EAST LANSING – Kelsey Maccombs is still getting to know the dozen or so felines who now call a former karate studio on East Lake Lansing Road home.
There’s Jonah and Aladdin, both with black fur and strikingly similar builds. Without scanning each cat’s microchip, Maccombs still can’t quite tell them apart.
Then there’s Ace, a six-month-old tabby, and Lily, a 10-year-old cat with gray and white hair who is the senior of the bunch.
Technically, Maccombs is providing a foster home for every one of the cats, but said it will take time to really get to know them.
After all, the Constellation Cat Cafe opened less than two weeks ago.
“They just got here. I’ll get to know them, if they’re here for a while.”
And if they aren’t?
Then Constellation Cat Cafe, both a coffee shop and a shelter, is succeeding as a place where people looking for pets can spend quality time with cats who need forever homes, Maccombs said. It’s the first cat cafe in the Lansing area.
Like any coffee shop, there are plenty of tables and chairs, comfortable places to relax — but visible through large glass windows is a reminder of the cafe’s purpose.
Like the sign leaning against one wall declares, “This coffee saves cats.”
Getting up close with rescue cats
In the shelter side of the cafe, a dozen cats lounged on plush cat beds and mats. Two dashed across the laminate floor, playfully chasing one another.
There are scratching posts, cat shelves for them to climb and toys for them to play with.
Every one of the cats was rescued by the cafe’s partners — Saved By Zade, an Eaton Rapids nonprofit that works with volunteers who foster cats until they can be re-homed.
For an $8 fee, visitors can access the cat room from a door inside the cafe and spend an hour getting to know its feline residents.
When guests adopt the cafe’s cats, they’ll pay a $125 fee that goes directly to Saved By Zade to cover the cost of spaying or neutering the cat, Maccombs said. It also pays for vaccinations and micro-chipping the animal.
Jodi Schrader founded the organization two years ago. She said she absolutely loves the cat cafe. “It’s a great place for people to actually meet these kittens.”
Maccombs and her husband, Ryan Maccombs, who live in DeWitt, have fostered cats at their home for more than six years now.
They raised more than $10,000 to open Constellation Cat Cafe through an online campaign and several fundraisers. They invested more than $25,000 of their own money to lease and renovate the space at 3320 E. Lake Lansing Rd.
The couple is still in the process of applying for nonprofit status. The goal is for the cafe to sustain the entire operation.
You’ll find cat cafes in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, but Constellation Cat Cafe is the first with a full-service coffee shop in one half of the operation
“There are a bunch of cat cafes in Michigan, but there aren’t any that have full coffee shops yet,” Maccombs said. “It’s tough to start up both at the same time.”
There were hurdles to navigate, she said, to ensure that the cafe’s animal residents are completely separated from the coffee side of the business.
A small room, where visitors will be asked to remove their shoes (volunteers want to limit germs that could make cats sick), separates the two sections of the operation. Each side has its own ventilation system.
Cats won’t enter the café side, and the cafe’s six employees will never be in the adoption room during a work shift, Maccomb said.
Customers in the cafe are welcome to take their drink into the adoption area, but Maccombs said the cats have been very interested in some of the milk-based drinks they serve.
She is is still working on finding a way to provide lids for mugs customers take into their space.
“For now if the cats do sneak a sip, we’ll remake that drink for you,” she said.
The right time for a cat cafe
The Maccombs have been renovating the cafe space since July, laying flooring, painting the walls, and building and installing shelves.
Ryan Maccombs built the large wooden “cat tree” in the adoption area.
The café opened Sept. 28. A cat was adopted the next day, Maccombs said, and five other cats have since found homes.
Hundreds of people have stopped in so far, she said.
“Some people are like, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to open.’ Others stop in because they’re curious. They say, ‘I don’t know what’s happening. Tell me more.’ I think a lot of people wanted this cat café. It’s the right time for it.”
The cafe needs volunteers to care for the cats living there. So far 150 people have filled out volunteer applications. Of those, 25 have already been trained, and additional training sessions are scheduled in the coming weeks. Ideally, Maccombs said, the room needs at least two volunteers every day.
Ryan Maccombs said the cafe gives people a chance to spend quality time with the cats in a relaxed environment. When they decide to adopt one, that interaction ensures it’s a good match, he said.
“It’s really important people find an animal they’re hopefully going to spend 15 to 20 years of their life with,” he said.
The goal, said the Maccombs, is to adopt out 100 cats in the cafe’s first year.
“This is ambitious,” Ryan Maccombs said. “I think that would be something to be extremely proud of.”
Less than two weeks in, they’re well on their way, Kelsey Maccombs said.
“Just 94 adoptions to go.”
What? Constellation Cat Cafe, the Lansing area’s first cat cafe, where visitors can get coffee and spend quality time with rescue cats in need of a forever home.
Where? 3320 E. Lake Lansing Rd. in East Lansing
How does it work? Guests can purchase coffee, baked goods and other drinks inside the cafe. For an $8 fee, they can visit the cat room, where up to a dozen cats live. Every cat is available for adoption.
Where can I find out more? Visit Constellation Cat Cafe’s website at www.constellationcatcafe.com or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/constellationcatcafe.
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Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.
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