Honolulu's Hawaii Cat Cafe gives visitors their fix of caffeine, kitties

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The Hawaii Cat Cafe has more than 20 adoptable cats on site in addition to serving coffees and pastries from Honolulu Coffee Company.
The Hawaii Cat Cafe has more than 20 adoptable cats on site in addition to serving coffees and pastries from Honolulu Coffee Company.

Visitors to the Aloha State who are experiencing withdrawal from their feline companion left at home now have an outlet for cat-focused affection in Hawaii.

One of the first modern cat cafes opened in Taiwan in 1998, and animal cafes have been a popular trend in Tokyo for more than a decade. After opening in October 2018, the Hawaii Cat Cafe in Honolulu became the state's first entry in the expanding business model joining cuddling with cute animals with cappuccinos. 

The cafe is run by owner Cindy Washburn, who got her degree from University of Hawaii in business entrepreneurship after a childhood during which she dressed up as a cat for Halloween more than once. 

"I was always planning to open my own business, but a lot of the ideas I came across I didn't have passion or drive for it," Washburn said. "The cat cafe combines two things I love, cats and coffee, and it's something that at the end of the day feels good as a way to help the community and the animals."

Washburn leaves her own two cats at home so she can provide the most space possible for the adoptable cafe cats, which come from a partnership with the Hawaii Humane Society. 

Nearly 3,000 cats were adopted through the Hawaii Humane Society and another 1,300 feral ones were neutered by the organization from July 2017 through June 2018. Washburn is doing her part to tackle the stray population by hosting more than 20 cats at a time at the cafe, where people can come and play with them in the lounge full of toys, and take one home if they feel they've found the right match.

"We get a really good variety of people coming. Besides locals looking to adopt, we get a lot of people who are just visiting and come in because they miss their pets," Washburn said. "And while our mission is adoption, we encourage them to come in and spend time with the cats because it helps socialize them and they love the attention. So, it's a win-win."

The cafe portion of the establishment is separated from the cat lounge by a glass window, and they are serving Honolulu Coffee Company roasts and pastries. They also serve a cat-shaped honey chocolate chip cookie from Hokulani Bake Shop made exclusively for the cafe and a variety of teas. 

The Hawaii Cat Cafe expects to have adopted out 200 cats since opening by the end of August, and they've found homes for cats as old as 13. 

"We ask for a variety of ages and personalities from the shelter," Washburn said. "We have kittens, and kittens are fun, but we also have adult cats and some other cats that deserve the opportunity to get adopted too."

Washburn takes on some of the tougher cases in hopes that the cafe will help the more anxious ones learn to socialize. 

"We've had quite a few come in that were absolutely terrified and would hide in the corner, and now they lay belly up in the middle of the room asking for affection -- a totally different cat than when they entered," she said.

One of her favorite cats currently in residence is Munchkin, a "3-year-old obese, blind cat," who is "super sweet and flops on her side for belly rubs."

The cat cafe also holds regular events including cat yoga most Sundays, where the cats get their own mini mats where staff sprinkle catnip. Washburn is also planning a movie night with feline-themed flicks such as "The Aristocats" and "Pet Sematary." 

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