By Jamie Crow | Staff Writer
When Colony Cafe opened on Penn Avenue in the Strip District two weeks ago, people were anxiously awaiting their chance to visit. While the opening of another coffee shop in Pittsburgh doesn’t sound like breaking news, the Colony Cafe earned its hype. See, the Colony Cafe offers one special purr-k: cats.
Cat cafes have made their way across the world pretty quickly, with the first ones opening in various countries across Asia. The cafes offer the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee and the comfort of having a furry friend nearby.
Let’s talk about the logistics of Colony Cafe. The business separates its cats from the dining area. The cafe is downstairs and the cats are housed upstairs in the “Cat Loft.” Their loft has scratching posts, towers and plenty of toys for the felines to entertain themselves with. When the cats get tired, they can take a nap on the chairs, couches and bean bags surrounding the loft. They have a bathroom area with litter boxes that is separate from the public loft, so when the cats want some privacy from all of the attention, there is somewhere for them to go to get away.
In order to go upstairs to the Cat Loft, you need to make a reservation. Each reservation gets a one hour slot to be with the cats. A maximum of ten people can be upstairs at one time so as not to overwhelm the animals.
Reservations can be made online and are $8 in advance of your visit. If you think $8 is a steep price to pay to simply hang out with some animals for an hour, the money directly benefits the cats as it is used to buy them food, toys and other necessities. If you can’t get a reservation, though, you can see the cats from the cafe area through several windows.
All of the cats come from Animal Friends, and they’re all available for adoption. The cats that are chosen to go to the Colony Cafe live in the loft until they are adopted, which is a pretty sweet gig. The business opened with 12 cats available for adoption and, as of my visit, four of the 12 were already adopted — and that’s after they had only been open for six days. The cafe is in the process of getting more cats for the loft, as they are trying to maintain a group of 12 cats to maximize the opportunities for adoption.
Downstairs in the cafe area, there are various coffee drinks available, as well as espresso, soda and water. Pastries and light lunch options, including sandwiches, are also offered. Perhaps more exciting, though, are the varieties of wine that Colony Cafe offers. The wine selection makes the shop even more unique and inviting to guests, as it offers a comfortable space to enjoy a drink. All of the beverages and pastries are prepared in an area separate from the cats. However, the treats can be taken upstairs to be enjoyed with them.
On my visit, I walked into the building, and I was immediately greeted by the smell of coffee. I then noticed the decor: hardwood floors and gray furniture with pops of yellow. Along the walls were various art pieces, but particularly interesting were the art prints depicting famous areas of Pittsburgh, including PPG Place. The building is long and narrow, but the decor really drew me in and made me want to explore every aspect of the business.
I ordered a vanilla iced coffee and a chocolate chip cookie from the cafe. The coffee was good and the chocolate chip cookie tasted great, but it was almost too hard to bite into, which made eating it more of a process than an enjoyable experience. I ended up dipping it into my coffee to soften it up, which made it much better.
One of the owners of Colony Cafe, Sue Hendrickson, was at the counter to ask about my reservation, and she was very kind and welcoming. She seemed excited to have me there and excited about the business that she and her husband opened.
I went upstairs and was greeted by eight cats, most of which were sleeping. The excitement grew when I saw Pickles, a black kitten who was really playful. He utilized every toy to entertain himself, and he was so small that he drew a lot of attention from visitors. Then I met Fizzy, a relaxed gray kitten who didn’t move from her chair the whole time that I was there. She did fall asleep on my hand, though, which prompted a phone call to my mom to see if I could adopt her. My mom said no.
The eight cats ranged in ages from a few months old to 15 years old, and their tempers ranged from playful to downright sassy. Guaranteeing the personalities of up to 12 cats is definitely a challenge, but most seemed willing to let you pet and interact with them. The cats do get a break from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. every day for a rest and for feeding, so they can relax in between rounds of visits.
All in all, Colony Cafe is a great place to go. The cats offer a unique experience in a coffee shop, and it’s all benefitting a great cause. The welcoming staff makes the visit that much more positive. While reservations to go up to the loft are booked up for a while, even just going to the cafe would be a great experience to get a peek at some adoptable cats. As college students, we don’t really get to interact with animals on campus, and Colony Cafe offers a great opportunity to relax in the comfort of cats. I definitely recommend going, although I’m sure getting people to go to Colony Cafe wouldn’t require much purr-suasion.