Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh couple is parlaying their love of cats into a business.
Sarah Newton and Arthur Hailey are looking to open Purr Cup Cafe, the first cat cafe in downtown.
"It is as if you had a coffee shop and made a room within that coffee shop that is a cat lounge," Newton said Wednesday.
Cat cafes originated in Taiwan in the late 1990s as a way for people to enjoy hot beverages and interact with cats. Patrons can sit and drink beverages while looking at the cats in the opposite room or pay to reserve time in the cat room. The concept has expanded throughout Asia and Europe, first reaching North America only a few years ago.
The first permanent cat cafe in the United States, Cat Town Cafe, opened in 2014 in Oakland, Calif.
"I fell in love with the idea," Newton said of the concept.
After retiring as a dancer with the Carolina Ballet last year, Newton started work at downtown Raleigh bakery and coffee shop Lucettegrace. She hoped working in the food service industry would get her ready to one day open her own cat cafe.
After some research and visits to cat cafes across the United States, she decided that 2017 would be the year of the cat. She and Hailey, who have four cats of their own, plan to launch a crowd-funding campaign in May. She said the business is looking to open in downtown Raleigh, "so we can be part of the whole growing tourism scene."
Purr Cup Cafe would serve pre-packaged prepared foods from local merchants, but coffee would be made on site. The cats would come from Meow House Cat Rescue in Raleigh, which rescues cats from high-kill shelters.
So far, North Carolina does not have a cat cafe, but a Wilmington woman is hoping to open one called The Scratching Post Cafe later this year.
Newton admits that she does love dogs, too.
Not just cats
While cat cafes are hot right now, there are also other types of animal cafes out there, according to AnimalCafes.com. The Tokyo area has several bird cafes, where people can hang out with owls, parakeet and parrots, in addition to dog, penguin and rabbit cafes. Some cafes are also offering multiple species together including snakes, lizards and hedgehogs.
The first dog cafe in the United States, dubbed The Dog Cafe, opened last year in Silver Lake, Calif.