By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Taiwanese American Andrew Hsieh and his four co-owners opened a “Disneyland for cats.”
Located in Wallingford, Seattle Meowtropolitan Cafe, the first cat cafe in the state of Washington, was opened in December 2015.
Hsieh wanted to open a cat cafe in Seattle because it was a good idea to him as there was a wave of cat cafes opening in other cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. at the time.
His co-owners, who are his classmates from the University of Washington (UW), are all of Asian descent. They knew that it was popular in Asian countries, including Japan and Taiwan, but never thought it would work in the United States.
He mentioned that the world’s first cat cafe opened in Taipei in 1998. The concept then spread to Japan and other countries in the world.
Making an impact
Seattle Meowtropolitan Cafe’s mission is to create experiences between humans and cats.
They further their mission by placing cats in need into nurturing homes, working with cat rescues and shelters, and providing resources to organizations dedicated to improving the lives of cats.
They work with their shelter partner, Regional Animal Services of King County, to house cats in the cat lounge.
All the cats living at the cafe are from the shelter, and they stay there until they’re adopted.
At any given time, Hsieh said there are up to 25 cats hanging out at the cafe, including nine resident cats.
“Throughout my life, I’ve always loved animals, but I never had a cat or dog, nothing bigger than a hamster because my mom is a clean freak. Anything that couldn’t be contained in an aquarium or container was not allowed. I never had a cat before opening the cafe, but now I have three cats, Squid, Batsy, and Tommy,” Hsieh said.
The cafe strives to educate visitors about cats’ needs for loving homes. They’ve created an entry point for people to create precious interactions and memories with the cats with the hope to inspire them to adopt or donate to benefit cats in need.
Hsieh said they lost count after the pandemic, but close to 400 cats have been adopted since the cafe’s opening.
People can regularly check their website to see which cats are available for adoption, and visit them at the cafe.
Reservations are recommended because spots are limited for the timed sessions to hang out with the cats. People can also walk in, but it’s first come, first serve. Thirty minute sessions are $9.99 each and the session allows for 12 people.
There are also cat yoga and meditation classes available for purchase as well.
They’re currently partnering with Circle of Friends, an organization that works with the UW, to host therapeutic painting classes in the cafe.
Persevering through tough times
During the pandemic, they had to shut down the whole business, but luckily the landlord was lenient on their rent.
Hsieh and his co-owners had to keep the space rolling so he and his friend turned the cafe into a temporary workshop for a mask making business. They sold the masks on Etsy and also started to sell cat-related merchandise.
During the pandemic, the team had to run very bare. In addition to paying for expenses of running the cafe, they plan on using a grant from Comcast RISE to improve the cat cafe, as well as add more ideas and activities to enhance the experience between the cats and visitors.
Hsieh explained that it was complicated to have both the cat area open with the cafe due to people wearing masks, so they just opened the cat area. They also recently resumed the cafe offerings with food and drink service in the summer of 2021.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.