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Cats and Coffee at AffoGATO: Visiting the First Cat Cafe in Cleveland

Cats and Coffee at AffoGATO: Visiting the First Cat Cafe in Cleveland

What could be better than a cafe in a cool neighborhood that offers great coffee and cozy corners to lounge in?

How about that same cafe with CATS?

That’s exactly what you’ll find at affoGATO, Cleveland’s very first cat cafe.

Cat lounge at AffoGATO cat cafe

The cat cafe phenomenon

The cat cafe concept may be new to Cleveland, but cafes where you can sip hot drinks alongside cuddly kitties have been around for more than 20 years.

The world’s very first cat cafe was Cat Flower Garden, which opened in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998. The cat cafe concept spread to Japan (where there are now a ton of animal-themed cafes), and eventually to the rest of the world. In cities where many residents live in apartments that don’t allow pets, cat cafes were instantly popular.

The cat cafe concept has changed a bit as it’s made its way to North America (here, most cat cafes bring in shelter cats that are adoptable as opposed to having only “resident” kitties), but the main theme is the same: a cafe where you can sip coffee and play with cats.

And before you roll your eyes at the idea, cat cafes are becoming increasingly popular outside of Asia; in the US alone, there are currently more than 60 cat cafes!

Sleeping cat at AffoGATO cat cafe

I’ve been to a handful of cat cafes all around the world (I’ve even had afternoon tea with kitties!), and was VERY excited to see one open up in Cleveland.

A Cleveland cat cafe

Founders, Mandy, Eduardo, and Lea, did some researching into cat cafes before starting affoGATO. They visited other cat cafes around the US, and made notes on what they liked and didn’t like.

What they eventually settled on is the perfect combination of coffee, lounge space, and adoptable cats, located in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

AffoGATO cat cafe in Cleveland

According to its website, affoGATO’s mission is “to improve our city by creating a safe, comfortable haven for adoptable cats, cultivating a fun and inclusive space for cat-lovers to work and play, and teaming up with other local businesses and artists for the betterment of the community as a whole.”

They’ve teamed up with the Cleveland Animal Protective League for all their adoptable cats; Rising Star Coffee for a special blend unique to affoGATO; and Farkas Pastry Shoppe for yummy baked goods.

Visiting affoGATO

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into affoGATO is that this cafe is all cats, all the time. Along with cat-themed merchandise and artwork, affoGATO’s menu is filled with cat puns (my personal favorite is the “Cafe Au Lay-on-your-keyboard).

affoGATO cat cafe menu

It’s fitting; the cafe’s name itself is a play on words. An affogato is an Italian coffee-and-ice-cream treat, and gato is the Spanish word for cat.

AffoGATO cat cafe in Cleveland
“I love all cats equally and frankly your insinuation that there are inferior cats is obscene.”

Located in the spot Lilly Handmade Chocolates used to occupy on Starkweather Ave. in Tremont (don’t worry, Lilly just moved to Old Brooklyn), affoGATO is split up into two separate areas: the cafe and the cat lounge.

Because of health codes (and, you know, not wanting cat hair in your latte), food prep is done in a separate area area from where the kitties live. This is great, because it means you can pop in for coffee or a snack with a view of the resident cats anytime.

AffoGATO cat cafe
The cafe at affoGATO

Hanging out in the cat lounge

In order to hang out in the cat lounge at affoGATO, you need to make a reservation.

Reservations are in one-hour increments throughout the day Wednesday through Sunday, and are necessary because the cat lounge can only accommodate 15 people at once. They keep this number low to ensure that everyone – human and feline – has enough space.

It also ensures that everyone can play and snuggle with different cats.

Playing kitten at AffoGATO cat cafe

I visited affoGATO on a Thursday afternoon not long after it opened. Because of some great press mentions, the cafe was busy and cat lounge spots were filling up in advance (so, yes, make a reservation online).

I grabbed a latte and a macaron, and waited for my time to head into the cat lounge.

Once inside the lounge, there are a few simple rules. These mostly cover not hurting the cats (don’t feed them, don’t chase them, don’t use a flash if you’re taking photos), and being courteous to other visitors.

The cat lounge at affoGATO is one of the better ones I’ve been in. It’s open and airy, with plenty of comfortable seating for both humans AND felines.

AffoGATO cat cafe in Cleveland

There are round plushy chairs for humans, and all sorts of cat beds and trees for the cats. There’s even a “cat chandelier” that hangs from the center of the room that the cats can lounge on.

And, of course, cat toys are plentiful.

Cat lounge at AffoGATO cat cafe
How cool is the “cat chandelier”??

