Purring again: New hangout in Fayetteville resurrects cat cafe concept

(Courtesy photo)

Between 2015 and early 2020, Purr Catfe in Fayetteville helped 600 cats and kittens find a new home.

But with a lease expiring and with one of the founders plotting a move to Colorado, the region’s first cat cafe closed. Any thought of bringing it back immediately in a different location ended with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

But with founder Lauren Clingenpeel back in Northwest Arkansas and a new location secured, the next iteration of the idea – now called The Smitten Kitten – opens July 13 at 524 W. Sycamore St. Suite D in Fayetteville.

“It was never supposed to be permanent,” Clingenpeel said about the original location. But after a few years away working for other cat rescue organizations, the need in Northwest Arkansas remained, she said. The specific need was identified late in the life cycle of the original cafe. While kittens and young cats typically are adopted quickly, local shelter and foster partners always have a surplus of what Clingenpeel calls “shy, sassy, and offbeat cats.”

Most of the time, she said, this can be attributed to undersocialization – in other words, cats that haven’t been around people enough. The concept of a cat cafe like Smitten Kitten helps with that as patrons pay a flat daily fee to sit in the cafe and work, read or relax.

Smitten Kitten, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, does not complete adoptions itself. It helps local organizations such as the Wilson Zoo in Garfield and Springdale Animal Services find homes for their cats. These partners facilitate the adoptions if a match is made at Smitten Kitten.

“We have really great rescues and really great shelters in the area already,” Clingenpeel said.

Instead, Smitten Kitten highlights cats that have been in partner shelters for some time, or may have special needs, like Kickstand, one of the cats who will be at the Smitten Kitten on opening day. Kickstand got his name after having a leg amputated following a car accident.

“Those are the kind of cats we find ourselves with,” Clingenpeel said.

People who aren’t ready to adopt still help by just being near the cats. And Clingenpeel said there will be more reasons to visit the Smitten Kitten than there were at the original Purr Catfe, with events such as crafting, yoga sessions and birthday parties. There will also be “Mewvie” nights and other events that allow cats that are more nocturnal to get some of the attention they need.

There will also be education sessions offered for first-time cat owners. Clingenpeel said that because many folks grow up with a family dog, their care is more intuitive – “but no one teaches you how to ‘cat,’” she said.

All Smitten Kitten cats are fixed, microchipped and tested for a variety of potential maladies, which are disclosed if detected.

The Smitten Kitten is open for regular hours from noon. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with additional openings for special events. Admission is $12 per day, a rate that includes unlimited coffee and tea. Information about the organization can be found at smittenkittennwa.org.