Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Want to start your own business? One that's utterly unique? Fantastically fun? And provides a service to your community? And animal-kind?

Then I have the purr-fect idea for you. I'd pounce on this one myself except I'm trying to retire -- again -- and I'm not ready to be tied down to a schedule so soon.

So, I'm offering you this absolutely, paws-itively, cat-chy idea.

Open a Cat Cafe. It's not a cafe where you bring your own pet to dine. Instead, you book time to play with cats living, temporarily, in the cafe's cozy lounge. The local Humane Society provides the cats, which are available for adoption. On the spot.

Even though we already have three cats, curiosity lured Mason and me to Purrfect Day, the only Cat Cafe in Kentucky, located in Louisville's Highlands area.

We paid $10 to play for 30 minutes with the 15-or-so cats spread around their Cat Lounge. Fat cats. Skinny cats. Cats that climb on trees.

Cuddly cats. Playful cats. Even cats cat-ching zzzzzs.

The room rules are simple. Don't lunge at the cats, or force yourself on them. Give them time to get used to your presence and scent. No loud voices. "No hitting, dropping, stepping on, or excessively carrying a cat around."

Conversely, the cats have been screened to ensure they're social animals who won't bite or scratch without provocation. They've also had all their required shots.

A black-and-white cat caught our fancy immediately. His markings made him look like a British Butler. He was perched regally on a table near an expansive window overlooking Bardstown Road. We made ourselves comfortable on the ground, next to a tabby curled into a ball, napping on a plastic chair.

Our curious cat hopped down from the table, trotted over to a turquoise beanbag chair by us, seated himself, and stared, as if to say, "OK, you can now pet me, hu-man." So, we stroked him, scratched behind his ears, and even patted his stomach when he rolled over. Our reward: thunderous purrs.

An all-black cat came over to check out the action. Mason dangled a catnip-infused stuffed fish, attached to a bunge-like cord, in front of the cat who batted at it for a while.

When that cat tired of the game, a white kitten wandered by and plopped down on a green shag rug near us, flipping over on its back with all four paws reaching upward. While Mason tickled the kitty's furry tummy, I made the rounds of greeting the other cats and kittens on chairs, cat beds, and climbing trees.

All too soon, our time was up and we had to leave our new feline friends. Over drinks, we learned that Chuck and Tricia Patton had opened the cafe in August 2018. They'd been inspired by the Pounce Cat Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina, one of only about 100 in the U.S., including Crumbs and Whiskers in D.C., Eat, Purr, Love Cat Cafe in Columbus, and Java Cats Cafe in Atlanta. There are even Cat Cafes in Russia, Singapore and Canada.

Purrfect Day has certainly had an impact already. In just 16-months, nearly 2100 cats have found their fur-ever home through such exposure. Equally impressive, after only 7-months, an Oakland cafe saw the euthanasia rate drop from 41% to 21% at a partner shelter.

With 10-thousand-plus Facebook followers, Purrfect Day staff posts videos of each new cat arrival. They ceremoniously open the cat carriers, say the animal's name, describe their personalities, then let them explore, sniff and smell their new environment.

Even if you can't adopt a cat, you can still enjoy visiting. In fact, one of the first ever cat cafes opened in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998, because people wanted the companionship of pets, but couldn't keep cats in their small apartments. It's also an alternative for those with a family member who is allergic to cat dander.

Cat Cafes are big in Japan, with 79-plus businesses offering specific categories of cats: black, fat, rare breed and ex-stray. Asian countries have also tried cafes with bunnies and goats.

BBC News reports that critics have complained about having too many cats, in confined spaces, exposed to a revolving population of people. But, cafes have to adhere to laws regulating animal treatment and protection, as well as food preparation and cleanliness.

So, how do you make money doing this? By charging for hourly visits. Adoption fees. Serving drinks, snacks, and merchandise like T-shirts and cat ears. Special events like Kitten Yoga, Noon Year's Eve for the kids and Mew Year's Eve Paw-ty for adults. Renting facilities for weddings, clubs, and team building. Plus donations.

So, I challenge you to pounce on this idea of opening a Cat Cafe. It's sure to cat-ch on. As one business advertises: Come for coffee. Leave with a cat.

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