Fountain Square is full of artists and their studios, philanthropists and their office spaces and revolutionaries with their street corner entertainment. But nowhere in Fountain Square is the ambiance any more sincerely altruistic than at Nine Lives Cat Café.
The first of its kind in Central Indiana, Fountain Square drew the lucky short straw for part café and part temporary home for cats looking for their forever homes.
“One half is a coffee shop, and the other side, the Cat Lounge, is kind of like a giant living room with adoptable cats from the Humane Society of Indianapolis,” Nine Lives co-owner Selena Hubbard said.
Guests can enjoy traditional café snacks and tea or coffee in the cat lounge, or they can sit in the café proper and watch the cats play with visitors through the café’s viewing window.
“People pay for time in the Cat Lounge and the money from that helps us take care of the cats, as well as the employees who care for the cats,” Hubbard said. “Reservations are recommended to visit the cats, especially when it’s busy on weekends since we can only allow a certain number of people into the Cat Lounge at a time. The coffee shop side requires no reservations.”
Hubbard co-owns the café with her father, Eric. For some time the pair had been discussing the idea of opening a business together. When the cat café concept was introduced, neither hesitated to move forward.
“My dad and I had always talked about starting a business together, especially some sort of coffee shop, but it wasn’t an idea we pursued very seriously at first,” she said. “After I brought up the cat cafe idea, we decided to work together to make it happen.”
Hubbard had been reading about cat cafés for years that were opening in other states able to more easily manage health code laws. They had already been popular in Asia for years and were finally beginning to pop up in L.A. and New York.
“The first cat cafes in the US begin to pop up in New York and LA years later, putting the cats in a separate space than the coffee to be acceptable to their local health departments,” she said. “I visited a few, and really wished there was one in Indy, so I decided to team up with my dad to bring one to Indianapolis.”
A family of animal lovers, Hubbard said that her family has always had pets.
“We’ve always had at least one cat and a dog as I grew up,” she said. “My parents now have one cat, a tortoiseshell named Cocoa, and a dog, a Papillon mix named Abu. And I have three cats -Flapjack, Chunks and Charlie; a dog, a Pomeranian-chihuahua mix named Mochi and a blue Betta fish, Barry Bluejeans. Getting our pets from shelters or rescues was always important to us, and still is.”
Hubbard said she’d hoped to bring a new way to adopt and interact with cats to Indianapolis. She’s done that.
“Many people can’t have cats due to living restrictions or friends and family who may be allergic,” she said. “So we want to give them a chance to spend time with cats in a comfortable and cozy environment. We also want to provide a spot for potential adopters to be able to interact with cats in a different way than they might at a shelter, giving them a way to get to know each cat’s personality and see them in a more relaxed setting.”
Since opening on Jan. 28, Nine Live Cat Café has adopted more than 130 cats and isn’t slowing down a bit.
“I love how happy the cats make people, and seeing their faces brighten when they interact with the cats,” Hubbard said. “Another thing I love about the business is my employees. We’re all like one big family and have grown close over these months, especially because most of them were there in the very beginning before we had even opened. They really make Nine Lives what it is, and I love them all so much. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
Nine Lives Cat Café works in tandem with the Humane Society of Indianapolis to adopt their animals. For more information on the Humane Society, visit their website at indyhumane.org.
Nine Lives is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. They are closed Wednesdays. For more information, visit their website at ninelivesindy.com.
Nine Lives Cat Café is located at 1315 Shelby St.