I came across The Caffeinated Cat for the first time while sniffing around Jacksonville Beach. Having never been to a cat cafe before, I had no idea how it worked. Do I approach them? Do I wait for them to approach me? Would it be butt-sniffing shenanigans all over again, except with cats? 

It turns out, for obvious reasons, me and my canine cronies are not allowed inside. Still, I peered through the window and barked with some humans-in-the-know about what makes this new cafe special. 

To say I was fascinated with the idea of cat cafes would be an understatement. A place combining the coziness of a coffee shop with the playful, comforting feels that come with being around cats—but what do I know, I’m a dog. 

Cat cafes have been popping up around the globe since the late 90s, and have recently made their way to several U.S. cities in hopes of matching rescue cats with loving homes. This quickly became Caffeinated Cat owner Tammy King’s mission when she opened her very own in Jacksonville Beach.  

King, the founder of nonprofit Mayport Cats, says her model is a little different than other cat cafes. It’s mainly a rescue group that owns the cafe, which sells coffee, tea, and wine to help support and pay for the needs of the cats. Not only do King and her staff look after the cats, but they are also enthusiastic about educating people on proper cat-handling techniques. “This will help the bonding process,” she says, “as well as ensure safety for the cats and the guests.” These dedicated folks also help advocate for the often-overlooked kitties who tend to require more TLC than the typical picks of the litter.

One goal of the cafe is to provide a casual and comfortable setting for people to get acquainted with their potential new best friend. But you don’t have to adopt: you can just hang out and watch them play.

The Caffeinated Cat aims to promote relationships with cats, so patrons are encouraged to spend time with the cuddly clowder (that’s a fancy word for a group of cats). The lounge currently features ten cats of all ages who will live at the café until they are adopted. Like humans, each cat has a unique personality. Some crave attention and like to play, while others are independent and prefer chilling on a top shelf. Interactions tend to be better if the cat calls the shots and initiates contact–noted!

The cafe offers a coffee bar on one side of the shop that serves specialty drinks where patrons can experience a “Black Cat” (AKA a shot of espresso) or decaf drinks deemed “neutered” (I get it!).  

On the other side, separated by a glass wall, is a room where cats roam free and show off their personalities to prospective adopters. The space is carefully designed to include plenty of places to climb, scratch, and explore and a comfy spot for visitors to sit and play with the cats. 

All the cats and kittens at The Caffeinated Cat are rescue felines who are fully vetted and available for adoption through the rescue organization, Mayport Cats. The organization works to save cats facing homelessness on the streets and care for them until a home can be found. 

In the coming months, the cafe will host special events to highlight the shop and raise funds to help offset the cost of veterinary bills for the cats, as well as encourage more adoptions and free space to rescue more cats.

Whether it’s to let people (not dogs, unfortunately for me) enjoy cat company or to promote adoption, The Caffeinated Cat is having a positive impact for both cats and people in Northeast Florida.

This feature originally appeared under the headline “Caffeine Kick of the Litter” in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 7, November 2019’s “Do Good.” issue.