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Students face all sorts of challenges when they leave home. For some, it’s learning how to cook for themselves, not relying on their parents, or navigating in an unfamiliar place. For me, it’s being away from my cats.
My two cats at home, Bubbie and Misch, had always been right by my side to comfort me when I was stressed or to greet me at the door every day. As hard as it’s been to be without them— and yes, I do ask my mom to put them on the phone when I call home — thankfully there’s a place where I can get my dose of feline cuddles and love while I’m away at school.
The Kawaii Kitty Cafe is Philadelphia’s “premiere cat cafe,” a unique and irresistible mix of coffeehouse and cat shelter located in Queen Village. The setup of the cafe allows it to operate within the terms of the Philadelphia Health Department — the cats have their own “cat lounge,” which is separated from where the cafe makes its food and drinks, but you can take your cafe fare with you into the lounge! It’s a mutually beneficial system where patrons can relax and enjoy playing with cats, while the cats become socialized in a safe environment and are also available to be adopted.
The world’s first cat cafe, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taiwan in 1998. The fad traveled to Japan and was easily incorporated into the nation’s existing trend of themed cafes. It grew exponentially as many apartment complexes in Japanese cities do not allow pets, so urban citizens could enjoy time with animals at cafes. Today, there are 58 operating cat cafes in Tokyo alone! Taking after Asia’s trend of cat cafes, the kawaii (the Japanese word for “cute”) decor, adorable themed food, and even more adorable cats, the cafe was the perfect atmosphere for me and my girlfriend to enjoy Valentine’s Day.
The interior of the cafe looks like it was designed by Hello Kitty herself, with pink polka-dotted walls, fluffy heart pillows, unicorn plushies on the seating, and the cafe’s icon of a cat in a mug painted on the wall. The coffee bar itself had an upgrade since the last time I had visited, with decked out metallic letters spelling MEOW and purple under lighting.
The best thing that was updated in the cafe since its opening has been the menu. Instead of offering your run-of-the-mill cup o’ joe— yes, even the drinks are now overwhelmingly cute, too!— I ordered the unicorn hot chocolate, a white chocolate mocha donned by a mountain of pink whipped cream (which was taller than the mug itself), with a plethora of sprinkles, rainbow marshmallows, two sticks of Pocky, and a heart decal on top. I never knew that something so adorable could simultaneously be so intimidating! I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t put a drop of sugar in her coffee, so tackling this drink was somewhat daunting (but ultimately delicious till the last drop).
In similar fashion, Kait ordered a specialty vanilla kawaii milkshake, where the glass was first dipped in blue vanilla frosting, and then was adorned with whipped cream, sprinkles, Pocky, marshmallows, and a heart decal as well. While the sugar rush lasted for days, it’s easy to say that I enjoyed the most flourished, Instagram-worthy cup of coffee I’ve ever seen.
While you can go to the coffee bar and simply enjoy the cafe’s selection of unique drinks, the main attraction, of course, is the cats. The cat lounge is a bright and open space, with plush sofas and chairs for both human and feline folk, a cat walk around a wall of the room, and cat toys galore. One of the best parts of being in the lounge is acquainting yourself with each cat and learning their names— a chalkboard on the wall lists each cat residing in the lounge, along with a description of its coat and personality. I spent the most time with Skorts, a chubby tabby, while Kait took a particular liking to Waffles, a snuggly grey kitten who was crashed out on the couch and barely moved an inch the entire time we were there (he was still sleeping when we left, too).
The cat cafe is a must-see for any student missing their pet at home, or a couple looking for a unique, yet charming, date location. It’s only $11 per person for an hour in the cat lounge, which I found to be a manageable price for a date for two college students! Good company, good coffee, and cats: the recipe for a purrfect Valentine’s Day.