Thursday, March 26, 2015

Get a Room: A Pay-by-the-Half-Hour Story

Once upon a time, immediately after moving into my current apartment, I told a mentor of mine that I was thinking about adopting a four-legged baby, most likely a cat. She was neither encouraging nor supportive.

“That cat will only hold you back,” she argued, “you’re too young and unsettled to give up your freedom. Right before you leave town for a week, 7 out of 10 times, the downtown or Bronx-based buddy who agreed to feed it while you’re away will dick you over at the last second, mark my words.” (These are bits and pieces of an impassioned 15-minute monologue, not unlike an attorney’s closing argument, pleading with a jury to keep a defendant off death row.) “What you need is a cat room. A place where you can show up and play with a cat whenever you get bored or depressed or sick of it all, without being the one responsible for the cat’s welfare.”

Didn’t know such rooms existed (and doubt she knew either) until skimming an article in the local paper a couple of months ago. A cat café recently opened in Chinatown. $4 to spend half an hour in a room with cats. There’s a waiting list.

I’d been looking forward to it ever since I reserved my spot in January. On the day of your appointment, you’re allowed to spend more than the initial 30 minutes with the cats, but I promised myself I wouldn’t dare because I’d get too attached and adopt one, something I’m in no position to do at the moment. It’s like going to a hooker - you get in, collect what you came for, and get out. Anything beyond that is too risky.

I expected private rooms (one customer in a room with at least one assigned cat) - the type of delusion that can crop up after you’ve skimmed, and not studied, an article. There was one room, in total, filled with many cats and many people. Most of the cats were sleeping. Most of the awake ones weren’t impressed with us, even me. We were an imposition. It turned into half an hour of respecting the cats’ personal space.

Dogs would love a room like this. A larger, local, partially outdoor dog café, nothing too bougie – great idea! But, per usual, another hustle-happy Manhattanite (or two of them, it seems) has already beaten me to the punch: See “NYC's First Dog Cafe in Development Now,” available at

On my way out, a person walking by cornered me about how things went - her first appointment is next month. I told her it was good, but most of the cats were sleeping.“But you can still pet a sleeping cat, right?" she asked. "No one will try to stop you?” Now here’s someone who doesn’t get cats, or animals, or just anyone really. Would you want a stranger fondling you while you’re sound asleep?


  1. A cat café? I thought I'd seen it all. Well, I've got two cats and they're not holding me back. Seems to me I'm holding them back. No, that's not a joke.

  2. Very amused by Blue Grumpster's comment. After I saw "Cats" on Broadway, I was totally convinced (for a little while) that cats are more human than we are. For about ten minutes I longed for a cat.

    My daughter has been talking about getting a dog. She is an adult and she has her own apartment, so she can do as she likes, but I view a dog as responsibility in the extreme -- I can tell you who is NOT going to walk it when she is out of town? I will say, in support of the idea, that several people have told me that they met the love of their life while walking their dog.

  3. Actually the only time my cat purrs when I pat him is when he is sound asleep, other times he merely tolerates it. Makes me wonder at times who he is dreaming I am.

  4. Cats are very independent, and you can go away for several days safely even if your cat sitter falls through. There are auto-waterers/feeders to make this possible.
    The Cat
    by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    The cat
    licks its paw and
    lies down in
    the bookshelf nook
    can lie in a
    sphinx position
    without moving for so
    many hours
    and then turn her head
    to me and
    rise and stretch
    and turn
    her back to me and
    lick her paw again as if
    no real time had passed
    It hasn't
    and she is the sphinx with
    all the time in the world
    in the desert of her time
    The cat
    knows where flies die
    sees ghosts in motes of air
    and shadows in sunbeams
    She hears
    the music of the spheres and
    the hum in the wires of houses
    and the hum of the universe
    in interstellar spaces
    prefers domestic places
    and the hum of the heater