State Press Places: Unconventional relaxation found at a cat lounge

La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique offers students an alternative outlet for stress

Within walking distance of the ASU Tempe campus lies Arizona's first cat café, La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique, which seeks to provide a space for relaxation and an outlet for cat adoption. This cat lounge harbors over two dozen cats at any point in time, and patrons are encouraged to come and relieve their stresses all-the-while establishing a relationship with any one of the café's cats. Though La Gattara mainly serves as a sort of "safe space" with cats, it also hosts a variety of events that may be enticing to any ASU student in search of a memorable night. In addition, the café accommodates with a student's interest in mind, providing student discounts, semester passes and free Wi-Fi. 

La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique offers anyone the chance at quelling their woes through a sort of feline-inspired therapeutic experience while simultaneously acting as an adoption center for what now adds up to hundreds of cats.

    

Alfred Varela: 

Cat lovers of ASU may rejoice as the up-and-coming La Gattara Cat Lounge & Boutique sits within blocks of the Tempe campus, and delivers on being an unique alternative to traditional relaxation methods with an experience you won’t soon forget. 

Melissa Pruitt: 

So, I would describe it as basically it’s kind of like a lounge space. You can come in, we’ve got about 25 cats, they’re free roaming, no cages. You can come in and sit and chill on bean bag chairs with them. We listen to Reggae music pretty much most of the time in here just because, I don’t know I feel like Reggae and cats go along together. I equate it with like, this is like a place that’s like real life Prozac. You come in, and just kind of relax. We have different events, and all the cats are for adoption, but you don’t have to adopt, you can just come and hang out so if you can’t have cats at home or if your spouse is allergic. We have about 25 cats on any given day here up for adoption through a non-profit rescue, and since we’ve been open we’ve adopted 235 cats. 

So I’m Missy (Melissa) Pruitt and I’m the owner of Arizona’s first cat cafe, we are called La Gattara Cat Lounge and Boutique. 

Alfred Varela: 

As cat lounges are a relatively new phenomenon to the U.S., you may still be asking yourself, how exactly does this work? What does an experience at the cat lounge look like in practice? 

Melissa Pruitt: 

We do have an entrance fee of $10 per hour so we always recommend that people go online and make reservations, but like these guys just walked in and it’s not busy right now. And so, you stay for an hour some people stay for a long time — we have students that come that stay all day and that do like a student day pass. We have Wi-Fi so you can come do your homework. We have birthday parties where you can come and do a birthday party, but then, yeah you just hang out with the cats. 

Alfred Varela: 

No one can doubt that a cat lounge, at least in this part of the world, isn’t something you see every day, let alone something people are in a constant search for. So one has to wonder, where does the idea for a cat lounge even spring from?

Melissa Pruitt: 

I’ve always been a cat person. I’ve rescued cats since I was a little kid, and then I went to Japan in 2008 and saw cat cafes and I was like “well, that’s never going to happen in America,” but then the first one opened in Oakland in 2014 and I happened to be friends with the person that opened it. So then I was like “well this can happen, I can do this in Arizona.” So even if I have only adopted out 235 cats, at least you’re saving one. 

So there’s one in almost every major city now, yeah California’s got at least 6 now. Yeah, every major city has a cat cafe of sorts, but they may not have (a) full on like Coffee Bar, it might just be like different like, Chicago has a new one called the Catcade and it’s an arcade cat cafe. So you can go and play video games and hang out with cats. 

Alfred Varela: 

Despite the preconceptions that may be brewing in your head in terms of the type of people you may find at a cat lounge, you may rest assured that La Gattara harbors more than your stereotypical cat lover. 

Melissa Pruitt: 

You know you would think that it would be crazy cat ladies and all these women, but it’s not. We have every single kind of person that comes here. So we’ve got kids, we’ve got men, women, older people, all kinds, I mean it’s just — everybody. So it’s kind of cool, because the first thing I hung up in here was a safe space poster that you can come in here and this is a judgement free zone. You can come in here and feel completely like leave all your problems outside. So I think that that’s been like, something cool for people to come in and just kind of like know that they cannot be judged and just come and hang out and relax.

Alfred Varela: 

As compelling as simply relaxing with cats may be, the abundance of reasons so many make the trip to the cat lounge is truly what makes La Gattara so special.

Melissa Pruitt: 

Some people are like, for the, you know for the “Oh, cats!” But then some people do it for — they really do have anxiety or depression and they want to like feel better or they want to adopt a new cat or they want to bring a date here, or they want bring their friend here, or they want to bring, you know people bring people here for surprises all the time, you know. So different reasons, but mostly I think just to relax and kind of hang out. I think most of the people that have come here that have adopted cats don't necessarily come to adopt, but once they’ve come and hung out with the cats for a while they fall in love. Because, the difference is if you go to a shelter, and shelters are great, you know, they’re finding homes for cats, but the cats are in crates and cages and you feel bad so you’re going to adopt a cat and maybe you haven’t even gotten their personality and so then a month later they’re going to return the cat or put the cat outside. Whereas here, you’ve gotten to know that cat, you can come back on several occasions and visit, and actually know the cat's personality, so kind of cool. 

Alfred Varela: 

Though the cat lounge mainly serves as a place for relaxation with 20-30 feline friends, they host a myriad of events that may be enticing to any ASU student in search of a memorable experience. If yoga, painting and knitting classes, drag queen bingo, cat prom, speed dating, movie showings, birthday parties and even weddings all hosted within the cat lounge aren’t enough for you to consider checking out, allow Melissa to explain in her own words why any ASU student should make the trip.

Melissa Pruitt: 

So for ASU students this is like an amazing place. So we’re right, what? Two blocks away from ASU? And we have tons of student discounts where you can come and do like semester passes or spend a day here and do your homework. We have the Wi-Fi. If you live in the dorms you can’t have a cat unless you have a therapy cat that you’ve worked really hard to get into the dorms. So we have a lot of ASU students that come here and just hang out, and sometimes they fall asleep with the cats, and it’s pretty funny. But it’s just fun, it's just a fun thing to do with your friends at night. The one thing we are going to do is a Dungeons and Dragons cat themed night or something. It’s going to be fun, so that’s this next month. But yeah I mean this is a great place to come for, just to relax after a stressful week of school or just, you can come and do homework here. So yeah, pretty cool place. 

Alfred Varela: 

For the State Press, I’m Alfred Varela.

Music: www.bensound.com


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Reach the reporter at amvarel3@asu.edu and on Twitter @avstatepress.

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