The cats at affoGATO

AffoGATO can house up to 16 cats at a time. The cafe currently has one “resident” cat who will call the cat lounge home, while the others are all adoptable from the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (And they’re being adopted pretty regularly!)

Ages of the cats vary; when I was there, there were a handful of 6-month-old kittens, along with several older cats ranging in age from 9 months to 9 years.

Kitten at AffoGATO cat cafe
This guy got adopted while I was there!

A staff member was in the lounge to talk to people about the cats (which ones don’t like to be petted, which ones have favorite toys, etc.), and many of them were super playful when I was there.

The great part about having adoptable cats in a space like affoGATO is that they are free to roam and play instead of being stuck in cages. Cats that are shy in cages or that don’t photograph well for websites get a much better chance of finding forever homes when potential adopters can get to know them in-person.

Not gonna lie: I almost walked out with a second cat.

Kitten at AffoGATO cat cafe

If you’re interested in adopting, you can do so directly from affoGATO. All the kitties are spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and Cleveland APL fees apply; the cats at affoGATO are all adoptable for $50.

And don’t worry about the cats – they’re being extremely well cared for at affoGATO. Along with lots of places to lounge, they also have their own space in the back they can escape to if they don’t feel like interacting with people or other cats.

AffoGATO cat cafe
The adorable cat doors that lead to the kitties’ private area.

What’s next for affoGATO

It’s cool enough to have a cat cafe in Cleveland. But affoGATO wants to offer more than just a cozy place to drink coffee with kitties.

You can buy day passes (for $49) to spend the day in the affoGATO cat lounge. The lounge has free wifi and some cool work stations – though I don’t know how much work I’d be able to get done with so many furry distractions!

AffoGATO cat cafe work space
Beware: Cats don’t care if you want to work.

They’re also planning to start up cat yoga classes soon, and you can bet I’ll be signing up for one!


ESSENTIAL INFO

Thinking of visiting affoGATO? Here’s what you need to know:

Where: 761 Starkweather Ave, Cleveland

Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Reservations: Required for the cat lounge; reserve ahead online, as walk-in spots aren’t guaranteed

Pricing: Hourlong sessions are $10 on weekdays and $12 on weekends; coffee and bakery items are extra

Kids: Kids are allowed as long as they’re accompanied by an adult

Curious cat at AffoGATO cat cafe

Who’s ready to visit Cleveland’s first cat cafe?

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Amanda

Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of the state. Now, she wants to share her love of Cleveland with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. LOVE IT!

    I mean, I always love cat cafes, but this one looks particularly lovely!! That tip jar idea is genius!

    1. Like I said, it’s definitely one of my favorite cat cafe spaces I’ve seen so far! The lounge is so big and yet so cozy at the same time. I have a feeling I’ll be visiting this place often!

  2. Ahhh, I love cat cafés! And this one is definitely one of the more cleverly named ones I’ve come across. I love that a lot of the kitties are up for adoption to, as visiting the cat cafe is a great way to assess their temperament and character and how well you bond with them.

    We’ve actually now got a cat cafe in the English town I live in (opened last Thursday). I think it’s the first town (as opposed to city) in England to have one 🙂

    1. How exciting! And yes, I love that most of the cats here are adoptable. It’s a great way to try to find kitties homes – and a great way for people to hang out with cats even if they aren’t able to adopt one.

  3. Ooh I LOVE the idea of a workspace in a cat cafe! In my last apartment we adopted a stray who used to sit on my lap and purr while I was writing, and I miss that environment so much 🙂

    1. I’m pretty sure I’d get way too distracted by the cats to get much work done, but I do love that it’s an option.

  4. This looks so fun! I’m totally allergic to cats but I’d totally power through for this!

    1. Haha oh no! I guess just pop a Benadryl beforehand!

  5. I’ve only ever been to one cat cafe and it was weird, the cats were all sleepy and just in general the setting wasn’t good. I think it got closed 😀 I’m usually suspicious about things that have to do with animals, but I mean, isn’t it better for them to be in cafe with people than in a shelter in a cage? I also like the idea that one cat adopt the cat straight from the cafe, never heard of that before.

    1. To be fair, cats do spend the majority of their time sleeping! Haha. But yes, animal cafes definitely need to be supported with caution. In this case, they are taking very good care of the cats and helping them find homes, which I love. I think this is pretty common in cat cafes in North America; the cafe usually teams up with a local animal shelter, and they try to get cats adopted. Definitely better for the cats to have free reign of the cafe than being stuck in cages for sure!

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