Cat Café Fact: Traditionally popular in North Asia, cat cafés can now be found in South Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. In Japan, where there are more than two hundred cat cafés, one in particular features black cats only. —Cat Café, Chapter 26
It wasn’t that so long ago that the words cat and café were only linked in an ailurophile’s dream. Now there are cat cafés all over the world with more than 100 in the United States, and counting.
Cat Cafés originated in Asia where only in recent years have cats come to be considered household pets. In Japan, for instance, cats were necessary to ward off mice but little more, relegated to the outdoors to take their chances. Then suddenly people’s attitudes began to change. There was an awakening appreciation of cats. Now their cat culture has grown exponentially. It’s not just Hello Kitty anymore!
So far I have only been to two cat cafés, El Gato Coffeehouse in Houston Texas and our local cat café Purrington’s Cat Lounge here in Portland Oregon. Though their layouts are very different, one occupying a refurbished older house and the other located in a modern, inner city building, the bottom line is the same- a pairing of the café and a local cat shelter with the purpose of giving visitors exposure to cats and finding those cats their forever homes at the same time.
Cat Café Fact: A cat café is a good place to begin to overcome ailurophobia (irrational fear of cats) because café cats are often chosen for their sociability. —Cat Café, Chapter 11
The cat café plays an important role in my new Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery, not-so-coincidentally titled Cat Café. The café, the Blue Cat, is entirely fictional, bearing no resemblance to either El Gato or Purrington’s. In the story, the owner, elderly Bea Landrew, is found murdered among her cats!
“A body is discovered on the floor of the cat café, and all the black cats are missing!”
I chose the location of the cat café for my latest book because the subject fascinates me. Online you can find post after post extolling cat cafés in various parts of the world— little cat universes, boasting cat art, cat décor, and even on occasion, cat books.
And we mustn’t forget cat-themed goodies! (For people, not for cats.)
The more I followed those posts, the more I knew one of these cat-centric meeting places should play a part in a Crazy Cat Lady mystery. My hero, sixty-something cat shelter volunteer Lynley cannon would love a cat café, and the story grew from there.
Cat Café Fact: Cat therapy has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood. Next time instead of a cocktail, consider a visit to a cat café! —Cat Café, Chapter 16
Designing my own fictional café was great fun, and since the Blue Cat gets a remodel halfway through the book, I got to do it twice. The first version is Bea’s cozy Victorian style of decor. Originally established as a teahouse, Bea had jumped on the cat café bandwagon as soon as she discovered the popular phenomenon. Here’s a quote from Cat Café:
“Behind a short strip of garden, the old house rose like a combination fairy castle and Gothic fortress. The three-story building had originally been built as a single-family dwelling for one of Portland’s founding fathers. The design was one hundred percent Victorian, down to the diamond-shaped shingles and the hand-tooled porch trim. When Bea Landrew bought it with an English teahouse in mind, she had restored its original gingerbread facade, choosing three authentic colors—burgundy, chartreuse, and a color I could only describe as baby-poo brown.
The Victorians believed in living high, and in this case, the builder had designated the second story to be the main part of the house, leaving the street level as a sort of basement area. Though the elaborate staircase that wound up to the grand front porch was quite passable, Bea had installed an elevator to transport teahouse customers who couldn’t, or didn’t, prefer to climb steps.
The rambling rooms, each decorated in old-fashioned style, made the teahouse a unique experience. One could sip a cup of fresh-steeped Darjeeling surrounded by flowing Art Nouveau opulence or share a pot of imported Earl Grey in the homey atmosphere of the old fashioned kitchen. It hadn’t taken long for Portland’s au courant to discover this one-of-a-kind rendezvous, and Bea had a success on her hands.
Then one day, Bea learned of a brave new twist on the tea-slash-coffee gathering spot. Generally known as cat cafés, there were places where people could come to hang out with cats. Most served food and drinks, but some just featured the promise of feline companionship. Like cats, each café had a distinct style of its own. Bea, a cat person through and through, thought it was the best idea she’d ever heard and quickly moved to renovating her teahouse to include the feline element. Tea For Me closed its doors, and a week later, the Blue Cat opened.”
The second incarnation of the Blue Cat is something very different. I won’t go into that now, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise!
Cat Café Fact: Though originating in Asia, cat-themed cafés have become popular all over the world, giving people a place to relax and interact with cats. A cat café will often partner with a cat shelter to provide adoption services for those who want to take their new furry friend home with them. —Cat Café, Chapter 1
The Cats of Cat Café:
As with most real cat cafés, The Blue Cat is partnered with a shelter, in this case Friends of Felines where Lynley is a long-time volunteer. The clowder fluctuates as cats get adopted by café clientele who come in and bond, but one cat in particular plays more than a passing roll in the story. Romeo, a robust gray with the distinctive rounded features of a Russian Blue, makes special friends with Lynley when she visits the café. Then later on, she finds Romeo in the most unexpected place:
“Suddenly out of the quiet came a sound that made my blood run cold. I knew that sound. I’d heard it many times, provoked by many causes, none of them good. The sound came again: the low, guttural growl from deep within the chest of a frightened cat.
I turned to the big Russian Blue. Romeo was at the far end of the counter half-hunched, half crouched as if ready to spring. His ears were flat to his head and his lips curled viciously, exposing considerable fangs. He was staring at a door at the back of the kitchen as if he’d seen a ghost. The door was slightly ajar. I listened, trying to determine what had alarmed him, but the only sound was his low, bone-chilling snarl.
Then there was another sound, loud and jarring, something falling, breaking, the shattering of glass. In a flash of gray, Romeo shot through the open door. I heard the gallop of big cat paws descending a flight of stairs, then a long, high-pitched yowl, the kind cats only give in mortal fear.
Without thinking, I ran to the door. “Romeo!” I called, but now it was quiet again, the silence unbroken by even the faintest mew.
“Romeo, kitty kitty…” I could see nothing past the first stair tread but assumed the flight led down to the café. I pawed the wall for a switch but this time came up empty. Again I cursed that I hadn’t brought my phone with its handy flashlight app, but light or no light, I knew what I had to do. I could no more ignore Romeo’s cry of terror than that of a lost child.
I started down the carpeted steps, gripping the handrail and blinking into the dark. The cry came again, shooting through me like a shockwave. There was a timbre to that hollow, mournful wail that made my skin crawl. Without thought, I plunged toward it.
That was my mistake…”
I promise that isn’t the last we see of Romeo.
Have you had an adventure at a cat café? I’d love to hear about it.
Continue the Cat Café Book Launch Blog Hop tomorrow with:
Nov. 1: Fun Questions with Amy Shojai, CABC
Amy Shojai, CABC
Nov. 2: Kathleen S. Mueller reviews Cat Café, and we chat about 1950’s trivia.
Traveling Dog Lady
Catch up of previous hop stops:
Oct. 29th– National Cat Day.
The 1st day of the hop starts with Jeffy Jeffy Bad Boy (and Dusty Rainbolt). I can’t wait to see what JJBB asks me!
Dusty Rainbolt’s Universe
Oct. 30th: Melissa Lapierre’s cat Mudpie interviews Lynley’s kitties, all 8 of them!
Blogger, Mochas, Mysteries and Meows
And if that’s not enough, I started a special Pinterest board for Cat Café. https://www.pinterest.com/lecatts/cat-cafe/
Are you excited yet? I am.
Launch date for Cat Café, the 5th Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery is October 29th, National Cat Day. Pre-order your copy now!
Find out more about Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer:
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/