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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

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32 thoughts on “You have cat to be kitten me: Neko Cat Cafe making Capitol Hill plans

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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”.

    • 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!

  5. 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.