Last year, I became a cat dad.
I'd be lying if that statement didn't spur some internal conflict. I used to roll my eyes at the cat images that littered my social-media feeds, or smugly expound on the effects of the cat-carrying parasite toxoplasmosis ("Excreted through their feces!"). In a society that refuses to tolerate bipartisanship on the topic of four-legged friends, I was happy to stoke the fire for Team Canine.
But after plans to move into a new place fell through, my wife and I needed an outlet to spend all the emotional energy we had built up for A Big Change. Dogs aren't allowed where we live, and that's how we came to adopt Harvey, aka Harvard D Cat, aka Harv-Harv, aka Tom Cat Harverford, aka Sweet Handsome Boy, aka...
Oh, I should stop here and mention that there's a good chance I'm suffering from toxoplasmosis. How else to explain the drastic, unexpected shift from being a dog person to a cat person? How else to explain the manic thoughts and red tinge that enters my vision when Harvey's near? Or, the crazed reaction to him doing literally anything? (Hold on, he's looking out the window right now and it's so cute.)
I know this is ridiculous. And somewhere, way back in the corner of my brain, there's Sane Ryan, screaming against the crazy cat-man stereotypes brought upon by the parasitic effects—which a friend refers to as "The Meow-Meow." So before The Meow-Meow (imagined in this scenario as loving, smothering tabbies) completely buries Sane Ryan, let it be known that he recognizes the unbelievable, insane shit that cat owners do/say/think.
Which might help explain the existence of things like The Cat Café (472 Third Ave., Downtown).
The Cat Café is a place where you can enjoy a snack or beverage while hanging out with cats. To anti-catters, this probably seems like the ultimate in bougie indulgence at best, or, at worst, a cynical exploitation of the Internet cat craze.
Before getting Harv-Harv, I could've probably understood these attitudes. I'm not a fan of bringing animals to places normally reserved for people. It seems unfair for an animal to endure loud environments and the threat of being stepped on. However, those thoughts are the product of Sane Ryan, who for all intents and purr-poses, is mostly dead. My first thought when I heard about The Cat Café was: meow meow meow meow meow meow (which roughly translates to "I'm excited" but with troubling and vaguely sociopathic undertones).
I went during an afternoon, which is the point in the day when Harvey McHarverston usually takes his nap. I wanted to experience it at its least busy, and I guess I imagined everyone—cats and staff—all chilling in sunbeams and being cutie-patooties.
I ordered an iced coffee and passed through three doors that separated the café from the cat arena, which was large, well-lit and adorned with art that I could only describe as "seductive cat." Piles of cats slept on surfaces throughout the room, including protruding shelves and a carpeted Eiffel Tower platform, standing about 7 feet tall.
I quickly learned that it's not just a place to hang with cats, but also a sort of halfway home that works in tandem with The Humane Society. All resident cats were available for adoption. The employees were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and eager to introduce everyone to the cats: Michelle and Miguel (siblings from the same litter and super cute!), Figaro (sleeping on a high shelf and also really cute!), Beans (black cat and oh so cute!), Lady (hidden but I'm sure really cute!) and Momo (a little grumpy, but cute all the same!).
I posted up at a table and pretended to work in an effort to look not totally desperate for one of the cats to jump on my lap. A young mom sat at my table and I held my breath every time her toddler went near grumpy Momo. Memories of when Señor Harvey von Kittycat killed a bird flashed in my mind: The poor bird ran around our condo with its head hanging by a string—all while our cat strutted around giving You think I give a shit? looks. I think there comes a time when every cat owner realizes their pet is psychotic, and I hoped this wasn't the day we found that out about Momo.
"Are you looking to adopt?" I asked the mom.
"No, my roommate is allergic. Plus, my old cat only recently disappeared," she said. "He was 11 years old, a good age for a cat." I suspected this trip to The Cat Café was probably serving more therapeutic purposes for her than as entertainment for her child.
"He was a tough cat," she continued, full of pride. "The neighborhood bully." She grabbed a streamer wand off the floor and wistfully wiggled it in front of Beans' face. When Beans gave no reaction, she wiggled it in front of her son, who pawed at it.
"My cat's an indoor cat. Pretty soft around the edges," I said, and immediately felt awful for divulging Professor Harvicus M.D. Esquire's stoutness to the woman.
It was then that an employee walked in and announced that Michelle and Miguel had both been adopted! I looked at the woman. I aww'd, she aww'd; I laughed and she laughed. Then we both meowed. Everyone was meowing.
Ryan is the author of Horror Business. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford