Calicos & coffee: Get a glimpse of all 13 cat cafes in North Carolina

The perfect combination: Cats and coffee. (Photo via Brews and Mews Cat Cafe in Lenoir, NC)

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By Ryan Pitkin

April 2, 2024

The purr-fect list of spots to get a cuddle and a cup o’ joe across the state of North Carolina

According to Alley Cat Allies, an organization that advocates for cats and champions low-cost spay-and-neuter policies and programs around the world, humans domesticated cats 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. 

And if you can trust the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first café is said to have opened in 1550 in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) before spreading in popularity across Europe in the 17th century. 

Related: Video: NC public schools teacher says “go harder”

That said, one would think that cat cafes have been popular for at least 100 years, right? Wrong. The trend is actually less than 30 years. In fact, it’s widely reported that the first cat cafe to ever open its doors, named Cat Flower Garden, was opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. 

According to Catster, it wasn’t until 2004 that the world’s second cat café opened its doors in Osaka, Japan, with cat cafés opening in North America in 2014.

In case the name wasn’t clear enough, cat cafes are cafes with cats in them — most of which double as rescue organizations, all of which offer quality kitten time while you read and/or enjoy a latte. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of cat cafes on our continent, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of cat cafes in North Carolina — all 13 of them. 

Well, let’s give credit where it’s due — our friends at That Cat Life compiled the list, we just dug in to check out what services and snacks each one offers while scouring reviews to ensure that we point you to one that comes highly recommended. 

We’ve even included a few cats that were still available for adoption at the time of this writing, just to give you that extra push to maybe swing by and leave with a new forever friend. 

Cats at Play Café – Asheville

One of the newer cafes on our list, Cats at Play Cafe opened in May 2023 and serves as a sanctuary for foster cats awaiting adoption from Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and Heart of the Foothills Animal Rescue. In just over a year, they’ve already paired 110 cats with loving owners. 

The Space: The Cats at Play team strives to ensure that their cats not only adjust to the social life of the café but also thrive there. Their boundaries are respected with secure quiet areas available to them all day, their play needs are met by the guests, and their environment is kept immaculately clean.

The Snacks: Cats at Play partners with Kitty Town Coffee for its brew and the local, woman-owned Matcha Nude for its matcha. Menu items include the Meowtcha latte (finely ground green tea with oat milk, enjoyed hot or iced with flavors available) and the Cran-Raspberry Meowmosa (a fizzy blend of cranberry and raspberry juice, prosecco, and a touch of simple syrup). 

Testimonial: “I had no intention of adopting a cat on my vacation but I met Elsa and instantly knew she was meant to be a part of my family,” wrote one happy customer on the Cats at Play website. 

House of Black Cat Magic – Asheville

Cat cafes are having a bit of a renaissance in Asheville, as House of Black Cat Magic (HBCM) opened in June of 2023, making two such establishments in a city where just two months previous there were none. Partnering with Binx’s Home for Black Cats and Miss Dixie’s Kitten Rescue, the cafe centers black cats, which statistically have a tougher time getting adopted. 

The Space: The shop and the cat lounge are open Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. While most cat cafes do not allow children, HBCM allows kids between 10-14 with adult supervision and sets aside “Kiddy Hours” for families with young children.

The Snacks: HBCM is less a cafe and more a lounge and retail shop, offering up bewitching goods ranging from books and herbal tinctures to ritual tools and tarot decks. 

Testimonial: “Visited for the first time yesterday,” wrote Leslie Beninato in her Google review. “I didn’t realize it costs to pet the kitties ($7 for 30 minutes or $13 for 50 minutes), but the owner was so nice and let me in to say hello to the kitties that are up for adoption. Cute store with books and art of the mystical and feline kind. Great for kids, a date, or needing kitty cuddles.” 

Kitten Around Cat Lounge – Carthage

(Photo via Kitten Around)

Rachel and David Katz were regulars at Kitten Around Cat Lounge when it was under its previous ownership, so when they were presented with the opportunity to buy the business, they jumped. “David and I both serve the community as a teacher and speech pathologist and the ability to now serve animals along with people is a dream come true,” Rachel wrote on the website.

The Space: The cats that come to Kitten Around are chosen based on their personalities and temperament, selected by one of several partnering organizations based on which cats the respective rescue thinks will do well and be happy in the lounge environment. All Kitten Around cats are adoption ready — up to date on shots, FiV/FeLV negative, spayed or neutered, and fully vetted with a clean bill of health. Some are also microchipped. 

The Snacks: The cafe offers beverages — coffee drinks, herbal tea, hot cocoa, juice, seltzer — as well as snacks like scones, brownies, and cookies. The best part? Not a single food or beverage on the menu costs more than $3.50. 

Testimonial: “Such a sweet little place in downtown Carthage, connecting cats with potential adopters while also socializing through the use of their cat room and cafe,” wrote Keeley B. of Vass in a five-star Yelp review. “They have a cute assortment of gifts and souvenirs, a coffee bar, and a room of cats and kittens in the back to play with. Prices are reasonable, the cats are super friendly, and they share information about the adoptable cats to line up new families for them. I’m personally not a cat person or owner, but it was a fun visit and I would come again.” She added that the shop keeps unique hours, so be sure to check before you plan to drop in. 

