BREMERTON — Kitsap County’s first cat café is providing a comfy space for adoptable cats to stay temporarily and enjoy the company of other kitties while offering opportunities for people to approach and play with them.
Pawl, a 5-year-old male cat, had always been hiding when a human came close. And Poppy, a three-month-old female cat, had been hissing and growling at other cats. After moving into a new “cat lounge” with other kitties around for a few days, their personalities changed and soon became socialized and easy to interact with, said Sam Finley of the Humane Society of Mason County, who witnessed the change.
Pawl, Poppy and nine others were the first group of kitties transferred to Ziggy’s Cat Lounge, a cat café that fosters and showcases adoptable cats in Bremerton. All cats were sent by the Humane Society of Mason County, a Belfair-based nonprofit that offers assistance and care to displaced or abused animals. The organization, without enough space to provide a shelter, mainly relies on foster families to take care of animals. Some were stray cats. Some were kittens sent by families who couldn’t afford to raise more.
Now, the 11 cats have a wider space to roam around.
“This is why we’re doing it is because we want our cats that are here for their personalities to come through,” said Shannon Gabel, one of the owners of Ziggy’s Cat Lounge. “You can actually see them and interact with them, instead of them being in a cage and kind of just judging them on their cuteness.”
The cat café is located at 3627 Wheaton Way, north of Grocery Outlet and south of Kitsap Transit’s Wheaton Way Transit Center. Shannon and her husband, Shane, found the property last year, renovated the space and were ready to host a grand opening for Ziggy’s Cat Lounge on Saturday.
“The quickness of the socialization in a room where all the cats can mingle is amazing,” said Finley, who visited the cat room in Bremerton on Monday to bring the 11th cat to the space full of cat trees, cat shelves and a “bunk bed” with cat mats on it.
Finley said that currently the organization has over 80 animals, including cats and dogs, waiting to be adopted. The space provided by the cat café would help the organization ease some stress of finding foster homes for their animals.
“It’s overwhelming, but really nice,” Shane said on Monday. The couple didn’t have experience running a cat café before, but so far they received positive feedback from people who attended the soft opening, he said.
An ‘out of the blue’ opportunity for cat lovers
Last spring, the Gabels received some money after Shane’s mother passed away and her house was sold. The couple decided to use the windfall to do something good for the community. As animal lovers who raise two cats, Eva, 9, and Ellie, 5, at their home in Port Orchard, the couple had visited a cat café in Seattle, had a great time, and wanted to create such space on this side of the water, Shannon said.
“It was very out of the blue,” said Shannon. “I figured, you have some money, let’s make something out of that…make it a positive experience for not just us but for our entire community. And then make it even better because we’re helping cats,” she said.
When making the plan, Shane said he visited several cat cafés in Washington and San Diego to form ideas for the design and operations.
Inside the café is a bar that will serve espresso, drip coffee, beer, non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and other products from local bakeries or donut shops. All customers can walk in to grab a drink and see the kitties from the window outside a separate cat room.
Those who wish to enter the cat lounge will have to book an appointment on the cafe’s website to secure a 45-minute timeslot. Each person will pay $15 for the visit to the cat room and the maximum number of customers inside the cat lounge would be six people per timeslot, the owners said.
All ages are welcome, but human food is not allowed in the cat room.
All the ideas won’t become reality without the funders’ support in the community. The owners set up a crowdfunding website for the project and there were over 100 people who contributed financially to open Ziggy’s, Shannon said. Some of their names now hang on the “founder’s wall” in the café.
Since Shannon and Shane both have other jobs — Shannon works part-time at a dental clinic and Shane at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard — they will collaborate with volunteers to run the place. So far, they have a list of volunteers that expressed high interest to contribute their time to Ziggy’s, Shannon said.
The Gabels want to create a space where people can hang out, smile, and feel positive and relaxed for a few minutes with cats, they said.
“It’s going to be a super positive experience and memory-making,” Shannon said.
“Also, we want it to be really great for the cats. They seem to be happy so far,” Shane said.
Ziggy’s is open Wednesday to Friday, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.