Cat lovers unite! St. Petersburg’s very own cat cafe is in the works, and it’s about to become very real.
St. Petersburg has long been billed a dog paradise. From specialty dog stores, to Dog Bar (yes, an actual bar with an attached dog park), to dog-friendly dining accommodations, St. Pete has been called the most pet-friendly city in the country.
Sunshine Kitty Catfe founder Amanda Jones is making St. Pete a place for cat people, too. She’s opening a catfe, or a cafe for cat lovers, this fall.
Jones, a registered nurse, has dreamed of making her own catfe a reality ever since she visited her first one in Seattle three years ago. She says the experience is therapeutic, both for the cats and the humans. “Being there with other cat people and meeting these cats who had been through some shit, giving them love, it just felt like community,” Jones explained. “It was a comfortable, happy, peaceful place and experience. I’ve been to a few other cat cafes over the last few years, and I always leave with the same feeling.”
After years of dreaming, Jones finally decided to put a name to her catfe in late 2018, after some urging from her partner who works in nonprofit marketing. “That’s when I decided on the name, created a logo and started an Instagram,” Jones said. “Then it became this real thing that people started to notice. I went to KittyCon (a convention for cat-lovers) in October, started handing out flyers. That’s when the excitement really started.”
Now, Jones and the Sunshine Kitty Catfe have gained some serious traction. They have officially partnered with Friends of Strays, a no-kill animal shelter that began as a stray cat rescue in 1978. Friends of Strays will supply the cats available for play and adoption in Sunshine Kitty’s cat lounge. Jones also recently signed a lease in the Grand Central District (exact location to be announced), and will soon begin fundraising for space renovations and startup costs.
The catfe won’t be an environment for patrons to bring their own cats, but more like an open home environment for adoptable shelter cats. There will be no cages, and patrons will be able to schedule play time in the cat lounge, separate from the cafe side. “The whole point is to get them out of the cages that they’re in in the shelter and in a comfortable space where their personalities can really come out and shine,” Jones explained, “the shelter is a stressful place where cats are often scared.”
Jones sat down with The St. Pete Catalyst to answer a few of our most “purrgent” questions in her own words.
Q: What exactly is a catfe?
Jones: My favorite way to explain it is: Imagine your favorite coffee shop where you like to go work or hang out, relax or study. It’s probably a chill place that is comfortable and inviting. Now picture that with a separate room inside filled with cats that you can hang out with, that are adoptable. The happiest place on earth, if you love cats.
Q: What will the cafe side of the catfe offer?
Jones: The cafe is a huge part of it, because you don’t have to go in the cat lounge, you can just come for the cafe. I plan to have a co-working space as well. The cafe and the cat lounge will be downstairs. There are three conference rooms upstairs, they’re great places to work and study. I also want artists to display art and sell their art. We’ll sell local products: coffee, tea, beer, wine. We’re looking to partner with local staples like Made Coffee, Mother Kombucha, Florida Orange Groves Winery (they make canned wine!) and local bakeries. I’d love to serve local drip coffee, if I can find it. Bakery items will include gluten-free options, vegan options, something for everyone.
Q: Where else are catfes found?
Jones: There is one in Orlando, with another on the way in downtown Orlando. One in South Beach, Miami, another opening in Miami, two in Tallahassee. I know a couple working to open one in Fort Myers, one in St. Augustine. There’s another one in the central part of the state. That’s just Florida.
There’s three in Atlanta, there’s two in Savannah, there’s at least one in Charleston, there are a couple in Charlotte. There are two in Seattle, one in Tacoma. They’re everywhere, there’s one in Indianapolis, St. Louis, New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis. First one in the U.S. was in Oakland.
Q: What do you say to people who say that St. Pete is the dog-friendly city? That we’re dog people?
Jones: Let’s make St. Pete cat-friendly. It is such a dog-friendly city and that’s awesome. But what about the cat people? Where do we go and hang out. We don’t thrive in places like Dog Bar. A lot of cat people are probably like me, introverted, and like a calmer locale. We can’t take our cats out on walks to socialize. Most places are always going to be more dog friendly than cat friendly, but the cat people need a place, a sanctuary. And, most people who like animals are going to appreciate a cat cafe too. They can love a cat for an hour and that’s huge for the cats, but it’s good for people too, there are health benefits to spending time with cats.
Q: What has the reception been like so far?
Jones: After the first of the year I started to increase my marketing and my presence in the community, so I started doing markets, selling logo stickers, specialty stickers and t-shirts. Even if people don’t buy anything, they’re excited. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, what is this? I’ve heard about this!’ I’ve been so encouraged by the support and enthusiasm, that’s a big part of what’s kept me going. Some days I’m like, ‘What have I done?’ But I can’t let all of these people down. Everyone’s so excited, I just have to keep pushing because it’s a challenging business to open.
Q: What is your projected opening date? What can catfe fans do to help you out?
Jones: I’m hoping to open in September, if everything continues to go as well as it has. I’ve found the location. I will have an Indie GoGo campaign launching in a few days, I’m looking into setting up some meetings with investors.