Want to drink coffee and pet cats at the same time? Look no further than the PHX Cat Cafe, located in downtown Phoenix at 147 Garfield Street, no pun intended.
The PHX Cat Cafe features two spaces, the cafe and the lounge. The lounge is where the cats are held and customers must buy admission to enter the lounge. The staff sells beverages, food in and cat accessories in the cafe.
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The cafe is currently run as a nonprofit. According to their website, the PHX Cat Cafe’s mission is to harness the transformative power of cats. They believe that felines can be a force of good in the world.
Chief executive officer of the PHX Cat Cafe, Carrie Schwartz, and former CEO Melissa Pruit came up with the idea for the cafe, formerly known as La Gattara, in 2020 while Pruit was running her for-profit cat cafe.
“Her and I came together in the summer of 2020 because I was working with her doing a little bit of cat behavior stuff,” Schwartz said. “Summer of 2020 I had like 15 kittens at my house and so we were like ‘Hey why don’t we just transform the cat cafe into being its own nonprofit instead of working with other rescues and things like that.’ ”
As a nonprofit, Schwartz said that they are able to care for the cats more closely. The Phoenix Cat Cafe owns all of the cats in the cafe, so they are in charge of caring for their health and other cat responsibilities.
“I definitely feel having this as a nonprofit helps people to want to pay the fee to come in and donate and things like that,” Schwartz said. “I do think it is a hard thing for the for-profit cat cafes that exist because how do you really justify, yeah, pay the $18 or however much to come in?”
The PHX Cat Cafe obtains financial support through the $18 entry fee for the lounge and offers other events such as cat-themed yoga, paint nights, and the occasional drag bingo.
They also host fundraiser events like their annual Whiskers & Wine Fundraising Gala. The event was held at the cat cafe last spring and was a success according to Schwartz.
“We had a bunch of auction items, silent auction, raffle, that sort of stuff,” Schwartz said. “I mean I think we raised like $14,000 during that, which I mean I think is great for you know a small nonprofit.”
The nonprofit had a revenue of $398,758 in 2022. Out of their total revenue, they spent about 87% on office rent, wages and operating expenses.
The cafe offers adoption services for almost all the cats in the lounge. Each cat can cost around $150 to $300 to adopt and prospective cat parents must complete an application and a home visit. According to their website, since they opened in 2020, they have facilitated 215 adoptions.
The cafe also participates in the Trap, Neuter, and Return services or TNR which works to decrease the feral cat population in Phoenix. Schwartz and her employees go into feral cat colonies in Downtown Phoenix, neuter them, ear-tip the cat to signal that they have already been taken care of and return them to the colony.
“Sometimes we will stumble upon some friendly cats in those colonies,” Schwartz said. “You’ll see like if you pay attention here [in the lounge] you’ll notice some of them have the ear tip, which means they came from an outdoor colony, got fixed and then it was like ‘Oh! You’re really friendly. You should come inside because it’s too dangerous out here for you.”
PHX Cat Cafe customer Lanecia came to the cat cafe for the first time on a Thursday afternoon. She said that she had come to the cafe that day because it was the first time she had time to go. She found out about the cafe through social media when it was recommended to her.
“I used to [have a cat] when I was in high school, so a long time ago,” Lanecia said. “But I love cats, I love dogs, I love animals.”
The staff has changed a lot since 2020. Amelia has worked at the cafe since September of 2023. She found the barista position on Indeed when she was searching for jobs in the Phoenix area.
“It’s very relaxed I will say,” Amelia said. “Our boss [Carrie Schwartz] is truly amazing. She is probably one of the best bosses that I’ve ever had because she’s very respectful but she’s also a really good boss in the way that she teaches us how to be accountable for ourselves.”
In March 2023, former CEO Melissa Pruit stepped away from the Phoenix Cat Cafe and Schwartz took over her position. Schwartz found that the transition from Pruit to her was easy. She said she likes handling the behind-the-scenes parts of the nonprofit.
Schwartz also recently changed the nonprofit’s name from La Gattara, Spanish for cat lady, to PHX Cat Cafe. She said the change was largely due to the difficulty customers had pronouncing it and the confusion many people felt when they found out that it was a cat cafe.
“Apparently there were a lot of people mad about it, whatever,” Schwartz said. “It’s like, I want people to just have that simplicity of you know exactly what it is, why it is, what we do. I know it’s not creative, but whatever. It gets the point across.”