NEKO is one of Seattle's favorite cat cafés. Visit this Capitol Hill spot to snuggle a new feline friend and stay for a drink and some kitty-themed snacks.
"You basically get to hang out for 45 minutes with the cutest little beans in the whole world," says Rae Kearns, the MarCATing coordinator for NEKO.
Kearns gave me a tour of the cat room, which holds 10-15 kitty friends at a time. One new resident, Doja, didn’t hesitate to make her presence known.
"Ma’am," said Kearns, responding to Doja’s loud mews. "I may have to hold her so she’s not yelling."
After picking up Doja, Kearns then introduces me to the rest of the residents, including Holly, Chef Boyardee, Polly Pocket, and Zest.
"He is basically one giant noodle," says Kearns. Zest is a permanent resident at Neko Cat Café, and helps new kitties acclimate to the environment.
"I love you, I missed you," said Caitlin Unsell, founder of NEKO Cat Café to Zest.
Unsell lives in Bellingham, where she and her partner Corey recently opened a second café location. So this was a welcome reunion.
"I don’t get to see you enough, do I?" asked Unsell. "You’re such a good boy."
Caitlin and Corey came up with the idea for NEKO when they were living in Japan.
"We started going to cat cafes in Japan, which are super popular there and have been for quite some time. I just instantly fell in love with a concept," said Unsell.
They opened NEKO Cat Café in Seattle five years ago.
"Now we are here and it is just purr-fect," laughs Unsell.
The café attracts quite the kit and caboodle, including visitors from Minnesota, Portland and, of course, Seattle residents who happen to pass by.
"I've got to take a picture of these cuties. Oh my gosh, that is so awesome," squealed a Capitol Hill neighbor.
Kearns recognizes a universal draw to their space.
"It's really funny, we have people from all over the world who speak completely different languages, and everyone kind of makes the same sound when they come in and see a whole room full of cats," said Kearns.
The best part of NEKO Cat Café? Almost all the cats are available for adoption. NEKO partners with Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) to help give cats the space to meet potential adopters. To date, NEKO has helped almost 400 cats find their forever home.
Unsell says the space is a 'cat heaven' to help shy kittens blossom.
"By the time they get adopted, they've gone from this terrified little kitty to this complete, beautiful, loving, amazing creature that now gets to be in their forever home," said Unsell.
"We've had so many people cry of happiness in this place," said Unsell. "I could cry about it right now. It's just the best job in the world, for sure."
Megan Murnane is a photographer and editor (and cat correspondent) for Seattle Refined. Say hello at Murnane@SeattleRefined.com.