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Milwaukee's Cat Cafe Showcases Latest Trend In Pet Adoption

If you drive around the east side of Milwaukee, you may have noticed a new cafe near Farwell and North Avenues. New restaurants crop up all the time, so what’s the big deal? At this one, you can play with – or even adopt – a cat. The cafe is part of a new approach to connecting people with animals who need a home.

The tiny cafe known as Sip N Purr is tucked away on E. Ivanhoe Place. Its slogan is "Eat. Drink. Pet Cats." What more could you want?

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
Sip N Purr's slogan prepares you for the cat lounge experience.

Sip N Purr consists of two rooms. On the right, an area where people can buy food and drinks. On the left, a glass-enclosed cat lounge, filled with cat beds, couches and cubbyholes — places for the felines to hide.

And of course, there are cats — about 20, mostly adults. Sometimes they're energetic and playful, other times they're sleepy after an afternoon of napping. One thing they're always happy to receive? A treat. 

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
Visitors can pay to hangout with the cats in the cat lounge. They can also bring in food and drink — at their own risk!

Raven Griffin, who came with a friend, recently bought a cup of coffee at Sip N Purr. She also paid $8 to spend an hour looking at and petting the felines in the cat lounge.

“I’m really not a cat person, but this place melts my heart. All the cats are so adorable,” she says.

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
No spot is off limits when it comes to cat naps at Sip N Purr.

Some customers just watch the cats through the window. Others stop at the cafe to adopt one or two.

A couple from Brown Deer recently visited to take home kittens named Jack and Diane. They're black and white, and three-months-old. Wrapped in baby blankets, the kitties met their new owners in the cat lounge. Mary Davidson greets her newest family members, while her husband, Karl Nennig, holds Jack. He says the kittens will help fill a void in the household.

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
Mary Davidson greets her new bundle of joy in the Sip N Purr cat lounge.

“We had a cat, Cleo, for 19 years and she passed away about two months ago. My wife really enjoys cats and she wanted to adopt a male and female kitten. So, this all fits into place with what she wanted to do with Cleo’s replacement, so here we are,” Nennig says.

Sip N Purr Owner Katy McHugh got the idea to open a cat cafe when she visited one in Amsterdam nearly two years ago. She says it's a great way to connect owners with cats in need of a home.

“It’s a less stressful environment — they can come and go as they please, they can sleep all day, they can sit on someone’s lap all day if they want — so it really does help make the perfect match," McHugh explains.

Credit Lauren Sigfusson
Sip N Purr Owner Katy McHugh holds a kitten that's being adopted (the new dad is to the left).

All the cats at Sip N Purr come from the Lakeland Animal Shelter in Delavan. She says nearly 150 have been adopted from the cafe since it opened in June and business picked up considerably during the holidays. McHugh adds that cat cafes have been catching on in the U.S., since they first popped up a few years ago. Now there are more than 100.

“Pretty much every major U.S. city has, or is getting, a cat cafe. The first cat cafe opened up in the U.S. in 2014 in Oakland, California and they’re opening up everywhere right now,” she says.

Sip N Purr is among a handful of cat cafes in Wisconsin. And McHugh says it's been such a hit on Milwaukee’s east side that people have asked if she might open another one. She says she’s still adjusting to owning a new business but left open the possibility of future endeavors.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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