It’s arrived. And there’s no better place for it to thrive than in “keep it weird” Portland. What is it? The cat café. A place for locals to relax with a pastry or beer and have some good old fashioned feline time. Decide one of them is just too cute for words? Well then indulge your need for a furry companion by adopting one of the precious kitties. Welcome to Purringtons, the Pacific Northwest’s first cat lounge.
Opened just one month ago by Kristen and Sergio Castillo, this claw-some new establishment combines the local flavor of a Portland bar and lounge with the moral imperative of cat adoption. It’s a combination so brilliant that Purringtons is having a problem keeping up with the demand.
“Our cats are a little on the low side,” Kristen states with a slight wince. “We have seven now, but hopefully we get more in over the weekend. We’re adopting them out faster than we can get them in. It’s a lovely thing, but we’re not much of a cat café without cats in our cat lounge.”
The end of 2014 was a heavy month for cat adoptions in Portland, perhaps bad timing in light of Purrington’s January grand opening. “They had a record month in December,” Sergio says. “That’s beyond the norm for them, so you get the sense that there’s a lot of interest in adoptions.”
Purringtons is working with the Cat Adoption Team, a non-profit based out of Sherwood. They’re a no kill shelter that finds homes for potential feline family members. In cases when Portland shelters are cat-free, such as end of last year, the Cat Adoption Team has no qualms rescuing them from thousands of miles away.
“Our last group we got came in from Utah,” Kristen says. “There were thirty-five cats who’d driven 17 hours to get here. We got five from that group.”
So how exactly does a cat café work? While this may be the first in Portland, it’s not the first in the world. Kristen and Sergio actually got their inspiration from seeing a video of a cate café in Europe.
“I saw a video of a cat café in Paris,” Kristen says. “Kitties were walking around and people were playing with them and eating a salad. I had an epiphany in that moment. We thought Portland would be so receptive to this. So the next day I started making phone calls.”
Those phone calls would wind up leading to the obvious question: what needs to be done to get the thumbs up from the health inspector? There are a few other cat cafés in North America, but they don’t serve alcohol or fresh food. This is what would end up making Purringtons a truly one-of-a-kind establishment.
“We’re doing small plates,” Kristen says. “We have meat and cheese plates, a cashew dip with veggies which is all vegan. We were also really adamant about serving local beer and wines. That’s what sets us apart from other cat cafés in North America. They are all serving pre-packaged food and no alcohol.”
For those that have contamination concerns, worry not. Purringtons is laid out with the café on one side and cat lounge on the other. Both rooms are completely sealed off from each other.
“We have a hallway with two sets of doors,” Kristen says. “This way when people exit the cat lounge, if a cat escapes, it’s still sealed off from the café by another door.”
Keeping the cat lounge sealed off allows for fresh and local food, beer, wine, pastries and coffee. While cats are not allowed on the café side, patrons are free to bring their food or drink over to the cat lounge if they wish. For those seeking to eat in the café while still checking out the furry friends, there’s a long bar with a window looking into the cat lounge.
The lounge itself is a cat’s paradise. Cat towers, chairs, and toys are strewn about. At the back of the room is a small cat door that provides access to the cats’ bedroom, so to speak. This is the area where the cats’ beds and litters boxes are.
It too is separate from the lounge, so you don’t get a whiff of cat litter, and the cats don’t get a whiff of you, if they don’t want. Everything is segregated quite nicely. This is especially necessary for transitioning new cats into this environment.
“You can’t just bring the cats and drop them in there,” Sergio explains, gesturing to the lounge area. “They have to go through the back room first to get comfortable. Most of the cats go into the back room first and then work their way out. They all do it at a different time and you can’t force it.”
The opposite wall from the café side is painted with a huge mural of cats in space. There’s a giant cat in the middle evoking the Ziggy Stardust of old. Local artist Cathy Libnic, who’s constructed designs for the likes of Nike and Columbia Sportswear, completed the mural with her partner Hector Sanchez and fellow local artist Lance Lovett.
“We came to the building and there was no electricity,” Cathy says with a wistful smile. “The only electricity we had was from a generator. We hooked the laptop up to the projector and were projecting four- to five-foot by three-foot spaces. It ended up taking a few weeks to complete.”
The bizarrely captivating mural combines pop culture elements of music, flying saucers, and cats in space. It’s a visual romp through a unique juxtaposition of cats in culture.
With the all work put into opening this Portland first, has the community embraced it? “It’s been hopping,” Kristen says.
Patron Kait Heringes sits on a bench idly watching one of the cats as she explains her motivation patronizing Purringtons. “I’m from New Jersey,” she explains. “I just moved here in October and I saw an article about this place. I have a cat back home so I kind of wanted to just fill this cat void that’s in my life right now.”
If you’re needing to fill a void of the feline kind, or even if you just want to check out the newest cool thing that keeps Portland weird, check out the Purrington’s cat lounge. Reservations can be made for $8 per hour and walk-ins are discounted. All cats are available for adoption.
Purringtons is located at 3529 NE Martin Luther King Blvd in Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at their website or by calling (503)334-3570.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a published author and journalist who has been writing professionally for over nine years. He currently works from his home in Vancouver, Washington and is excited to bring you the best that the Portland restaurant scene has to offer.