In its first year, Colony Cafe hosted three marriage proposals, a cat-themed 16th birthday party and a sorry-you-were-laid-off party.
“We’re just trying to be a little respite in the city,” co-owner Sue Hendrickson said.
Its made some changes, too: Beer was added to its menu. Pittsburgh Winery created a private label wine for the cafe. Colony started doing events such as brunch or beer tastings — with cats, of course.
Co-working is welcome now in the cat loft, where people can sit for two or three hours — longer than a typical hourlong visit. There’s wifi, but no guarantee that the cats won’t be a distraction or that they won’t walk on laptops.
Also in its first year, the Strip District cafe helped 98 cats (as of Wednesday) find forever homes through its partnership with Animal Friends.
As Colony celebrates its one year anniversary on Feb. 16, Pittsburgh’s second cat cafe is preparing to open its doors, too.
Black Cat Market, which has been in the works since before Colony opened, is expected to open as soon as next month, co-owner Indigo Baloch said.
The Lawrenceville cafe will host adoptable cats from Humane Animal Rescue and hopes to attract more college students and to host events focused on literacy and pet therapy for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, she said.
There’s enough room here for two cat cafes, since the goal is getting more cats adopted, Baloch said, citing support of Black Cat since it was just an idea on Facebook.
At 6 p.m. Feb. 23, Black Cat, 5171 Butler St., is having a preview event so people can see the space, listen to live music, try food and meet some cats that will be there just for the event as the finishing details are put on the space, said Baloch, whose business partner is Olivia Ciotoli.
Having cats in a home-like environment has proved successful in getting them adopted.
A few years ago, Animal Friends tried its own daylong cafe, where cats roamed in a room while visitors had coffee and bagels, spokesperson Shannon Tremblay said. But it wasn’t something Animal Friends could do all the time, so partnering with Colony helped get more cats — especially adults — adopted and frees up space at Animal Friends.
When cats are in the shelter, they are well-cared for by staff and volunteers, but the smells and noises can still be stressful for any animal, Tremblay said. But Colony’s second-floor cat loft is a more home-like environment, with cats hopping on visitors’ laps and behaving as they would in a home.
Loft visits, which can host up to 12 cats and 10 people at a time, provide hands-on interaction with the cats and a way to get to know their personalities, Hendrickson said. It’s also a no-pressure way to meet cats regardless of plans for adopting, though they’re all in need of a home and range from six months to 10 years old.
Overall, Colony, 1125 Penn Ave., is about bringing joy to visitors, Hendrickson said. “We’re just trying to be a bright spot on this sad, bail-bonds block.”
Meet seven cats who found homes through Colony.
Joe Friday and Hulk Hogan
Now a regular at Colony, it was several visits before Dawn Pecanis of the North Hills adopted her first Colony cat. And with a soft spot for special needs cats, she now has two from the cafe.
Joe Friday, an orange cat with one eye, was found by a police officer so he was named for the detective from Dragnet.
Pecanis later adopted Hulk Hogan, a black-and-white cat with a bad eye and a heart murmur.
When Teighlor Rice of Cranberry walked into the cat loft at Colony, she noticed Kingsley, who was ruling the room from his own mountain (aka the beanbag chair).
The 10-year-old cat with no teeth is aloof, but also has a really silly personality, Rice said, adding that she liked that he’s not clingy. And now, he has two “mountains” at home with Rice — the cat tower and the foot of the bed.
Kathleen Shoaff of South Park wasn’t looking for a cat when she went to Colony, but if she did get one, she wanted an older cat because they tend to get less attention than the kittens. But then she and her husband met the cute and playful kitten Sunspot.
After adopting her, they changed her name to honor former First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Jackie is super cuddly and doesn’t seem to care about being an only cat, Shoaff said.
When Erica Issac of Washington, Pa. met Limestone at Colony, she “couldn’t leave without him.”
“He’s the most affectionate cat I’ve ever been around,” she said, adding that he loves to follow his people around. Limestone is now Levon, a reference to the Elton John Levon song and to musician Levon Helm of The Band.
Roland and Penny
Victoria Groce of Point Breeze regretted not adopting Roland, a black-and-white cat, the first time she saw him at Colony. He was adopted, but then returned to the cafe and Groce wasn’t missing her second chance.
Her family also wanted a second cat, and because the staff at Colony knew the cats and how they interacted, they were able to recommend Penny, a black cat. Both have distinct personalities, Groce said. “Roland is the sweetest cat and loves to be pet,” and “Penny is not afraid of anything and is a little kamikaze.”