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Cat Cafés On Every Corner? Chicago Loosens Up With Animal Cafe Ordinance

By Linze Rice | March 16, 2016 12:59pm
 The most recent rendering of Tree House Humane Society's new cat cafe that will be included in its new $7 million shelter.
The most recent rendering of Tree House Humane Society's new cat cafe that will be included in its new $7 million shelter.
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Tree House Humane Society

WEST RIDGE — Pairing up with the right new pet can be an exhausting task — how about a cup of coffee while you think it over?

That will likely be the reality later this year at the much-anticipated $7 million Tree House Humane Society's animal shelter, which will include a cat café and earned the City Council's approval today.

Last month, Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), whose West Ridge neighborhood will be home to the new shelter at 7225 N. Western Ave., sponsored legislation that would pave the way for not only Tree House, but other shelters in the city to open their own in-shelter cafés within certain parameters.

"Cat Cafés are wildly popular throughout Asia, Europe and the United States," Silverstein said. "The 50th Ward will soon be home to the City of Chicago's first Cat Café and, thanks to this new ordinance, will set a trend that will spread throughout the city and the rest of the Midwest."

David de Funiak, executive director of Tree House, said his organization was "extremely grateful" for the ordinance's passage.

"The Tree House Cat Café will provide a unique opportunity for individuals to interact with our rescued, adoptable cats, ultimately helping more animals find their forever home and enabling us to rescue even more," de Funiak said.

The ordinance bans alcoholic beverages and requires the cafes to be in an enclosed area of a licensed shelter. No food can be served, just drinks such as coffee.

Only service animals are allowed to pass through the café, and drinks are meant for prospective adopters or people otherwise utilizing services at the shelter — which includes a vet clinic, classrooms and more.

Jenny Schlueter, director of development at Tree House, earlier announced her team had been working with Jordan Karcher, founder of Grounds and Hounds — a small-batch coffee brewing company that splits its profits with animal shelters — to serve as the cafe's coffee vendor.

Construction at the site has been underway for months and is expected to wrap up later this year, Schlueter said, with new videos posted to Tree House's social media showing Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist known from the Animal Planet TV series “My Cat From Hell”, has been on hand to help consult and design for the project.

New Building Update - March 2016

We need your help! Our new facility is only a few months from completion but we won't be able to finish it without your immediate contribution. Donate today and help the Real Tree House Cats get their new home - www.RealTreeHouseCats.org. In the meantime, check out this video update of the progress so far! Hey Jackson Galaxy - the cat aquarium is almost finished ;)

Posted by Tree House Humane Society on Sunday, March 13, 2016

Here's what the Tree House shelter and cafe will look like: