North Texas Daily

The Casual Cat Cafe pairs coffee, cats for a unique spin on a Japanese staple

The Casual Cat Cafe pairs coffee, cats for a unique spin on a Japanese staple

The Casual Cat Cafe pairs coffee, cats for a unique spin on a Japanese staple
July 08
22:09 2018

The Casual Cat Cafe in Richland Hills provides the perfect atmosphere for coffee drinkers and cat lovers: with up to 15 adoptable cats roaming around the café, visitors are accompanied by furry friends as they sip a drink.

All cats are up for adoption, and 100 percent of the adoption fees go toward the rescue or adoption agency responsible for the cat. Food and “meowchandise” are also available for purchase.

For mother and teacher Criss Forshay and her 7-year-old son RJ, this was their first time in The Casual Cat Cafe.

“We like it,” Criss said. “I saw pictures online, and I decided to see it was about. There’s plenty of room to sit and do work – not that cats usually help out with that.”

Criss and RJ have five cats at home already and want to get more cats, but Criss’ husband doesn’t want any more feline friends.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll take one home, but we want to support the organization,” Criss said. “I would love to take them home. It’s a wonderful way to spend summer days because it’s nice and cool in here, there’s lots of room to play, the cats are really are really friendly.”

RJ came up with a solution to his father’s “no more cats” rule.

“[We] can just get one, and maybe hide it somewhere,” RJ said.

Students, seniors and military active members and veterans receive a discount, and there are yoga and craft classes with the cats that are offered.

Fostered and adoptable cat named Mosley lounges in the Cat Lounge at The Casual Cat Cafe. Emily Olkkola

Cindy Pennington is the owner and “catprenur” of The Casual Cat Cafe. When she is not working as a CPA-IT auditor, she is busy running her business and fostering the cats.

Pennington got her start in fostering after graduating college – but it wasn’t with cats. She was looking to foster a dog but was having a hard time finding a small dog to start with. One rescue organization told her they needed a cat to be fostered, and the rest is history.

Pennington and her husband have been fostering cats together for the past 10 years.

But it was two years ago when Pennington first came across the concept of a cat café.

“I just thought that sounded like a really neat idea,” Pennington said. “I thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’”

Initial challenges

Pennington tried to open The Casual Cat Cafe on several different occasions, but each initial time fell through because of issues with landlords, health inspectors and city ordinances.

She first tried in Hurst, and after finally getting city approval for her cat café, Pennington found the perfect property at the right location. She was ready to seal the deal with the landlord, but as signing day arrived, the landlord had a change of heart.

“When I was finally ready to sign the lease, the landlord was like, ‘You know what? This sounds weird. I’m not really comfortable with it, and I’m not going to lease it to you,'” Pennington said.

After copious searching, Pennington found the new a property at Richland Hills – the same one visitors can come to today. But because she moved from Hurst to Richland Hills, there was a different inspector for the health department and a different set of city ordinances.

Cities have their own ordinances and codes, and within those ordinances and codes, businesses have to fit within a niche. Cat cafés do not have their own category within the pet services category, which includes grooming, boarding, training and selling.

“You go to the city and they’re at a loss for what actually to put us into,” Pennington said. “For Hurst, they had a kenneling category, and they put us right in there as a kennel. But with Richland Hills, I guess some of the people we were talking to just weren’t quite sure if it would fit under their current category of pet services. If they can’t fit it in a current category, you have to go through all of these other hoops to create a brand new category, and that would have taken way too long.”

Once the approvals were coming her way, Pennington realized she couldn’t make her cat café idea come to fruition without employing the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

“Other than buying all of the stuff and putting all of the stuff in, we only [had a couple of things] to do structurally to this place,” Pennington said.

One of 17 cats rescued from the Weatherford Shelter euthanasia list and being fostered. Emily Olkkola

Pennington’s Kickstarter met and exceeded its $3,000 goal because by then, she had received media coverage. Most of the money raised went to The Casual Cat Cafe’s security system.

