CONVINGTON, Ky. — Cats, coffee and COVID-19.
It may not seem like those three words would mesh well in the same setting. However, if you wear a mask, enjoy a jolt of caffeine or something a little more spirited, and need some furry, purring company, then, perhaps the Purrfect Day Cafe in Covington is the purrfect spot for you to sip, pet and adopt amid the pandemic that continues to plague the country.
It is that kind of “out-of-the-litter-box” thinking that Chuck Patton said created Purrfect Day Cafe. Well, perhaps not the COVID-19 portion, but that hasn’t slowed down his mission to save homeless cats with once-uncertain futures.
Located at 25 West 8th St., in Covington, Kentucky, Purrfect Day Cafe just makes the community happy, said the 51-year-old self-dubbed “purrprietor,” who is unabashedly a cat person.
While cat cafes are a fairly new concept, they are growing by leaps and paws nationwide, said Patton, who first stepped inside a feline-trolling cafe while on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife a few years ago.
“At the time, you know, it just wasn't as mainstream as what it is today, although it's not significantly mainstream. So I went back and I just started getting obsessed. It was super creative. It made an impact,” the Louisville resident said.
"It was something that is just totally outside-of-the-box. And my wife looked at me and she goes, 'Louisville needs one of these. You need to do it. Like, I think you could totally pull this off,’” he remembered.
When the entrepreneur and co-owner of Traffic Builders Inc., left the marketing and advertising business after 23 years and sold his business in 2015, he was in search for his next chapter.
The Fort Thomas, Kentucky native, who now lives in Louisville with his wife, three cats, dog and two kids, had three goals for his next career move. It had to be fun, be different and be an industry disrupter, he said.
With that South Carolina cat cafe still in the corner of his mind, the Western Kentucky University graduate decided to take the pounce and opened his first cat-themed cafe, Purrfect Day Cafe in 2018, in the city known as being home to one of the biggest horse races in the country, the Kentucky Derby.
"So we, we started up our first location and it was very successful,” Patton said of his Louisville cat cafe.
“I’m really more of an animal lover than anything else. And I'd like to think that that reflects within the cafe. I wanted this cafe to be something that community-minded people and animal lovers in general, were going to like, and instead of it being, you know, maybe what somebody would consider traditional cat-crazy person or something like that,” he said.
But the cafe has more on the menu than food, drinks and cat company, he said.
It has a mission: To save cats’ lives and find them fur-ever homes through adoption.
"We have homeless animals everywhere,” Patton said.
His Louisville cafe works with 30 shelters or animal services in 27 different counties, including the Kentucky Humane Society, and serves as a sort of foster home to the cats until someone who frequents the cafe comes in to adopt them. And they go pretty quickly, he said.
After visiting his Louisville location, he said, the Kenton County Animal Services director asked if he would be interested in setting up shop in her neck of the woods as well.
With the success of his first location continuing to gain momentum, Patton started to set his sights on a second spot in his home region of Northern Kentucky, where he could feature local delicacies with kitschy names to match the cafe’s overarching and over-the-top cat-scape.
"It became evident to me when I when I started venturing into the Northern Kentucky area, that the Covington was kind of the up-and-coming kind of quirky, different area that could support this kind of concept,” Patton said.
With that, his Covington location opened its doors Oct. 13, 2020. It was Friday the 13th, he joked, adding that they also had 13 cat adoptions on opening day.
The Covington cafe works with nine regionally based shelters and animals services in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Specifically, he said, the cafe works with the director of Kenton County Animal Services, who organizes all of the adoptions and makes sure the animals are healthy and cared for medically.
Now, he said, instead of overflowing shelters full of cats, who would likely be euthanized, they have a chance at life and a loving, fur-ever home.
Walking into the cafe, you might not know what to expect. Will a cat pounce on you while you’re sipping a hot coffee? Will you need to fend off frisky felines while you nosh a scone? The short answer, is no.
The cafe is separated into two rooms: the cafe with food and drinks and the cat room, or kitty lounge, where you can sit among the cats that are up for adoption. And so far, Patton said, everyone who walks through the doors has embraced the unique concept.
"I really want this to be something that people say, 'Well, I'm not really a cat person.’ And then other people say, 'No, no, no, you need to go anyway. It's just a really unusual space.’ I want people to be overwhelmed. I want to embrace the newness of what it is the uniqueness of what it is,” Patton said.
When you walk inside the brightly colored kitty lounge, he said, you will be greeted by a series of windows, fluffy furniture and cats running around, amid other cafe-goers who are petting and cuddling cats.
Inside the 1,000-square foot kitty lounge, there are hiding spaces and several places to climb the walls amidst a Roebling Bridge mural. Patton described the room motif as, "fluffy cat meets industrial metal everywhere.” And that goes for the cafe’s bar area as well.
