“I love it here at the Catopia Cat Cafe,” Vanya says. Vanya has enormous gold eyes and a sleek, lithesome body with glossy black fur and an expressive tail. “There’s so much to do! You can sit in the window if you want, or catch a workout on the spinny wheel…” She points her whiskers at the One Fast Cat kitty treadmill in one of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. “I like to chat with my human guests best of all.”
Vanya wraps her tail around my ankle in a friendly way. “Hold up a sec, I see someone new. Just gotta go say hi,” she tells me as she prowls off to greet a customer. She sits on her haunches and screams an enthusiastic hello.
Meeting the Catopia residents
Snow is falling in the mountains outside ABQ, but the citizens of the Catopia Cat Cafe are comfy cozy in dozens of beds, houses, and fur-lined cat shelves. A 6-month old kitten skids around a playpen filled with colored balls. He catches my eye and launches himself at me, hurdling over the side.
“Hey, I’m Cardamom! This one time my brother Clove and me, we spent all night flipping the bouncy house and all the balls went like all over!!” Cardamom has a fluffy grey and white tail and tufts on his grey and white ears. I’m about to ask him more on the subject when he cuts me off. “OMG OMG OMG FEATHERS!” He gallops across the room, colliding with a grey and white kitten about his age. And I’ll bet that’s Clove. Together they pounce an interactive toy.
A burst of mews and growls ensues between the brothers, something about “I saw it first” “You can’t catch it and anyway I’m older than you”.
Muffin’s perspective on the Catopia Cat Cafe
“Kitten arguments. So predictable.” I hear a dry purr behind me and turn around. A brown tabby has one green eye on me, the other on my stuff. She tosses my pen to the floor and starts to chomp on my notebook. This is Muffin. I noticed her photo on the Catopia Cat Café Adoption Wall. Muffin’s fur is tawny with dark spots, almost as if she was created to camoflague herself perfectly into the desert landscape of New Mexico. She has a way of looking at you sideways and winking as if the two of you are in on a delicious secret.
“Do you get a lot of kittens at Catopia?” I ask. She’s really destroying my notebook. She shrugs.
“It’s a good mix,” she gnaws with her mouth full. “A few kittens. But we’ve got a few seniors too. Lucy there, she’s…” Her voice drops to a gossipy whisper as she leans in to slide her cheek against my hand. “Twelve! She doesn’t want anyone to know. But it’s right there on her bio! Scratch her butt and she’s yours. Hedonist.”
I look around the room and see Lucy enjoying a full-body massage from a blissful customer who looks at her with slavish devotion. In my opinion, Lucy doesn’t look a day over six. And that customer is super into her. She looks up at the man she came with, who tells her “but you already have three cats.” I think Lucy might find his opinion irrelevant. She’s made her selection.
Muffin’s origin story
I turn back to Muffin to ask how she came to live here. “Nothing dramatic. I retired from street life and I went to a foster. Then I put my name in for this gig, and I made the team.” She tries to be casual as she looks around at the Catopia Cat cafe around her. But I can tell she’s totally psyched to be here. Her big bright eyes hold more than a glimmer of self-satisfaction. I’ve met a lot of cat cafe cats. Muffin has done really well for herself, and she knows it.
Muffin stops tearing pages out of my notebook and settles herself closer to me, using my backpack as a cushion. “A little while ago we got some rescues from a hoarding situation. 29 cats in one home, can you imagine? They weren’t in great shape. Bismuth and Barillium already found a human. But Lithium and Cobalt are still here. Lithium takes care of all the cats here. Most of us never knew our fathers, so Lithium is like Daddy for us. That’s Cobalt hoovering up a Churu.” She points with her tail.
Cobalt and Lithium: because it’s ABQ
Cobalt samples his Churu with the deliberate dedication of a seasoned connoisseur. A human Catopia Cat Café caretaker named Micah kneels in front of him patiently, telling him he’s a good boy. Next to them lies Lithium, his eyes half-open, his nose quivering at the scent of lickable cat treats, but feigning disinterest like a pro. Lithium is playing Micah like a Stradivarius.
Muffin sees something and tears off across the room with a burst of wild energy and without a goodbye. I can’t help but admire her athleticism and her attitude.
I make my way over to the front desk to chat with some humans. Micah and Sarah are the caretakers at the Catopia Cat Café. Both have detailed knowledge about the personalities and history of every single one of their charges. They can tell you that Kai likes belly pats best, and that Vanya likes classical music played softly. All the better to make the perfect matches in forever homes. There are snow flurries outside, but Catopia is warm and cozy.
Sarah and Micah: human caretakers at Catopia
“I want to take all of them home every single day,” Micah confesses to me. I ask him if he has a favorite. His shakes his head, but I notice his eyes move to Jada, a tabby mix with medium-length silky fur and a pastel-gray tail. She’s warming her hindquarters on a copier. She looks young.
“She’s 12 months,” Micah says. “Such a good mom.” A mom that young! It turns out that Jada showed up pregnant when she was only 6 months old. Both her kittens still live at home with her at the Catopia Cat Cafe. Mila and Mowgli inherited her looks; they’re all silky white with fluffy grey points. Jada takes a dainty step towards me, purrs hello, and then leaps up to a high shelf to join her kids in a floofy bed. They settle in for a grooming and cuddling session.
Sarah checks the copier. It turns out that a popular cat activity is to change the copy settings. I ask Sarah if that’s the weirdest thing that happens. She laughs and tells me I should see Catopia when they open every morning. Toys everywhere. Store merchandise pulled off the walls and covered in fur. The ball pit flipped and balls scattered to the far corners. Cardamom, I think, smiling.
“Night at the Museum at the Catopia Cat Cafe!” Sarah laughs. She tells me about watching the Ring camera footage one night and seeing Pickles perched on top of the dividing wall that provides a second entrance for cat safety. With all the other available perches and shelves, Pickles chose the most uncomfortable one available to perform an hours-long kitty loaf. Pickles is next level.
New kids on the block
More customers come in, so I go back to see what Muffin and Vanya are up to. Vanya gives me a friendly scream as she winds herself in an infinity loop between my ankles. A young tabby cat jumps and hisses as I sit near him.
“I’m so sorry!” he tells me. “That was involuntary. My brother and I just got here last night, and it’s quite the adjustment. I’m Toby. I like romantic comedies and cuddling on the sofa.” He sniffs my hand and hisses again, shaking his head in embarrassment, apologizing again. I tell him he’s doing fine.
“I’m trying! My brother Kai is still under the couch, so at least I’m doing better than he is.” I can’t resist a peek.
Toby’s brother Kai is a Snowshoe, a particular weakness of mine. Kai has the China blue eyes of a true Siamese, with perfect eyeliner. His ears and tail are dark chocolate, just like his left front stocking.
Want to hear what happens next? So do I! Kai, Toby, Muffin, Lucy, Jada, and the rest are dying to meet you, so drop on by to the Catopia Cat Café in ABQ as soon as you can! Until then, follow them here!