Karma Kat Cafe opens in Mount Pleasant
When students say goodbye to their families and leave their homes for Central Michigan University, they say goodbye to their pets too. Residence hall rooms and apartments either don't allow pets or impose such high pet fees it's not feasible to bring a feline companion with you to school.
That means students miss out on the joy and stress relief animals have to offer.
Downtown Mount Pleasant now offers a solution to that loneliness -- Karma Kat Cafe.
For $10, you can spend an hour in the cafe's cat room.The new business is located at 612 E. Broadway St. and is only the fourth cat cafe in Michigan. It's open Monday-Sunday from 10 a.m.- 7 p.m.
It's easy to feel like you're at home in the cafe's cat room. With purple walls, eclectic decorations, a huge array of cat toys and big cushy coaches, it looks like the living room from Friends. Except instead of Ross, Rachel and company, a gang of cat friends are waiting to greet you.
The cats certainly are at home there. They climb up drawers affixed to the walls, sit on top of furniture, roll around and play with toys on the floor and curl up for a nap on the couches. If you sit down on a couch, chair or floor, one of the cats will crawl into your lap seeking your attention.
The cafe serves as a "crossroads" between animal shelters and potential homes. All of the cats in Karma are adoptable. At any given time, there are around 10 cats in the cafe ready to play and be adopted. The advantage of the cafe is people can really play with the cats and get to know them before they adopt them, rather than just seeing them in a cage at a shelter.
"We get a feel for them here, it's like a big living room," said owner Mystie Beckwith, a CMU alumna. "I get a feel for their personalities and what situations they'd be best in, so I can help recommend the best type of home for them."
The cats have all been spayed, neutered and vaccinated. Adoption fees are $35; the cats come from Clare County Animal Shelter and Dalis to the Rescue. So far, three cats have been adopted.
Beckwith stressed that she will always take back cats who have been adopted if their situation doesn't work out.
Before Beckwith opened the cafe, she owned Redbird Pet Supply for seven years. In addition to selling food and other pet needs, she helped more than 300 cats get adopted out of her store. Beckwith said that was the most fulfilling part of her job.
"Retail just wasn't very fulfilling, it didn't make me feel good," Beckwith said. "But I knew adopting out all of those cats made me feel good. I always called it my 'good karma' which is where I got the name for the cafe."
Beckwith went to CMU at a time when no apartments allowed pets. She hopes the cafe will help to de-stress college students by giving them a relaxing place to hang out with cats without the responsibility of owning them. Eventually, she plans to start a student discount night at the cafe.
The cafe also offers group and family rates. $8 for a group of three or more and $28 for a family of four. Once the cafe is more established, Beckwith wants to have punch cards, so frequent customers can earn discounts and free cat time.
Although the name is Karma Kat Cafe, it's not actually a cafe. Beckwith originally had a gourmet coffee bar set up in the main room of the building so people could enjoy a drink before they played with the cats.
However, Isabella County doesn't allow any food or drinks to be prepared on the same premises as animals. Sealed drinks are offered in a cooler of the cafe's main room, where pet food and other pet needs are available for sale as well.
Right now, Beckwith is attempting to find a cafe or coffee shop downtown to partner with her and sell their food and drink at the cat cafe. That way, the food isn't prepared at her location but she can still give her customers something to enjoy while they play with the cats.
"I really want to partner with people in the community as much as I can," Beckwith said. "I think this could be a great community center."
A variety of classes are also available at the cafe. Every Monday at 7 p.m., a friend of hers teaches an astrology class in the cat room. In lieu of payment, she accepts donations of everything from baked goods to succulents. On July 1 at 10 a.m., Beckwith is hosting her first cat-themed craft class for $25 a person. Eventually she hopes to have a 'Yoga With Cats' class, as well as cat-themed game nights.
"It's so hard to make new friends these days," Beckwith said. "I want to bring people together, and cats bring people together."