayed, neutered and have all their vaccinations. Rekow said all kittens in the cafe are in need of homes as local shelters struggle with being overfilled with cats.
Cats & Caffeine is a temporary foster home where people are meant to enjoy spending time with the cats. If they make a personal connection, they can apply for adoption. Potential adopters fill out a form at the cafe, and the rescue partner Cat Lovers will set up an interview to make sure the home is a good fit for the kittens.
“We don’t encourage adoptions at all,” Rekow said. “We want it to be a pure interaction between people coming in the door and genuinely making that decision to want to adopt a cat.”
Cats & Caffeine also plans to host events like cats and yoga night. People can also rent out the space for corporate events or birthday parties. They can also order baked goods, tea and coffee supplied from local vendors like Ybor City’s Blind Tiger Cafe.
The pink space with leafy accents was designed by local artist Bianca Burrows, who was featured in St. Petersburg’s Shine Mural Festival and has worked on local projects with Fresh Kitchen.
“We knew we wanted to make it a trendy place for people to come into but also a livable space for the kittens here. So we incorporated kind of both of those ideas together,” Rekow said. “There’s a lot of cute photo spots as well as creative things for the cats to live and play on.”