Our Backstory: Why a Cat Café in Pittsburgh?

It's a simple tale of wanting to merge our passions (wine, coffee, cats) with a city we fell in love with.

We first heard of the cat café concept while living in Brooklyn. In April 2014, Purina One partnered with the North Shore Animal League to open a pop up shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In a city where folks can be pretty blasé about things, people went bonkers for the cat café idea, resulting in waits of up to two hours.

April 2014 Purina Pop Up Cat Cafe
Waiting in line to enter the Purina Pop Up Cat Cafe April 2014, NYC

With a little research, we learned of their origins in Asia and growing popularity across Europe. At that point, I had long been a volunteer with animal rescue organizations, and thought this was a brilliant way to bring exposure to cats that need homes and facilitate adoptions. Erik and I quietly began plotting our exit from corporate life – in our “second act” we would run a cat café.

The following spring we visited Paris, with our top destination being Les Café Des Chats. The Eiffel Tower was #2 on our list :-).
Sue at Paris Cat Cafe April 2015

Me at the cat cafe in Paris, April 2015 wondering if this is real life

By then, the cafes started popping up in the US, with Meow Parlour, Little Lions, Koneko and later Brooklyn Cat Café launching in NYC. We went to all of them. Multiple times. We consulted with a pioneer in the industry, Christina Ha from Meow Parlour, to learn about the business. Our plan continued to take shape.

At the same time, we knew that we’d be quitting our jobs to work full time on this effort and would need to find a more affordable place to live. We made a list of everything we wanted in a new city: friendly people, cultural diversity, and walkable neighborhoods were a few of our criteria.

Nothing was hitting the mark until a colleague of Erik’s suggested we check out Pittsburgh, where she grew up. Our only connection to Pennsylvania was that Erik’s grandfather was born in McKees Rocks (in 1905!), which we considered to be a good omen. We visited. We visited again. We visited a third time, just to make sure it was true love, and realized that it was.

Over the next year, we dove into educating ourselves, including taking an immersion training course for cafe owners, participating in small business classes and reading like crazy. Oh, and a lot of wine drinking. We decided to fund the venture with our own savings, and finally made it to Pittsburgh in July 2016, when the search for a commercial space and efforts to establish local partnerships began in earnest. We're so grateful to the wonderful folks at Animal Friends, who will provide all of Colony's adoptable cats.

It feels like everything is moving slower than it should, probably because we are so eager to open. We appreciate everyone’s support (and patience) as we complete the next leg of this awesome adventure!



  • Elliot

    Absolutely love this! I’m a New Yorker moving to the Strip District in December. Similar path it seems. Pittsburgh wasn’t on my radar until I did some googling. Checked off every box as far as a place to start fresh. Knowing that I have a cat cafe in my neighborhood is just icing on the cake! Been looking to adopt, so I’ll be coming by often… for the coffee, the cats, and to hang with some fellow NY escapees.

    See you in December!!

  • Jill

    Impressive backstory! Sounds like a lot of hard work, research, and study has gone into the formation of this dream. (along with a great love for cats). Best of luck!

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