El Gato Coffeehouse is what a cat lover’s dream house would look like. On the outside, El Gato looks like a cozy little cottage in bright green and blues. Inside, every piece of furniture can be climbed on, laid on, and sat in, and there are cat toys placed around the room to entertain the residents.
And there are cats. So many cute, fuzzy, adorable, adoptable cats!
Renee Reed, the owner of El Gato, explains that the cats are still getting comfortable with the guests and space – but you’d never guess that they had ever been skittish. The cats are not shy about climbing into your lap, nuzzling your leg, or sniffing your camera lens as you’re trying to photograph them.
Renee has been working hard to get the space up and running. At the moment the café sells snacks, drinks, and “merchandise”. A shipping container will house a full-service café that is expected to open this summer. Until then, though, the cats have a really wonderful place to call home and coffee is available to visitors. The main room in the cat cottage is adaptable to whatever is scheduled – mats can be brought in for yoga, tables, and chairs for study, or cushions for cartoons and movies.
While volunteering with the Houston Humane Society, Renee was inspired by other cat cafes around the world and her love of the shelter kitties. With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, she was able to bring the El Gato to life.
The cats currently living at the café have been brought in from the Houston Humane Society, and are all adoptable! Renee gets a list of cats ready for homes (and she has the favorites she met through her volunteer work) and brings them to the café. At the moment there are 11, but she can keep up to 20 at a time.
The happy kitties get to spend their time lounging and playing in the space, being pet, loved on and played with by the cat-loving locals. It’s a remarkable improvement in the quality of life for these cats, who would otherwise be in crates at the shelter. In turn, the Humane Society is able to accept more incoming pets as the space that would otherwise be taken by the café cats becomes free.
There are bridges to explore, a tree to sit on, and cabinets to climb in. The shelves have cutouts to allow the kitties to jump and lounge wherever they’d like. There are plenty of windows to allow lots of bright sunlight to warm up in.
A list of rules are posted in the foyer, so guests know proper cat café etiquette for the well-being of the residents. They have their own room away from guests to give them privacy to use their box and eat without being bothered, or relax if they don’t want to mingle.
The café is ready for its soft opening, and guests are encouraged to visit from 4 – 7 PM Monday through Wednesday, and 4 – 8 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They’re also open for scheduled events, such as Yoga with Cats, Caturday Morning Cartoons, Crafting with Cats, and Meowvies with Cats!
When asked about the challenge of opening a cat-café, instead of a simpler coffeehouse, Renee states that opening a regular café was never an option, “This has always been about the cats!”
You can follow El Gato Coffeehouse Cat Café on Facebook or Instagram, check out their website for their event schedule, and keep up with their blog! Space for events is limited, so you’ll want to reserve your spot in advance! If you’re in the Houston area, you can find El Gato at 508 Pecore St. Suite A in the Houston Heights.