Walking into the Southpaw Cat Café, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
The café looks, at first glance, like any other. Main doors open to a coffee bar on the right, displaying an array of pastries and desserts as well as a typical café menu.
What isn’t typical is the lack of tables, in fact there’s only one table in the room. The rest of the seating can be seen through two large windows to the left, in the ‘cat room.’
This is where the main attractions of Southpaw sit, purr and lick themselves. In this room, cats roam freely with — and occasionally on top of — customers who frequent the café.
The cat room has every feline contraption imaginable. Toys, scratching posts, tiny hammocks and carpeted shelves galore allowing the cats to climb around the spacious room freely. For humans, there are tables, booths, chairs, a couch, and some funky pillows to make it as comfortable a space as possible for the animals and the people enjoying them.
Since an explosive Facebook post started circulating in the summer that Kingston was to have it’s very own cat café, almost everyone I knew was making plans to visit it.
After arranging to meet Scott Fardello, the founder of Southpaw Cat Café, I finally got my chance to go.
As I was waiting in line to get my drink, a woman approached Fardello and asked about adopting one of the cats. Apparently, this has been a constant occurrence at the café, and part of its purpose. Even though the café had only been open for three days, two of the five cats are already being adopted, set to leave the café for their new homes next week.
Every time a cat is adopted, a new one from Kingston Animal Rescue takes it’s place at the café. This partnership allows the cats the chance for a lot of human interaction and socialization before their adoption, and has already helped some find their new owners.
In the midst of mid-term stress, some downtime with animals can be exactly what people need to relax.
“Whenever I got stressed building up to this, as soon as I got the cats in there and I could just walk in there and pet them, it was just like …” Fardello took a deep breath and let it out. “Alright, this is okay.”
When Fardello came up with the idea for the cat café in May of this year, student stress was a reason that he thought the idea would be well received in Kingston and he made sure to create a student discount.
Queen’s, St. Lawrence College and RMC students all get 15 per cent off their purchases. They accept student cards, or even a Queen’s jacket as proof of enrolment.
After the café gets less busy, Fardello hopes it will be a place that students and residents can come to do homework, read books from their community bookshelf, and of course, de-stress with the cats.
Walking in that day, I could see the café meeting many different needs.
There was a family eating croissants and wiggling cat toys for two of the most energetic cats, a couple chatting while absentmindedly stroking the head of a three-month-old kitten who’d camped out under their table, and another student studying and sipping her coffee with a cat curled up nearby, watching her at perfect ease.
As Fardello and I talked, cats jumped up on the window sill regularly to greet him. He knew their personalities and greeted them, as well as many of his customers, by name.
I left thinking that the only failing of Southpaw was the distance from Queen’s campus. Despite this, I’ll be like the cat and come back, maybe just not the next day.
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