It was after a trip to Seattle, on which Nicole and Mike Niska visited the city’s first cat café, Seattle Meowtropolitan, that they decided to open up one of their own in downtown Edmonton. Located just behind MacEwan University, Paws The Cat Café embodies everything there is to love about both coffee and cats.
“It started with Nicole wanting to work for herself while doing what she loves,” says Mike, co-owner of Paws. And while being a stay at home cat mom, unfortunately, isn’t a recognized career, they got the idea to start a cat café, he explains.
The feline phenomenon first started in Taipei, Taiwan, and later became popular in Japan around 2005, when cat cafés started to pop up all over the country. At first, the cafés offered a solution for cat lovers who lived in downtown apartments that prohibited tenants from owning pets. Cat cafés became popular spots for people looking for animal companionship and a warm latte.
Since then, these spots have caught the attention of animal lovers all over the world. The trend leaped into North America and, according to meowaround.com, there are currently 17 cat cafés in Canada. Edmonton is now home to two.
At Paws, you can expect to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the company of anywhere from six to 12 cats who hang out in various hiding places and on platforms built for them by local carpenters. Visitors can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in the cat lounge, which is separated from the rest of the café in order to maintain health regulations.
“Because we handle some baking and coffee, the animals have to be completely separate from the café half,” says Mike. “We divided the whole space into two so the air in the food half of the café is separate from the other half of the café. If someone has cat allergies, they can stay in (the café side) and not have any problems whatsoever.”
The space is also separated by a large glass window, so allergic cat lovers can still have a good look at the kitties on the other side.
The cats, however, are not the only charm to the café. Mike, who has been working his palate for coffee over the years, knew once Nicole and himself were opening a cat café there had to be great coffee too.
Paws receives beans from local Edmonton coffee roaster Rogue Wave. And for those not into coffee, there’s a selection of locally made teas from Cally’s Teas on Whyte, as well as several flavors of Italian soda to choose from.
Along with a great latte, Paws also functions as a therapy spot for both its cats and the humans who visit. Their partnership with the Edmonton Humane Society has ensured that the cats receive the best care possible. Another plus: all cats are available to adopt.
“To date, we have found ‘furr-ever’ homes for 38 kitties,” says Nicole.
Behind the café counter is an entire wall dedicated to photos of each cat who has found a happy home. The rest of the café’s walls are decorated with art featuring felines, some of which has been created by MacEwan art student Taiessa Lund.
Nicole explains that Paws was created with both students and cats in mind. The café’s design was not only structured to complement the needs of the animals, but also the students who visit for study sessions.
“When we picked out this location, we acknowledged that we are quite close to MacEwan University, and worked to make a student-friendly space for them, with the student discount, Wi-Fi, and walls that can be written and drawn on,” says Nicole. “We’re looking forward to strengthening our relationship with MacEwan and its students, however that relationship may develop.”
Visitors are welcome to book time in the cat lounge on the café’s website at pawsthecatcafe.com.
Accompany your warm drink with a cute cat-faced macron, almost too adorable to eat. Also, try a brownie by local Badass Brownies. Stop by Paws to check out what flavour they have in stock.
Try a bold cup of Rogue Wave Colombia blend. With notes of hibiscus, cherry, and chocolate, this blend grows gradually sweeter as it cools down. As a student, enjoy a 10 per cent discount on all regular drinks.
Visit the lounge side of the café and play with the cats by booking an appointment online at pawsthecatcafe.com. Walk-ins will be accommodated only if there is the appropriate amount of time and room for both cats and people.
Paws the Cat Café
10588 109 St. NW
Open Tuesday to Sunday
Photography by Sydney Upright.