Outside the pop-up Purina ONE Cat Café on Bowery, a muscular man named Jorge stands at the entrance. He faces a line of about 100 people that extends to Elizabeth Street. With his towering presence and official Purina T-shirt, it's easy to mistake Jorge as a hired doorman. But, he explains, "I'm not the bouncer. I'm the entertainment." It's certainly a more appropriate title for him. As he gives the crowd updates on wait times, it's clear he's already won their affection. "No one's waited more than four hours, so far," he says. And, even those who have waited the most find it impossible to be frustrated with Jorge.
The Cafe is here just for this weekend (it's illegal to go any longer than that according to NYC law), but it's enough time to have already secured adoptive homes for seven cats. If you're lucky enough to get inside, customers can speak to a cat expert and even sit down and enjoy a cat'achino, which comes with a cat-shaped foam topping. (But, if you relax for too long, you'd feel the psychic pressure of everyone in line giving you side-eye.)
Oksana and Suzie, who did have the good fortune to make it in and are visiting from Kentucky and California, respectively, had waited since 10:30 this morning. "It's kind of like role reversal," says Oksana. "Instead of us watching them in a cage, we get to see them in their own environment. They're more at ease and relaxed. It's more natural." And, for anyone who's concerned about the welfare of the felines, Suzie says the cats are "very well taken care of. There's a guy by the door who makes sure none of the cats escape."
However, what's really special about the pop-up is the way it enhances the experience for customers looking to adopt. With their personalities on display — rather than packed in a cage — the cats are better able to find homes. "You get to see the cat's personality," says Suzie. "More cats probably get adopted this way."