But his cafes and the mission behind them goes behind the fluffy furniture and exposed-metal decor.
Patton said the café gives them the ability and the space to socialize reclusive, once-scared or timid cats, which may otherwise be stuck behind bars, inside a crate at a local shelter.
“We can convert that animal into just a very loving, affectionate, outgoing pet that's going to go home and really acclimate very well. And the way that happens is when people are socializing that animal. If no one came in, except for adopters, this concept, in my opinion, would not work correctly,” Patton said. “You don’t have to be adopting to come here. You can just visit, love on cats to help the kitties.”
One example that came to mind for Patton was Tigger. He was shy and scared when he first stepped paw into the cafe.
"When he came in, he was so scared. He only sat in one basket. If you put your hand near him, he would just totally, like, twitch and kind of get away from you. And now that everybody's come in here and loved on him and petted him and played with him, he is one of the most social animals inside of the room,” Patton gushed. "And that would be an animal at times, that a shelter would say, ‘You know what, this animal's just not going to get adopted. He's too shy. He doesn't respond well with people.’ And heaven forbid, that might be an animal that they would put down.”
After a lot of love and affection from cafe patrons, Patton said, Tigger became a people cat, and was adopted last weekend.
"And that's why I love that portion of the cafe, too. I tell people that you don't have to be an adopter to come here. This is something that we need people that just come and visit. Come on in love on them. Go home, come back in a couple of weeks,” he suggested.
Cats, like Tigger, are among the 15-17 cats on site to visit at any given time, to pet, or adopt at the Covington location.
On average, he said, the cats, which are mostly adults, are fostered at the cafe about two weeks before they are adopted.
Covington has had 200 adoptions in three months, including nine last weekend; and Louisville has about 200 adoptions a month.
In 2020, Louisville placed 1,853 cats in homes, which topped what they accomplished the year prior and was the most cat cafe pet adoptions preformed in the country, Patton said.
"I think what was such an amazing piece to me is how much the community supported it, because the number of adoptions are just completely out the roof and, and it's just made a huge impact. So, it's been very rewarding,” he said.
The growing number of adoptions in the past year, he continued, is a direct reflection of COVID-19, making homeless animals, the “winners” amid an ongoing pandemic.
"We need healing. We want company,” Patton said about how COVID-19 has affected people and their need for pet therapy.
And the cafe, he said, was well-equipped with cleanliness pre-pandemic, because of cat hair, litter boxes, etc. So, with COVID-19 concerns, it is the purrfect spot to take a break from the outside world, he said.
Whether you have an allergy to cats, or are cautious about COVID-19, Patton said, his cafes are using all precautions and are prime spots for those who want to go out for a unique and safe experience.
The cafes are “very clean,” said Patton, acknowledging that they deep clean the kitty lounge three times a week — and are separate from the food and drink side of the cafe. The kitty lounge is situated inside an open-air, ventilated space, including a recirculating air system, amid high ceilings, behind closed doors.
For added safety, he said, they also limit the number of people inside the cat room at one time by reservation, and make wearing masks mandatory.
Beyond an über-clean kitty lounge and cat adoption, Covington’s menu includes eight local beers on tap, including the brew, “Here Kitty Kitty” from the local company, Braxton Brewing, as well as six wines and bourbon — a cash crop and staple industry for the Bluegrass State.
“I enjoy the creativity, the what I call, out-of-the-litter-box thinking,” Patton laughed.
The Covington cafe also offers an array of coffee, tea and several types of pastries and snacks from local bakeries, like hot German sourdough pretzels in the shape of their cat head logo from Tuba Baking Company.
"I think the best part about it is just the way that it makes the community happy. I enjoy the impact it makes. It’s such a happy place,” Patton said.
But his favorite part in his new business venture is watching the people and the cats mingling.
“What I enjoy the most, is watching a young couple fall in love with their very first animal… or the little girl or little boy that comes in, and just the smile on their face. I've had people cry in that (cat) room; I've had marriages in the room. I’ve had proposals in the room. And it's just, it's something that has been such a happy place for both Louisville and Covington,” Patton said.
If you want a sneak peek of the cats before you visit Covington’s kitty lounge, you can visit its Instagram page for all the furry faces up for adoption on their Instagram.
While the cafe is open to anyone with a hankering for a Valentine’s Day special, “Smitten Kitten” hot cocoa and cherry, a catty cocktail, hot shot of caffeine or a cat-punned bakery treat — you do have to book your visit online for the kitty lounge, so that the staff can manage the human-to-cat ratio at one time, as well as limit crowding during the pandemic. The cost per person, per hour for the cat room is $15.
Purrfect Day Cafe in Covington is located behind Braxton Brewery in the 8th Street Commons, and the Louisville location is at 1741 Bardstown Road. Both locations are open Tuesdays-Fridays from noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.