Upon arrival, you may think that the AffoGATO cafe, located at 761 Starkweather Ave. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, looks much like any number of small cafes you have wandered into. It is quaint, with 5 tables, modern furniture, big windows, and enticing coffee aromas. As you adjust and familiarize yourself with the space, you can’t help but notice the cat-themed decor, and then a staff member seated at the entrance asks if you have a reservation for the Cat Lounge.
This unique cafe is Cleveland’s first ever “cat cafe.” AffoGATO’s cat lounge holds 18 cats and is a large three-room area that includes a litter box room, large climbing equipment for the cats, cat tunnels, couches, chairs, tables, and lots of books. A worker from the cafe remains in the lounge during times when visitors have reservations. Reservation fees are $8 for students under 18 or with a college ID, $10 an hour for adults on weekdays, and $12 an hour for adults on weekends.
The lounge is connected by a wall of windows to the cafe, making it possible for those in the cafe who may not have reservations (or want to skip the fee for the lounge) to still enjoy the feline antics.
AffoGATO’s mission is to improve the city by creating a safe comfortable haven for adoptable cats, cultivating a fun, inclusive space for cat-lovers to work and play, and teaming up with other local businesses and artists for the betterment of the community as a whole. AffoGATO works closely with the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL), which provides them with adoptable rescued cats. Patrons who visit are welcome to adopt the cats directly from the cafe. Since AffoGATO opened its doors in January, 2019, over 100 cats have been adopted.
The concept of a cat cafe has potential benefits for both cats and their human visitors. Cats who live in the cat lounge are cage-free and enjoy lots of playtime and snuggling. This atmosphere allows the cats to be relaxed and more likely to be adopted. Moreover, when the lounge hosts a cat, it frees up space at the APL. When a cat is adopted, not only does this cat have a furever home, another cat can move into the lounge to be adopted.
Human visitors are able to enjoy the affection of cats, which studies show can “reduce stress, heart issues, loneliness, and assist in recovering from grief more quickly,” according to AffoGATO’s website. The cafe is perfect for cat lovers who are unable to own cats for any number of reasons — apartment rules, financial difficulties, or an allergic family member, to name a few. Here, they can enjoy the love of a cat commitment-free. It is also a wonderful space for people who are looking to adopt a cat because they can relax in a home-like setting and really get to know each other before making a commitment.
This all sounds wonderful, but mingling cats and cat hair with fresh-baked goods is a terrible idea, right? Wrong! AffoGATO has partnered with local bakers and cooks to prepare all of their food off-site, and the cafe is in a separate room from the cat lounge. Each side has its own HVAC system. Patrons are welcome to enjoy their drinks and snacks on the cafe side or bring them into the cat lounge. Problem solved.
Not only is the cafe working with local businesses to prepare their food, but they have extended their commitment to being a part of the local community to include most of the products and services offered there. The cafe offers a mellow blend of coffee, specially made for them by Rising Star, one of Cleveland’s own coffee roasters. They also offer a number of appealing teas from Storehouse Tea, a local, handcrafted teamaker. Cheerful cat artwork adorns the cafe and lounge — all crafted by local Lakewood artists and friends.
As the cafe grows, the owners plan to work with local instructors and performers for events, hoping to build an inclusive event space accessible for all ages, income levels, and needs. The website boasts, “If you’re kind to cats and kind to other people, then you’re welcome” at AffoGATO.