Cat Tales Cat Cafe – Chapel Hill

This two-story space on Franklin Street is home to 12 cats all waiting for their perfect person. Owners Katy Poitras and Ilene Speizer didn’t just partner with a rescue, they started their own — Cat Tales Rescue NC, a nonprofit through which they rotate cats into the cafe as each new one gets adopted and leaves for its new home. 

The Space: Guests 7 and older can get to know the cats in the comfortable cage-free lounge. The low-stress, free-roaming environment lets the kitties be themselves, so even if you’re not interested in adopting, you’re still helping the cause by socializing the kitties. 

The Snacks: Cat Tales offers beverages like coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine, cider, and seltzer as well as gourmet snacks — King of Pops popsicles and Nightingale ice cream sandwiches. 

“Wonderful setting for cats while they’re waiting for their forever families,” wrote Kendall Kline on Facebook. “My daughter commented ‘They might not want to be adopted after living here!’”

Mac Tabby Cat Cafe – Charlotte & Concord

(Photo via Mac Tabby Cat Cafe)

Mac Tabby Cat Cafe owner Lori Konawalik was a decade into her journey as a professional photographer when her heart began calling her to do something more in this lifetime. One night, her husband Nick asked her a question: “If you took all logistics out of it, what would you do?” On her website, Lori said the answer to Nick’s question was immediate and clear: “In that moment, the light came on and I was on my path to opening Charlotte’s first cat cafe!” 

The Space: Mac Tabby opened its first location in 2017, and in February 2019 moved into Charlotte’s arts district, NoDa. Konawalik calls the upstairs space Mac Tabby’s forever home, but it’s not the only one. On May 1, 2021, she opened her second location in downtown Concord, passing the milestone of 1,000 cats adopted the following year. Konawalik has already signed the lease for a third location in Salisbury that she hopes to open sometime this year. 

The Snacks: The cafe is separated from the cat lounge and serves coffee, wine, craft beer, smoothies, baked goods, and more. 

Testimonial: “What a truly magical experience! There is an abundance of toys, light, and positive energy radiating from this establishment!” wrote Ryan Rodosti of the NoDa location on Google. “Matt and Summer were super helpful and informative, they really set us up for success during our kitty experience today. The drinks are also top notch! Thank you Mac Tabby Cat Cafe, we look forward to visiting the Concord location!”

Right Meow Cat Cafe – Fuquay-Varina

Feeling the need to bring something positive and uplifting into the world following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Posey family opened Right Meow Cat Cafe in the Raleigh suburb of Fuquay-Varina in July 2023. All of Right Meow’s cats come from Facilitate Rescue, based in Harnett County. With the help of fosters, volunteers, and donations, Facilitate rescues many cats and kittens each year from the Harnett County Shelter in Lillington, especially those in danger of euthanasia, and takes in kittens and cats from the community as well.

The Space: While the Poseys emphasize that it’s always a great time to visit and enjoy the café, they also point out that the cats are there to live, not to perform. That’s why they schedule a cat nap time daily between noon and 3 p.m. If you wish to visit during a time when they are more active, consider booking earlier or later in the day. Weekend sessions fill up quickly so it is encouraged to book online at least a week in advance.

The Snacks: There’s plenty of tea on the menu — boba tea, milk tea, fruit tea, green tea, and black tea — as well as lemonade and an array of coffee options. 

Testimonial: “The first cat cafe to show up in Fuquay initially made me nervous, but Right Meow surprised me!” wrote Ashley B. on Yelp. “The place itself is small, but they separate the cafe from the cat room. They do a great job in balancing the two and it’s very clean! You can make an appointment online and pay $10 to get access to the cat room.” 

Cool Beans Cat Cafe – Gastonia

(Photo via Cool Beans Cat Cafe)

With the help of her mother Sue Ann Robb, already a business owner in Gastonia, Julianna Coon opened Cool Beans Cat Cafe in downtown Gastonia in March 2021 — utilizing an historic storefront right down the street from Robb’s salon, Running with Scissors. 

The Space: Coon and Robb partnered with NC Paws Rescue in Hickory. “I found them online and they were just really sweet people,” Robb told Gaston Gazette. “They send us cats that they think will do well here, cats that may not get a showcase otherwise.” That includes special needs cats that often aren’t accepted at no-kill shelters. 

The Snacks: The café serves cat-themed frappes such as The Tortie (a toasted marshmallow and mocha-flavored frappe), the Catpurrcino, and the Caramel Meowchiato, plus a rotating case of pastries from Stanley-based Let’s Get Baked Artisan Desserts. 

Testimonial: “Such a cute place to visit and pet all the kitties,” wrote Jennifer Connor on Facebook. “Our daughter had an audience when she pulled out the cat toys to play. The Chai Latte was delicious as well!”

Crooked Tail Cat Cafe – Greensboro & Winston Salem

Ever since she was a child, Karen Stratman had a passion for animals, which led her to devote herself to a life of animal rescue. In November 2017, she opened Crooked Tail Cat Cafe, the state’s very first cat cafe, in downtown Greensboro. In July 2019, Crooked Tail expanded, opening a second location in Winston-Salem.