“My biggest fear is that some mean person is going to break in and do something mean to the cats,” Pennington said. “My second biggest fear is that someone is just going to break in [just for the sake of breaking] in and steal money, but leave a door open, and the cats are going to get out.”

What about the shy cats?

Pennington said about 70 percent of cats that get brought into the café need a few days to adjust. About 15 percent of the cats need no adjustment period, and the last 15 percent of the cats hide in the hidey-hole for three weeks.

“Everyone likes nice friendly cats,” Pennington said. “Everyone likes kittens, but there are other cats out there that need to be seen and get homes as well, so we always try to have a few cats that are very shy, very hard to adopt.”

The shy cats struggle so much at adoption events that many times the rescues will not even take the cats to them.

“Just trying to get them seen from a picture on a website is hard to get them adopted,” Pennington said.

If the shy cats come to The Casual Cat Cafe, they can take time to get adjusted to the environment. If they hide too much, the shy cats are put into a cage to make sure they are eating and drinking enough water.

Eventually, with the help of customers bringing in treats for the cats, the shy cats learn that people are not as bad as they think.

One of 17 cats rescued from the Weatherford Shelter euthanasia list and being fostered at The Casual Cat Cafe. Emily Olkkola

Working at The Casual Cat Cafe

Kelly Gonzalez has been a “catsociate” at The Casual Cat Cafe since July of last year, just two weeks after The Casual Cat Cafe opened.

“I clean up after kitties, which could be as simple as sweeping up,” Gonzales said. “I also clean up the litter machines. I wash a lot of dishes, make sure that our snacks and things are stocked, I feed everybody, and I trim nails.”

Compared to her other jobs she has had, Gonzales loves being a “catsociate.”

“It’s a really fun job,” Gonzales said. “It’s actually hard not be distracted sometimes.”

The Casual Cat Cafe will be providing free snow cones for part of the day and half-price admission Friday, July 13 as part of its one-year anniversary.

One of 17 cats rescued from the Weatherford Shelter euthanasia list and being fostered at The Casual Cat Cafe being weighed and held by “catsociate” Kelly Gonzalez. Emily Olkkola


Pennington recently rented the suite next door to The Casual Cat Cafe to expand into cat boarding.

“Honestly, I just started looking at what was available in cat boarding, and it’s kind of sad,” Pennington said. “Most of the places, if you board your cat, your cat’s going to sit in a 3-by-3 foot kennel all day long and probably not even get pet very much.”

The kennels that are traditionally used at other cat boarding places have 27 cubic feet. The Casual Cat Cafe will have 157 cubic feet available for the cats.

RJ Forshay, 7, feeding fostered and adoptable cats treats in the Cat Lounge at The Casual Cat Cafe at Richland Hills. Emily Olkkola

Each kennel will include a full-sized cat tree, cameras with two-way audio, an interactive toy and a laser pointer, which allows the owner – no matter how far away – to be able to play and talk with their cat.

Pennington also found that a lot of the cat boarding places did not offer a lot of human enrichment time besides a playroom or charging an extra fee to have an employee pet the cats for only around 10 minutes.

That is why Pennington decided to include 30 minutes of one-on-one human interaction, including petting and playing, in the boarding price. More petting time will be able to be purchased.

All of the current cat kennels have windows, providing natural light for the cats. The kennel should be completed by the end of the week. The price is not yet finalized, but Pennington estimates the cost to be $25-$30 a night.

“I’m hoping that the boarding, especially since we will be offering something so much better than everyone else, is what’s going to help make us profitable and help us go toward our goal of finding all of these cats their forever homes,” Pennington said.

Featured Image: Fostered and adoptable cats hang around cat structures in the Cat Lounge at The Casual Cat Cafe. The cafe is located in Richland Hills. Emily Olkkola

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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