Cats with Your Coffee
– By Dan England | Photos by Jordan Secher –
Majken Thompson had a problem with her oldest daughter: Whenever Eleanor would visit a friend’s house, she would ignore her friend and play with the cat.
Majken allowed Zivah, 6, and Eleanor to have a dog and a hamster, but they adore cats. Zivah has, at times, resorted to begging for one. But Majken’s husband doesn’t like them.
That’s why Majken brought her daughters to the NOCO Cat Cafe in downtown Loveland for an afternoon. Call it a compromise, the kind bargaining parents love to reach. The kids get their kitty fix, and she gets to stay married.
The cafe opened about six months ago, and customers have crowded it for hits of caffeine and cats since. It’s been busy, even more than the owners, wife Kimberly Tejchma-Sanford and husband Christopher Sanford, expected.
The place is casual for customers and cats alike, as both wander freely through the cafe. There are rules, of course: You can’t wake a sleeping cat or harass them too much, a point Majken found herself making more than once with Zivah.
“I keep telling her, ‘You have to respect them when they walk away,’” Majken says and laughs.
But the relaxed atmosphere is exactly the idea behind the cafe, Tejchma-Sanford says. Owners who want to adopt a cat can get to know all the different personalities and match one to their liking.
“All cat rescues are great, but they aren’t going to be in a cage here,” Tejchma-Sanford says. “They can really roam here. They act exactly how they will be at your home.”
The cafe had managed to adopt out nearly 100 cats in its first four months working with the Colorado Kitty Coalition, which provides the cats. So, the mission is working. That’s why they opened the cafe in the first place, other than a desire to change their lives after she taught Women’s Studies at UNLV and he ran nightclubs in Las Vegas.
“We were just cat lovers and found this model,” Tejchma-Sanford says. “There are lots of help for dogs in Northern Colorado but not as much for cats.”
In late January, those who enter the cafe could snuggle with Snowball, mess with Messa and find themselves smitten with, um, Smitten. Many of the cats carry $200 adoption fees, though some, like sweet Paula, are $100 because she’s older, i.e., not a kitten.
Adoption is the goal, but they don’t mind people hanging out and playing with the cats: Tejchma-Sanford says the majority of their business comes from people like the Thompsons who can’t have cats of their own and need a feline fix. They have, at most, 25 at a time. The cafe charges $12 per person to enter because of this: They see it as good-hearted entertainment as much as a cat rescue. There are 100 or so cafes around the country with similar business models, Tejchma-Sanford says, and most of them charge admission as well. They have a charitable goal, but they do want to make a profit and possibly open another one in five years.
“This isn’t a restaurant, where you’re making money off food and drink,” Tejchma-Sanford says. “That’s really just here in case people want it. We make most of our money off admission.”
They have fun while promoting their mission of adoption: Every six months, they will host a contest for owners to get their adopted cat photographed. The best shots get displayed in the store. Then they’ll do it again.
There’s also cat yoga, barre with cats and—because why not?—speed dating with cats. This is already the adoption model of the cat cafe—you can’t spend all day and night with the cat, after all—but the speed dating attempts to match a human with another human.
The Sanfords won’t let you spend the night, but if you want to take most of the day, that’s OK. Some cat cafes will time you, but Tejchma-Sanford doesn’t want to do that just yet.
The Sanfords are thrilled at how it’s going so far. Even with a few grumbles about the admission, more than enough are willing to pay it, and the cats seem to leave as fast as they come in.
“I’m really hopeful,” Tejchma-Sanford says. “Adoptions are better than expected, and we’ve had a steady flow of people.”
Cats may have nine lives, but the Sanfords, so far, are happy with just their second as they serve cat cuddles with their coffee.
Dan England is NOCO Style’s assistant editor, and a freelance journalist based in Greeley.