Windy Kitty, Chicago's Newest Cat Cafe, Arrives In Bucktown This Month
By Emma G. Gallegos in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 4, 2017 8:48PM
A preview of the space before it's reconstructed (Photo courtesy of Jenny Tiner)
The exterior of the space, featuring a sign from the clothes store where it used to be (Photo courtesy of Jenny Tiner)
Its owner Jenny Tiner plans to introduce the neighborhood to the cat cafe with a seasonally appropriate black cat-themed party. She hopes that cat-lovers will dress up as black cats (or whatever suits their fancy) and meet some adoptable cats from Roscoe Village's Alive Rescue.
Tiner, an artist, former scientist and cat lover, was inspired to open her very own cat cafe when she happened upon a cat cafe near an Airbnb where she was staying in Edinburgh last year. She peered into the window of Maison de Moggy and spotted what she called the cutest, fluffiest cats. She told Chicagoist, "It was the happiest place I've ever been."
The idea of combining all of her great loves together intrigued her: cats, art, yoga and doing good for the community. A couple of months after she returned home she got serious about making her dream a reality. She visited several cat cafes springing up stateside in places like Columbus, Ohio and New York, and spoke to owners about how they did it. She launched an Indiegogo campaign, and began securing funding from donors. WGN Steve Dale helped to connect her with a Kansas-based veterinary health company CEVA, whose generous donation pushed the project past the finish line.
Originally, The Windy Kitty was supposed to open in Lincoln Park but plans for that fell through. She believes that it was a blessing in disguise because the 1746 W. North Ave. space where they just signed a 5-year lease is double the size, airy and well-ventilated and in the perfect neighborhood. She points out Bucktown is young, hip and has a lot of foot traffic. Windy Kitty will open in an old clothing store on a street that has enough pedestrians to lure in the community, but it's not so busy that it will rattle the cats.
Today the cafe is breaking down walls and doing some serious reconstruction. The goal is to have a welcoming front window where cats can bask in the sun in full view of passers-by, who might later to decide to come in or return later for an appointment. There will be a limit on how many humans can be with the cats at a time, so that the kitties won't feel overwhelmed.
Health code laws in Chicago (as well as most of the country) make it difficult to open a true cafe with cats inside, unlike in Japan, the unrivaled leader in the cat cafe trend. At least initially, Windy Kitty will be serving prepackaged snacks and canned beverages in a separate lobby and boutique area. There will be plenty of Windy Kitty swag and local cat-themed crafts on sale, too. There will be WiFi for folks who want to do some work in the presence of felines.
Tiner has ambitious goals for programming that she hopes will benefit both the humans and cats of Chicago. There will be yoga, movie nights, board games and even speed-dating so cat lovers can connect with each other. She'd love to bring in cat-loving senior citizens from local nursing homes and host story time for children. She hopes to put up art on the walls every other month and host art openings. She would also like to host community events, so that animal groups can come in to give talks on, say, fostering kittens or encouraging people to adopt black cats, which some folks view as superstitious.
On an average day, cat lovers can reserve a time to come in and just play with the cats—and perhaps take them home forever. Her partners at Alive Rescue is grateful that they will get to expand the number of cats that they can take in.
Tiner hopes to recapture the feeling she had in Edinburgh in her new space. Its tagline is "the happiest place in Chicago."
Windy Kitty will be opening later this month at 1746 W. North Avenue in Bucktown. If you're interested in supporting the cafe ahead of its opening, you can purchase items from its Amazon wish list, send donations through PayPal or reach out to Jenny Tiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.