In 2014, Danielle Rasmussen — long a cat lover and cat owner — attended the Twin Cities' annual Cat Video Festival.
So did 10,000 other people.
When Rasmussen heard the numbers, it was the convincing she needed.
"I thought: 'The Twin Cities need a cat cafe,' " she said. "The interest was obviously there. That pushed us into serious mode."
Now, that early vision — one she and partner Jessica Burge had already been mulling for months — has come to fruition. The Cafe Meow, the Twin Cities' first cat cafe, debuted in Uptown with a grand opening Friday.
"Cats are wonderful, but people don't really have a public place to explore that interest or enjoyment," Rasmussen said. "There are dog parks, and people can bring their dogs onto patios and now there are even breweries where people can bring them."
But the concept of animals and food/drink as a business plan — a trend that exploded in Japan and has in recent years spread throughout the United States — seems complicated.
So how does a cat cafe even happen?
Well, somewhat slowly. First came the battle for the appropriate licensing. Cafe Meow has two separate licenses: one for the coffee shop side, which is classified as a restaurant, and one for the cat side — which is separated by walls and a set of double doors and is classified as a pet shop. Rasmussen and Burge also had to acquire a kennel license and started a community petition to avoid being classified as an animal shelter, which would have affected the kind of facility they could occupy.
Rasmussen and Burge signed the lease at 2323 Hennepin Av. S. in October — in a former video game store — and the interest has ballooned.
Here's how it works: Cats join the cafe from three different rescue organizations around the Twin Cities. Cafe Meow can take 15 at one time. If cafegoers want to adopt a cat, Cafe Meow will connect them with the appropriate rescue organizations. Cats staying at the cafe will live in that space, which is built out with custom cat furniture, full-time.
As for the, ahem, litter boxes, they'll be hidden — inside custom cubbies that patrons likely won't notice. The cat-loving baristas will split their time between sides.
Patrons can purchase coffee drinks, hot teas and pastry items in the cafe — yes, there will be cat-shaped macaroons and cat cupcakes — then take them over to the cat side if they wish, for a fee of $10. Since Cafe Meow is allowing only 10 to 15 people in the cat room at a time, reservations are encouraged.
Rasmussen reiterated that the cafe side looks like just any other coffee shop.
"If you just want a drink, you don't have to go to the cat side," Rasmussen said. "You can just come in and get a coffee."