Cat cafe set to open in Grand Rapids

GVL / Audra Gamble

GVL / Audra Gamble

pageone and Meghan McBrady

In 2016, Grand Rapid residents will be able to sip a gourmet espresso and eat flaky pastries, while a purring cat reclines in their lap.

Happy Cat Café Co., one of Michigan’s first cat cafés, is the brainchild of Kati Palmurkar, a 2013 graduate from Grand Valley State University. A lifelong cat lover and volunteer, she developed the idea of owning a cat café due to the success of California and New York’s cat cafés.

“At first, some people thought I was crazy, but our success on our Facebook page with 2,500 fans in our first three days, and almost 4,000 followers in a month has proven that this is a concept that Grand Rapids wants,” Palmurkar said.

A concept that started in Taiwan in the late 1990s, a cat café is part coffee shop, part adoption center. Patrons pay an hourly fee to interact with cats within a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Placing their orders in the non-cat section of the café, cat-lovers will then go to the storefront area, which is separated from the coffee shop, to play with the felines.

Palmurkar, who majored in biology at GVSU, said that due to landlord restrictions, pet-free campuses, allergies or lack of commitment, the café offers a place for college students to “rent a cat” for an afternoon. She also indicated that studies have shown that interacting with pets, especially cats, is beneficial for human health.

“Benefits include lower risk of cardiac problems, lower risk of allergies in children, alleviation of depression and anxiety and improved bone density,” she said.

Katie Gabier, a 2015 graduate of GVSU, said that she is extremely excited about the themed café’s opening.

“It’s a great way to plat with a cat before you adopt it and a great place to advertise the adoption of pets,” Gabier said.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), of the cats entering shelters around 41 percent of the cats are euthanized due to limited space.

Because of the comfortable and inviting atmosphere of Happy Cat, the 10 to 15 cats that will be fostered, providing relief in local shelters, will socialize with their potential adopter in a home-like environment and gives the cats a second chance at adoption.

“A cat café saves the life of the cat being fostered, the life of the cat that can take its place in the shelter, and improves the chances that both cats will get adopted by giving the public awareness to pet adoption,” Palmurkar said.

Palmurkar plans to spend her and her husband’s savings to open the café. A Kickstarter campaign is also planned for mid-July to raise funds.

“If Grand Rapids and GVSU supports the Kickstarter, we can have the confidence that the public will support our start up in the future,” she said. The money from the Kickstarter isn’t going to make the café happen, but make it the best cat café it can be.”

To donate to Palmurkar’s Kickstarter or for more information about Happy Cat Café Co., visit or