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You have cat to be kitten me: Neko Cat Cafe making Capitol Hill plans

NekoJPEGWe know what you’re saying. You just can’t let yourself get that excited again. Capitol Hill cat cafe teases have come and gone. Wallingford? WTF? But open yourself, once more, to kitty love. Plus, this one has a business plan.

“Capitol Hill is so densely populated and so many people are living in apartments, that was my initial draw,” Caitlin Unsell tells CHS. “But I also just think the Hill is accepting of new, strange things.”

Inspired by the cat cafes of Japan, Unsell is making plans to open Neko Cat Cafe on Capitol Hill by spring 2016.

She just needs to raise $150,000 and find a special landlord accepting of the idea.

“It really just depends on the owner and what they’re OK with,” Unsell said. “A lot of owners aren’t stoked to have 10 animals in their space.”

Neko will be “a dual purpose cafe that helps facilitate the adoption of cats while simultaneously providing people with local food and drinks,” according to the press release.

Unsell and a cat clearly thrilled at the prospect of Neko (Image: Rory Savatgy)

Unsell and a cat clearly thrilled at the prospect of Neko (Image: Rory Savatgy)

“It is technically a cat cafe but it’s also kind of a cat bar,” Unsell said. (Here we should note, sadly, that Capitol Hill’s dog bar plan didn’t work out.)

Neko’s special feature, of course, will be the cast of 8 to 10 adoptable cats who will roam a custom cat room separated by a glass wall from the cafe. Visitors will be charged “a small fee per hour to enter the cat room,” the pitch for the business reads. The participating felines will come from a partnering shelter that is lined up to be part of the cafe. They will be selected for sociability, of course, and will also have easy access to a cats-only area should they decide their shift is over. Unsell says the space will be designed with cats — and cat problems like allergies and kitty boxes — in mind. “I’ve been working really closely with my shelter partner and architect to avoid all of that,” she said.


So far, the funding campaign has raised just over $11,000 of a $150,000 goal. Backers will be eligible for special perks. But Unsell said she will be going forward with the business with or without crowdfunding.

“I had this idea before I left. I was a little disappointed to see a few others come before me,” she said.

But Unsell’s year in Vietnam and two years in Japan as a kindergarten teacher did give Seattle city officials time to get used to the idea of cat cafes and how to regulate and permit the venues.

Now, Unsell is working on finding the right space for her cafe on Capitol Hill with hopes for an opening by April. She says the trend in Japan has been for more and more over-the-top cafe ideas like Hobbit themes, and bunny or owl cafes.

But Unsell is sticking to her feline-focused plan. “Cats are my thing. I’m kind of a cat person and I think they have the best chance to be happy in that environment,” she said.

You can support the Neko Cat Cafe and learn more here or visit nekoseattle.com.

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32 Comments
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Joan Provo
Joan Provo
5 years ago

Great idea, can’t wait to come to NEKO!

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Joan Provo

Thank you !!

Charlene
Charlene
5 years ago

Is the health department going to ok it? Cat hair in all of the food?

JK
JK
5 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

The cats are in a separate area from the cafe part. I doubt people handling food are going back and forth.

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

The cafe will be two separate spaces connected by a large glass wall. Half cafe, half adoption center. The health department has already approved it!

paul
paul
5 years ago

so – no money, no space, no landlord approval. OK well this will definitely be happening :/

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  paul

Paul! It will! We have been planning for the last year to make sure it does.

Braden P
Braden P
5 years ago
Reply to  Caitlin Unsell

clearly not a cat guy^^

paul
paul
5 years ago
Reply to  Braden P

I have two cats, also a small business (the two are unrelated). i know how hard it is to open a business of capitol hill.

paul
paul
5 years ago
Reply to  paul

*on

genevieve
genevieve
5 years ago

Good luck! I will definitely be there if and when it opens. :)

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  genevieve

Thank you Genevieve!

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
5 years ago

Which agency are you partnering with, can you say yet?

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim98122x

Hey Jim,
We do have a shelter partner already but we aren’t disclosing the name quite yet! But we promise they are super paw-some!

Booz
Booz
5 years ago

I’ve been hurt too many times by promises of Seattle cat cafes. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Booz

This love won’t let you down :)

Kid
Kid
5 years ago

KOMO4 news just featured a new cat café in Wallingford on their news program tonight so, this isn’t a pipe dream. Capitol Hill definitely needs one of these. In fact, this would be most welcome — I wouldn’t have to feel self-conscious over all of the cat hair I perennially seem to wear courtesy of my 2 felines!

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Kid

Thank you!!! =^..^=

AbleDanger12
AbleDanger12
5 years ago

About time! Cat discrimination in Seattle needs to stop right meow!

Kid
Kid
5 years ago
Reply to  AbleDanger12

:)

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Kid

=^..^=

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  AbleDanger12

Thank you for the support! Meowwwww!

Me(ow)
Me(ow)
5 years ago

I’m rooting for you! My husband and I had planned to take his mother to the pop-up cat cafe last spring, but it wasn’t open at that time and has since gone :( We can’t wait for this one to open! And what’s with everyone whining about “cat hair in…” everything? We have cats and they’re everywhere and so is there hair and we eat in our house!

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Me(ow)

Thank you so much for your cat cafe love!!! We can’t wait to see you at NEKO next year!

Joan Provo
Joan Provo
5 years ago
Reply to  Caitlin Unsell

How do I contribute to helping open Neko cat cafe? Would even a small contribution help?

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Joan Provo

Yes every dollar helps! The link to the campaign is at the bottom of the article! Thank you!

Matthew
Matthew
5 years ago

I always wondered how something like this would work with the Health Department. Having the cats behind a glass wall in a separate room makes sense. And I can’t wait to visit.

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Thanks Matthew! Hopefully we will see you there next year!
=^..^=

Ben
Ben
5 years ago

Excited to check this place out! Curious about the ”ネコ” on the sign; I thought neko was usually written in Japanese as ”猫” or ”ねこ”.

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Thank Ben! We wrote NEKO in Katakana because typically animals are written in Katakana. But you are right, there are many ways to write it. Katakana is the simplest and what all my Japanese friends recommended! Thank you for the support!
=^..^=

Charlene
Charlene
5 years ago

Thanks for clearing up the health department issue. Good luck, it’s difficult opening a new business and the rents in Capitol Hill are a tad high.

Caitlin Unsell
5 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

Thank you Charlene!