Cat Café on Monroe Street seems to defy labels. Walk through the door and you find a large, open space with a scattering of coffee tables, cushioned mats, lounge chairs and cats. Is it a coffee shop? A petting zoo? A relaxation lounge?
For Cheryl Glover, the owner of Cat Café Mad, it is a bit of all three.
The idea for the Cat Café Mad came from a visit to Glover’s daughter, Lauren, who was studying in Seoul, Korea on a Fulbright scholarship. Lauren, who is 32 and a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at UW-Madison, took Glover and her son, Kirk, 28, to a coffee shop that featured live cats.
“We looked around at a concept that is just not in the U.S,” Glover said. “We looked at each other and said we really should bring this type of joy to the U.S.”
Glover, an entrepreneur and a former commercial realtor with an MBA from University of Southern California, has more than 40 years of experience with both businesses and cats. The Glover family settled on the Monroe Street location because it is nestled conveniently between the campuses of UW-Madison and Edgewood College.
A cover charge of $10 gets customers one nonalcoholic drink and all the cat time they want. Due to health concerns, drinks are self-serve and kept in a fenced-off, feline-free area. But chances are that people who are visiting Cat Café Mad aren’t going for a cup of coffee. They are there to meet the cats, the shop’s main attraction.
There are currently a dozen cats at Cat Café Mad, and Glover said they plan to bring in more. Nine of the cats belong to the Glover family, and the others are foster pets from Shelter From the Storm Animal Rescue. These foster pets are up for adoption, and the opportunities this presents potential adopters excite both Glover and Shelter’s Volunteer and Foster Coordinator, Michelle Hogan. Glover said the partnership between Cat Café Mad is ongoing, and that she expects to foster more cats so that they can be adopted.
“People, when they see a cat in a store, get five minutes with that cat,” Glover said. “Here, they can come a number of times and play with a cat for hours.”
“Adopters getting a chance to really interact with the cats before they choose to adopt,” Hogan said.
“Meeting people in an open environment where they’re free to run and play really shows off their personalities.”
Following the soft opening, which began March 21, some online reviews of the café said the cats were hesitant and stayed in hiding. But Glover said they became friendlier as they acclimated to the environment and the number of people in the store.
“They’re so happy to be in this environment,” Glover said. If the cats don’t feel like interacting with customers, they have plenty of options to hide away in custom-built cat houses which line the walls, or bask in the sun on a windowsill.
According to Glover, Madison has been very supportive of this unique concept.
“We didn’t know how it was going to be received.” Glover said. “The people in Madison have been wonderful and supportive.”
“We strongly believe that Cat Cafe Mad will be a great addition to the community,” Hogan said. “We hope that it does in fact get more people to think about adoption, volunteering, and responsible pet ownership.”
Glover seeks to make Cat Café Mad a place of relaxation, entertainment and fun for cats and customers alike.
“We’d like to offer people fun,” Glover said.
The stores grand opening, which is scheduled April 1-3, will have a “Halloween in April” theme with optional cosplay.