There’s a new café in St. Louis, where you can get a cappuccino and your cat fix.
The spot opened in November and already is so popular that if you’re interested in going, you’ll need to book your visit early, co-founder Dana Huth said.
“We’ve had some waits as long as an hour to get in just because it’s a limited space and we don’t want to overcrowd it,” Huth said.
‘I like fuzzy stuff’
When you first step in to Mauhaus, the front room seems pretty much like a regular coffeehouse — with a few specialty items like gingerbread cats and catnip tea.
On a recent day, just a few minutes after the doors opened at 11 a.m., Ian Kaburakis, 10, and his sister Sophia, 8, stare into the next room — the cat lounge — while waiting for their mother Kristin to order as their grandmother looks on.
They can hardly wait to get on the other side of the glass, where the cats are batting toys and bathing themselves.
“I’ve never been here before but it looks really nice and the cats look fuzzy,” Ian said. “And I like fuzzy stuff.”
So does his sister.
“I love any animal, especially if they’re furry and if you can pet them,” Sophia said. “And we have two goldfish so you can’t really pet them or anything."
While they waited, Sophia and Ian went over the rules.
“We have to sanitize our hands,” Sophia said.
“We can’t chase the cats around and we can’t hug the cats until their eyes pop out,” Ian joked.
‘Move the food, not the cat’
Inside the cat lounge are 10 cats, tables, chairs, dozens of high lookout posts and small escape routes to let the cats get away from the crowds.
Customers often reserve their hour-long stay in advance, through the Mauhaus website. It costs $10 a person but that money can go toward food and drink.
Health Department requirements include a double door separating the food prep and service from the cat lounge. There are two types of insurance policies: one for a restaurant and another typically usually used for petting zoos.
“It’s expensive,” Huth said. “More than I thought.”
Mauhaus doesn’t rely solely on sales of café items to meet its budget. Huth and Ben Triola, her partner in life and business, raised $36,000 through a Kickstarter campaign — twice their goal. Purina provides much of the cat food.
“Mauhaus” is a reference to the German Bauhaus art movement and to the sound cats make, of course. But the cats don’t meow very often, said Clayton Hankamer, who manages the cat lounge.
“Most of the noise comes from people here,” Hankamer said. “The cats are very quiet.”
Hankamer is quick to respond — and break the relative quiet — when someone breaks a big rule, as Ian and Sophia’s grandmother inadvertently did.
“Please, please, please: don’t let her eat people food,” Hankamer told her.
Hankamer whisked away a small black cat name Vivian to yank a bit of pastry from her mouth.
The children’s mother, Kristen Kaburakis, was confused.
“They jump on the table and then you yell at us — so what are we supposed to do?” she asked.
“I just need you to keep an eye on your beverages and your food,” Hankamer said.
The Kaburakis family hurried out the door, leaving unfinished drinks. Hankamer said when a cat jumps on a table and goes for the food, there’s only one way to handle it: put the food on another table.
“Move the food, not the cat,” Hankamer said.
Another rule to know: Don’t bring your own cat. No outside felines are allowed.
But most trips to the cat café likely will end with satisfied customers. On Lauren Svoboda’s first visit, she made a friend within minutes.
“This one just kind of climbed up into my lap and he doesn’t want to get up,” Svoboda said. “He seems super-sweet, super-chill.”
Svoboda was there with her boyfriend Brian Strode.
“It’s our second anniversary,” Strode said. “We came here to celebrate.”
Svoboda and Strode have two cats at home: Karen and Jeff. They’d love to have more. But their lease limits them to just the pair, Svoboda said, as she ate a chocolate chip scone enjoyed a pour-over coffee.
“I inhaled it,” Svoboda said. “Partly because I wanted to get back to playing with the cats.”
Svoboda plans to return soon with her mom and her brothers.
“I’ll be back, multiple times, I’m sure,” Svoboda said.
Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL