Colony Cafe: A purrfect place to unwind

Other cats shy away from Saphira as she swats a sassy paw at the tender hands of a cat lover. Just 2 years old, the feisty kitty has lived at Colony Cafe since it opened in February.

“She would thrive in a household with no other cats,” said cat loft manager Christine Bagtas. “If only someone would give her a chance.”

After four patient months, someone did. Saphira was adopted earlier this week, making her Colony Cafe’s 37th adoption since its opening. 

Inspired by cat cafes in New York City, Sue and Erik Hendrickson opened Pittsburgh’s first in partnership with Animal Friends in Ohio Township. The shelter supplies about a dozen cats available for adoption. Patrons of the downstairs cafe and wine bar pay $8 an hour to interact with the cats in the loft.

“As long as we’re here, they’re here,” Ms. Bagtas said. 

She moved from Illinois in January after working in a veterinary clinic for seven years. Like the Hendricksons, the 29-year-old animal lover was searching for something new.

Along with monitoring the loft, she provides dietary consultations, administers medicine, gives vaccinations and deworms the cats. Unless they need serious medical attention, the cats live in the loft until they are adopted.

“It can take as little as one hour to four months,” Ms. Hendrickson said.

She and her husband waited two months before adopting 1-year-old Lou Lou, who joined their other cat, Frank, 12. 

“She’s feisty and has a lot of kitten in her,” Ms. Hendrickson said. 

She’s not the only person at Colony Cafe who has melted after meeting a cute face. Ms. Bagtas adopted laid-back 4-year-old Pumpkin after caring for her for one short week. 

“She’s the cutest cat I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Bagtas said. “I think I fell in love with her on day one.” 

Colony Cafe hosts regular Kids Days (the next ones are July 9 and 23) in which children interact with the cats and name their favorite furry pal. The names often reflect the cats’ quirks, Ms. Bagtas said. “I love learning their different personalities.”

Although they don’t interact with each other, 10-year-old Kingsley and 1-year-old Bolt both tease guests by playing for a short amount of time before zipping away. With access to small crevices in the wall, cats can escape to private rooms where their litter boxes are stored. 

Some sleep cocooned in the corner of the the front window; the cats are most active at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Ms. Bagtas said.

To control the chaos, lasers are prohibited in the loft, but food and beverages are not. Anything from the menu can be ordered and consumed.

Ms. Bagtas said she has never had to ask anyone to leave for misconduct or disrespecting rules. 

The cat loft has been a huge success, and hourly appointments are often fully booked. In addition to hosting a Mother’s Day brunch that sold out within 30 minutes, Colony has hosted many private parties. Some couples have celebrated their anniversaries in the cat loft, according to comments in the guest book. 

“It’s heartwarming for people to come and say it’s the best part of their day,” Mr. Hendrickson said. 

Colony Cafe, 1125 Penn Ave., Strip District, will hold Kids Days at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. July 9 and 23. Children of all ages are welcome with a parent or guardian. The cost is $12. There will be story time, one child-friendly activity, a specialty cookie or sliced apple, and a beverage. The espresso bar will be closed, but the kitchen and wine bar will remain open. Reservations can be made online at 

Fitale Wari: or 412-263-1130.