Charm Kitty Cafe offers snuggle time with tiny floofball cats at this newly opened cat café in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, MD. Until recently, there had been only one cat cafe in Maryland: Kittens in a Cup, which opened earlier this year in Annapolis. Following a soft-opening and preview for Kickstarter backers, Charm Kitty Cafe officially opened to the public this past Caturday, September 30th.
What’s a Cat Cafe?
Cat cafés have been around for some time now. According to Wikipedia, the world’s first cat café, “Cat Flower Garden,” dates back to 1989 in Taiwan. Since then, the cat café concept has pounced on cities throughout the world.
Cat cafés come in many breeds—from bohemian style cafés with resident cats to sleek, metropolitan coffee shops. Many cafés, however, operate with the intention of placing surrendered and rescued cats in forever homes through adoption. For other cafes, the intention is more about providing a playful retreat where people can de-stress as they mingle with animals.
The Origin of Charm Kitty
The name is a play on Baltimore’s nickname, “Charm City.” Founder, Cam Tucker, came up with the plan to open Charm Kitty Cafe after visiting a cat café in a neighboring state. Looking for support in bringing this idea to life, Cam launched a Kickstarter campaign. Much to his surprise, the campaign more than exceeded expectations, and the original goal was met within 24 hours. Nearly 600 supporters backed this project, raising just over $27,000!
Through a partnership with the Baltimore Humane Society (a no-kill animal shelter), Charm Kitty Cafe operates with the goal of helping kitties get adopted. By essentially fostering cats, Charm Kitty Cafe frees up kennels at the Baltimore Humane Society (BHS) so fewer animals are turned away. Currently, they foster 8 cats at a time, but are investigating how to house more in the future. Already, one cat has been adopted and some families are amid talks of adopting some of the other kitties.
The comfort of the cats seems to be genuinely important to the folks at Charm Kitty Cafe. Beyond the standard cat hotels, toys galore, and plethora of fluffy places to perch, the café offers some clever amenities and feline-friendly design elements to ensure the cats are happy as can be. Columns wrapped in jute rope, for example, provide scratch pads, and cubbies from shelving create perfect nooks for relaxing.
If it fits, it sits.
Additionally, when selecting cats for the café, consideration is given to cats who are comfortable around people and other felines. All kitties are friendly and get along (relatively) well with one another. There did seem to be some side-eye thrown between a few kitties, but for the most part, they all seem comfortable with one another and in the space. With a reservation required, Charm Kitty Cafe can also ensure that too many people aren’t visiting the café at any one time. But as an added precaution, the space even offers a refuge room where cats can retreat at any point if people or other cats become overwhelming.
As a final testament to Charm Kitty Cafe’s concern for the welfare of the kitties in their space, Cam and others are currently working out the details for an emergency plan since the café is located in a floodplain. The Whitehall Mill, where Charm Kitty Cafe is located, is also home to office spaces and residences. Both employees and residents at Whitehall Mill have volunteered to coordinate efforts to ensure the safety of the cats should any occasion arise where that’s needed.
How it Works
I know what you’re thinking, “how do I get in on this!?”
As mentioned above, Charm Kitty Cafe requires a reservation to visit. During weekdays, reservations are $10. That fee increases to $12 on the weekends to accommodate higher demand. Reservations can be made for 90 minute sessions starting at 5:30 pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 7 pm on weekends.
In addition to hang-out sessions, Charm Kitty Cafe will host a number of special events, including yoga class and game nights, among talk of others.
The reason café hours don’t start until 5:30 pm on weekdays is because Charm Kitty will also function as a cat co-working space. No, I don’t think the cats are going to be put to work; rather, the space becomes a satellite office for students and entrepreneurs. Details about this feature are still forthcoming.
Oh Right, and Coffee
It’s a cat CAFÉ…of course there must be coffee! Charm Kitty Cafe is partnering with local coffee roaster, Zeke’s Coffee to provide hot java for guests. Because of health code regulations, the coffee cannot be prepared in the same space as the kitties, so they’re limited on how it can be made and served. Vegans should come expecting black coffee, as the fixings bar is still quite limited. Hopefully with time, the fixings bar can be expanded and upgraded to include non-dairy creamer and perhaps some other coffee additions to make this experience a bit more top-shelf.
There are also some themed cookies available from Dark Side Cookies. Currently, there are no vegan or gluten-free options, but these have been promised!
As someone who helped to kickstart Charm Kitty Cafe, I have been patiently awaiting its opening. I felt very lucky to get a sneak-peek at the space before the public opening. I also consider myself lucky to work in the same building, so I can gaze into the space and spot some kitties at any given time. Of course, I’m disappointed that the cafe won’t be open to the public during the workday, as I anticipated many a mid-day visit to de-stress. I’m also a bit dismayed by the underwhelming coffee experience, particularly for vegans. Of course, one visits the cafe for the kitties—not so much for the coffee—and the kitties are delightful!
All that being said, I absolutely love the idea and I think that Charm Kitty Cafe is a fantastic way to help kitties find new homes. The staff at Charm Kitty Cafe seems to seriously care for the happiness and well-being of the kitties in their space. It’s a business, for sure, but its mission seems pure. I also love the opportunity it presents to people who need work space and the fun events they’ll be hosting. Overall, my visit was a PAW-sitively splendid experience, and I wish Charm Kitty Cafe great success!