Tucked away in the plethora of shops in Fountain Square sits a cafe that has a furry little twist. At Nine Lives Cat Cafe, you can spend some time playing with free roaming shelter cats and afterward, you can enjoy some coffee while looking at local cat art for sale.
One of the most refreshing things about the cafe is how friendly the employees are. Kellen Barnes, who has worked at Nine Lives since the end of June 2021, said that they initially contacted the cafe to sell some of their artwork, but ended up landing a job there after talking to one of the owners, Kelley Niiyama, and seeing how welcoming the environment is.
“This is a safe spot,” Barnes said. “There’s no room here for judgment or hatred. We’re very understanding and very open. It’s the best job I ever had… It’s a place of love, understanding and warmth.”
Barnes also sells some of their artwork while working at the cafe. There are also earrings, stickers and tumblers that are made by local artists that are available to purchase. All the art I saw when I went was amazing, even though the hanging art was out of my price range. It ranged from $25 to $265, which isn’t a bad price considering the pieces are authentic and one of a kind.
My favorite part of the experience was playing with the cats, of course. I went around 5 p.m., so many of the cats were tired from playing all day. According to Barnes, the best time to go if you want to have playful cats is in the morning. If you want to just relax with them, then you should go around 1 p.m. because that’s when the sun hits the window, and if you know anything about cats, you know they love to lie in the sun.
Nine Lives has a seating area with windows into the cat room, so you can watch them for as long as you want, but you do have to pay a cover fee of $10 if you want to go inside the room to play with the cats. Inside the room, there’s plenty of comfortable seating, so you can relax, kick your feet back and maybe even take a little catnap.
There were about 11 cats in the room when I went, and they all came from Misty Eyes Animal Center. Barnes said that Nine Lives works with three non-kill shelters, Misty Eyes, Columbus Humane and Bartholomew County Humane Society, and they swap out the cats every 3-4 weeks.
“I love working with the kitties. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see them come out of their shells and to see people interacting and connecting with them,” Barnes said.
If you do fall in love with a cat and decide you want to fill out an adoption application, then let an employee know, and you’ll fill out an online application through the shelter’s website and pay Nine Lives a processing fee of $20.
The shelter will contact you within a few days to let you know of their decision and if approved, you’ll pick up the cat from the cafe. Then the employees will get a Polaroid picture of you and your new cat to hang up on their wall.
According to Barnes, they currently have over 1,000 Polaroids on their wall of cats that have been adopted through Nine Lives since their opening in 2017.
Although Nine Lives opened in 2017, the current owners, Kelley and Hide Niiyama bought the cafe days before the COVID-19 lockdown. It proved to be difficult at first since they couldn’t have guests into the lounge, so they had to focus on curbside coffee and baked goods. Now, the restrictions have lifted tremendously, but everyone is still required to wear a mask.
They do have a two-year-old resident cat there, Sora, that was previously adopted, but had to be surrendered back to Nine Lives. The owners decided to just keep Sora there because he’s a good role model for the incoming kittens. Whenever he needs some time away from the high-energy kittens, he’ll stay with the owners, Kelley and Hide Niiyama, for a few days.
Although I didn’t try the coffee there, each cup was served in a cute Nine Lives mug. According to their website, their fall menu consists of drinks such as the Apple Crisp Latte, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and a Pumpkin Chai. They also sold bakery items such as cookies and cupcakes. It doesn’t have a price online or in the store, which deterred me from ordering anything.
Overall, I was very happy about my experience. It was a little smaller than I expected, but nonetheless, it still had a stunning ambiance. I would recommend going during the weekday, so it’s not as busy, and you have more kitties to love on at once.
Whether you’re looking to adopt or just get some kitty love, this is definitely the place to visit. Just make sure you make a reservation if you want to enter into the cat lounge, as it is first-come, first-served with up to 12 people in the room at once.
Photos of the Nine Lives Cat Cafe: