New cat café brings the purr-fect hangout to downtown Bellingham

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NEKO Cat Café opened its doors in downtown Bellingham, making it the first place in Whatcom County where people can enjoy coffee and snacks with feline friends.

Since its opening on February 14, people can book a 50-minute visit at $10 per person. In the cat room, 20 to 25 adoptable cats from the Whatcom Humane Society roam while patrons order menu items like cat-themed cookies and donuts and Japanese-inspired snacks. The unique and relaxing atmosphere lends itself well to everything from studying and working to private parties, said Caitlin Unsell, an owner of the café.

Some of the cats originate from Okanogan County where animal control services are limited, according to the café’s website.

“We’re excited to help give kitties their forever home,” Unsell said.

The café’s owners, Unsell and Cory James, decided to open a second location in Bellingham after opening their first café in Seattle in 2017. After attending Western Washington University, Unsell lived in Japan, where she fell in love with the country’s vibrant café culture. “Neko” means “cat” in Japanese.

The café’s opening follows a trend of cat cafés popping up across the U.S. in the past five years. Nearby cat cafés exist in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

“It feels amazing,” Unsell said of the café’s opening. “It was a huge labor of love.”

The café is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays with slight variations on weekends. Photos of the adoptable cats will be posted online once the website is updated.

Unsell recommends that people make reservations online at nekocatcafe.com/reservations-bellingham. Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult, and there must be one adult for every two children under 10. The café does not take cash. Reservations can be made for groups of one to 25 people.

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