Even though Capitol Hill’s cat cafe Neko has been temporarily closed for months due to the pandemic, the furry residents are hanging out there. Co-founder Caitlin Unsell says most of the cats were adopted when all restaurants, bars, and coffee shops were closed for indoor service in the spring, but those that were put in foster care have now returned to the cafe.
The cats receive visits from caretakers who feed and give them love, but for the most part, they are left to their own devices, as the cafe starts planning to reopen for humans within the next few weeks. (Despite rumors a few weeks ago that there was some property damage during area protests, the space is all intact.) Neko’s second location, up in Bellingham, is currently open to the public, with reduced occupancy, social distancing, and other COVID-19 guidelines in place.
When Neko opened in 2017, it was one of a few cat cafes in Seattle, following a worldwide trend originating in Asia, where patrons sip coffee, eat snacks, and interact with adoptable felines. Wallingford’s Meowtropolitan and a small cafe attached to Emerald City Kitty Harbor shelter in West Seattle are also closed to the general public. Meowtropolitan also still houses some kitties in its cat-designated area, and has converted the cafe side into a mask production facility.
Meanwhile, those looking for a pet can still adopt the ones chilling at Neko. Among the pairs of cats are Sake and Ella, and Freda and Daisy (all 2 years old). According to Unsell, “Sake is an incredibly kind and playful old soul,” Ella is a snuggler, Freda “is the mother of the house,” and Daisy is a “wild child.” All four have been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). Though most cats with FeLV are able to live long and happy lives, they’ll still need a little extra TLC, and are adopted at lower rates. Since opening, Neko has dedicated the space to cats with the disease.