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Cat Cafe Draws Big Crowd of Feline Fans on Opening Day

By Gustavo Solis | April 24, 2014 2:35pm | Updated on April 24, 2014 3:12pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — Cat lovers waited in line for hours Thursday outside 168 Bowery for the chance to sip coffee while snuggling with a furry feline at the city's first-ever Cat Cafe.

“I originally thought I was going to get 20 cats all over me,” said Enubi Kim, 28, who ditched a doctor’s appointment to go to the cafe. “My boyfriend is waiting for me at the eye doctor. He’s not happy.”

Inside, 15 cats — all up for adoption — slept, ate, played and purred throughout the lounge. Customers sat on couches and coffee tables taking selfies with the kitties and trying to coax them into jumping on their lap.

“It’s a dream come true for cat lovers,” said Laura Snell, 29, who waited an hour and a half to get in, in a line dozens of people long that stretched down the block.

The cats came from North Shore Animal League, an animal shelter on Long Island that teamed up with Purina One to make the pop-up cafe a reality for one weekend. Staff there selected the friendliest and most relaxed cats for the cafe.

The shelter has already received a flood in inquiries about adopting the cats. Although there are only 15 at the cafe, there are many more at the shelter. On Saturday, the shelter will park a mobile adoption center outside the cafe on Kenmare Street, said Christina Travalja, of the shelter.

Not everyone at the cafe was looking to adopt cats. Many were simply looking for an excuse to cuddle a kitten.

“My landlord hates cats, otherwise I would have one,” said Yeh-Rin Kim, 25. “I just came to be around cats. I love it.”

To raise awareness of cat health, Purina One is live-streaming the cat cafe. The cafe will only be open until Sunday, but organizers hope it inspires someone to set up a permanent one in the city.

The shop’s service area is separated from the lounge area to keep the kitties safe while ensuring that the cafe complies with city health codes, said a Purina One representative. The cafe serves free cappuccinos with froth in the shape of a cat's head, along with pastries.

"The operators of the facility have assured the [Health] Department that cats will be kept in a separate room, and an inspector will be assigned to monitor the event to assure that health code requirements are being followed," a Health Department spokesman said in a statement.

Some customers thought the live-streaming and media cameras took away from the relaxing atmosphere and were surprised by how well the cats handled it.

“I think they gave them some Xanax,” joked Lily Lam, 40, who was thinking of adopting one of the cats.