The Space: The rescue sanctuary in the heart of downtown Greensboro houses 12 cats while they await their forever friend. “Simply put, we are a place for cat lovers to relax and support our rescue efforts.” If you’re a regular, help support the rescue efforts by buying a membership — $45 a month gets you unlimited access to the cat lounge in Greensboro or Winston-Salem. 

The Snacks: Crooked Tail’s food and beverage menus are 100% plant-based. Drinks include boba tea, loose-leaf tea, espresso, and non-caffeinated beverages like hot apple cider or lemonade. Snacks include Alternative Baking cookies, Stroop Club stroopwafel, Chomp chocolate bars, and Lesser Evil popcorn. 

Testimonial: “Being out of town and away from my own fur babies, when I saw the sign for a cat cafe while walking Greensboro, I had to stop,” wrote Jessica Harvey from Maine on Google. “The check in process takes all precautions for the kitties inside into consideration, assuring visitors clean their shoes and sanitize their hands before entry. We had plenty of time to adore each cat resident, play with them, and browse the cafe. Highly recommend and wish I could have adopted all of them.” 

Brews & Mews Cat Cafe – Lenoir

The team at Brews & Mews is passionate about the “Three Cs”: Coffee, Cats, and Community, according to the establishment’s website. “We have partnered with local animal shelters, providing foster care to kittens and adult cats. We also offer volunteer services for those who are looking for a unique and fun volunteering experience. At Brews and Mews, our ultimate goal is the adoption of as many ‘fur babies’ as possible, and why not make the adoption process more interesting by adding tasty beverages and delicious treats?” 

The Space: Brews & Mews is always looking for volunteers to help care for the cats in what they call their “gated community.” If you’re a student in need of community service,  why not sign up to play a huge role in helping to socialize some cats? You’ll be helping to save them from high-kill shelters. That’s serving your community.

The Snacks: Brews & Mews offers a slew of cat-themed drinks from Declawed Coffee (decaf) to Skippity Paps (highly caffeinated), plus lemonade, lattes, and tea. Feeling indecisive? Order The Stray and the staff will take care of the rest. 

Testimonial: Great place! They roast their own coffee, and it’s always freshly ground,” wrote Danny M. on Yelp. “The baristas are great at recommending drinks. Everyone was very friendly and the decorations and art were amazing. It’s $12 an hour to pet the cats, but where I’m from in DC it’s around $40 an hour so I was floored at how good of a deal it was! Their coffee is also very well priced. Will be coming back whenever I’m in town!” 

Purr Cup Cafe – Raleigh

Arthur Hailey and Sarah Newton opened Purr Cup Cafe in Raleigh in October 2020 after having visited one in Philadelphia together. “We just wanted to bring that experience to Raleigh and do something where we got to pet cats every day,” Newton told Forest Fire, a high school news outlet in Wake Forest. 

The Space: Purr Cup Cafe is a unique and comfortable adoption center where local rescue kitties can thrive and find their forever homes, but also a welcoming community space for all cat lovers, whether looking to adopt or not. As it’s the only such cafe in the state capital, reservations are highly recommended. 

The Snacks: Purr Cupp offers a purely vegan menu, with coffee, tea, kombucha, juice, and other beverages as well as rotating offerings of prepackaged snacks and treats. 

Testimonial: “Our son chose to have his 11th birthday party at Purr Cup Cafe, and it was an amazing experience for all!” wrote Alison Owen on Facebook. “We reserved the room for him and his closest friends, and they all enjoyed playing with the kitties! The baristas were so incredibly kind and welcoming. The drinks were wonderful! It was an amazing experience and we will definitely be visiting as often as we can!” 

Frabjous Catfé – Wake Forest

Opened in April 2023, the Cheshire Lounge and its adjoining cafe were created out of a passion for coffee and a greater good for cats. It is a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a beverage and snack, for those looking to adopt a furry friend, or just a sanctuary to unwind and feel the love from a cat that maybe you can’t have at home. 

The Space: Frabjous has a separate cafe area outside of the cat visitation room and partners with other local small businesses in the area to share amazing baked goods and scheduled events whether it’s live music, meditation, tarot reading, educational classes, or paint nights. 

The Snacks: Frabjous has an impressive menu, one of the more comprehensive ones of any cafe on this list, including the strawberry hazelnut and Eat Me Cake lattes and cheesecake, parfaits, sweet breads and coffee cake. 

Testimonial: “A must visit cafe in Wake Forest!” wrote Jillian S. on Yelp. “Even if you are not interested in adopting a cat, you should still visit for coffee or to play with the cats. The menu is affordable and the employees are friendly and welcoming.”

[Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the times the House of Black Cat Magic is open.]

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Author

  • Ryan Pitkin

    Ryan Pitkin is a writer and editor based in Charlotte, where he runs an alternative weekly newspaper called Queen City Nerve. He is also editor of NoDa News, a community newsletter in the neighborhood where he has lived for 15 years.

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