Valley’s first cat cafe hopes to find homes for cats at risk of euthanasia
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By Emi Kamezaki | June 13, 2016
Long-time cat aficionado Melissa Pruitt hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps by rescuing as many cats as she can. And though she has already rescued over 300 cats on her own, Pruitt is far from finished.
Partnering with ASU alumnus Mike Simmons, the two hope to open La Gattara Cat Cafe and Wine Bar this fall; however, their opening is contingent upon raising sufficient funds through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.
“We decided that between both of our skill sets— his business background and my knowledge of cats— that it’s a perfect partnership for us to go in together for this,” Pruitt said.
This past May, La Gattara had attempted to raise $25,000 to reach its Kickstarter goal, but as it only achieved about 38 percent of this amount, according to Simmons, they were unable to keep any of the donated money, as per Kickstarter rules.
Unless a Kickstarter project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, contributors’ credit cards are not charged and the project does not receive any of its donations.
So, with a new goal of $18,000 and renewed determination, Simmons and Pruitt held a launch party for their most-recent Kickstarter campaign on June 10.
La Gattara Cat Cafe’s “Little Black Dress” party, with plentiful cat-themed entertainment, was successful in raising over four thousand dollars out of the cafe’s $18 thousand Kickstarter goal. The cafe’s Kickstarter campaign will be open until July 26.
La Gattara also collected donations from guests who took part in tarot-card readings, had their caricatures drawn or their faces painted with whiskers and cat noses. Funny cat videos were projected on the wall and an artist created a live-painting of a cat, which was later given away as one of many raffle-drawing prizes.
Friends and supporters filled the room, sporting the cat ears sold for donations to La Gattara and partaking in the many cat-themed activities the night offered.
One such supporter, Anissa Pawleska, said she came to support La Gattara Cat Cafe because of her passion for saving cats, as she had adopted four cats of her own.
“This is something I 100 percent believe in because it helps save cats from euthanization,” Pawleska said.
La Gattara’s party pushed Simmons and Pruitt one step closer to their dream of creating a space in which coffee, cats and cat-lovers can come together.
Pruitt said a cat cafe is simply a place in which the elements of an ordinary cafe combine with that of a cat playroom and adoption center.
“You come in, grab a drink, grab some food, hang out with the cats for as long as you want, and then if you fall in love, you can adopt one,” Pruitt said, explaining the cafe would consist of two separate sections: a cafe area, and a cat play area.
This “Kittykat Playroom” will be designed by Kate Benjamin, who has co-written two New York Times Bestselling books about designing stimulating and stylish spaces for cats. Benjamin also authors Hauspanther, a cat design blog.
“I am so excited for Phoenix to have its first cat cafe,” Benjamin said, explaining that designing the cafe would be a chance to showcase what pet owners should do for their pets at home.
Benjamin calls this process “Catification” and says without the proper stimulation cats may develop behavioral issues.
“You can make your house cat-friendly while still being stylish,” Benjamin said.
The cafe’s feline residents will come from the nonprofit Lost Our Homes Pet Rescue, a Tempe animal shelter from which the cafe will foster around 15 cats at a time, Pruitt said.
Simmons, who graduated from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business in 2000, said “This is kind of a great way to combine my love of cats with my business background.”
Although Simmons never considered himself an animal lover, he said his opinion changed after taking in a stray orange tabby cat 13 years ago.
“I ended up falling in love with him, took him in, and just became a huge cat lover,” Simmons said.
Now, the two dream of creating a space for educating others about cats, reducing the number of homeless cats in Arizona and providing exceptional guest service through their cafe business.
“What I want is to educate people. I want people to spay and neuter their pets. I want cats to be more appreciated and taken care of,” Pruitt said.
Simmons said he hopes to combine the benefits of running a successful business with the rewarding experience of providing education about cats, and finding them permanent homes.
“Bottom line is we want to get a lot of cats out of shelters and off euthanasia lists,” Simmons said.