Photo courtesy of Neko Cat Cafe: Woodland Sunrise Northwest is making special cookies, cakes and donuts that will be available at Neko.
Photo courtesy of Neko Cat Cafe: Woodland Sunrise Northwest is making special cookies, cakes and donuts that will be available at Neko.

Capitol Hill’s first cat cafe is slated to open in mid-October, providing coffee, pastries and adoptable feline companionship.

Owner Caitlin Unsell was inspired to open Neko Cat Cafe after two years living in Sapporo, Japan, the country having popularized the concept internationally. Unsell nailed down a lease for 1,022 square feet of old office space at 519 E. Pine St., across from the AVA Apartments, this spring.

“Our contractor is amazing, so it’s been going really well so far,” Unsell said, adding she ended up hiring an interior designer for the project. “We’ve come up with a super-fun vibe, and it’s going to be really fun and cool for Capitol Hill.”

Neko will have a “Catarium” space where adoptable cats and customers can interact. An elevated foot path around the space and flush with the windows will allow cats to move around the Catarium, and also display themselves to the outside world.

Customers will have traditional seating options at tables with cat-head tops and also space for getting some work done, Unsell said.

“There’s one super-cozy nook with lots of pillows and a nice chandelier above,” she added.

Neko is working with Japanese confectionary Tokara in Phinney Ridge for cat-inspired wagashi (specially shaped sweets), and Woodland Sunrise Northwest for Totoro and cat-shaped cookies, cakes and donuts. The BeanFish food truck will supply Neko with taiyaki (stuffed fish-shaped waffles).

“There’s definitely going to be touches of Japan, from the food to the drinks, and a little bit in the design,” Unsell said.

Neko is Japanese for cat.

Kuma Coffee in Interbay will supply the cafe’s beans, and Neko will also offer beer, wine, hard cider and sparkling wine on tap.

The main attraction — the cats — are being provided by Regional Animal Services of King County, which already supplies Seattle’s first cat cafe, Seattle Meowtropolitan, with adoptable cats for customers to interact with.

“Working with Meowtropolitan has been a really cool experience,” said Nickie Ford, RASKC animal services coordinator. “We got started with them about a year and a half ago, I believe, and we found the cats, they really just thrive in that colony environment.”

Ford said RASKC was excited to work with Neko on off-site adoptions, but also concerned about being able to provide a steady supply of kitties.

RASKC proposed, and Unsell accepted an offer to supply Neko with cats with feline leukemia (FeLV) that are harder to adopt out due to their weakened immune systems. The disease is not transferable to humans.

“What we really want people to know is that these cats can still be very fantastic pets, and they can still lead very happy lives,” Ford said.

Customers at Neko can expect to find 12-15 cats looking for forever homes in the Catarium next to the main bar.

“It just ended up working out so well, because when I was talking with RASKC I just wanted to be clear that I wanted to help the cats that needed the most help,” Unsell said. “We want them to live their best life they can, and with us they can have fun and also have a higher potential of finding homes.”