The Biscayne Times

Jul 08th
Cats and Cappuccinos PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
June 2019

This feline adoption center is a Miami first

TPix_PetTalk_6-19here’s a new angel in Miami Beach looking after community cats.

The Cat Café South Beach (CCSB) at 1423 Washington Ave., which opened in November 2018, is a coffee bar/cat adoption center, home to approximately 30 felines at a time -- all taken off the Miami Beach streets.

Founded by Celyta Jackson, a New York City transplant of five years with a long involvement in fostering cats, the café’s opening was planned for two and a half years and was hit with a year’s delay in permitting.

With a background in hospitality, tourism, and marketing as director of international sales at New York’s Plaza Hotel and as vice president of tourism for New York City & Company, the savvy Jackson (who speaks five languages) moved things along in the frustrating permit process without hiring a professional expeditor. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Jackson in a BT interview. She gave up her beloved New York City to build her first-time brick-and-mortar business, and after six months of operation, she can say that the café is breaking even.

Jackson chose to open her business in a tourist-packed area of South Beach, which gets overflow from nearby Lincoln Road, Espanola Way, and Ocean Drive. Her meticulous planning and smart design leave nothing to chance.

Visitors to CCSB enter via the coffee bar, a 1400-square-foot café whose sales of Cindy Lou cookies, other fresh-baked goods, and a selection of coffees and teas help pay the rent and support the 1500-square-foot cat adoption center. They are separated by glass walls, and each section has its own air-filtration system.

In the back of the café, a small boutique greets cat visitors, with numerous cat-themed items for sale. It is followed by the glassed-in anteroom, where the cat house rules are explained: visitors cover their shoes with provided booties and use hand sanitizer before entering the cat room; only quiet voices are allowed; up to ten visitors can enter at one time; minimum age allowed in is six years; and kids must be accompanied by an adult up to age ten. Visiting fees are $15 for an hour of playing with and petting cats, $10 for 30 minutes, and you must sign a waiver, as cats may scratch and bite. Upon leaving, use the adoption center’s cat-hair roller to tidy up.

On a BT visit in late April, the cat lounge housed 27 kitties, some stretched out on a variety of couches, chairs, pet beds, and carpets. Water-bowl fountains are everywhere. Unique lifeguard-stand-themed pet furniture made by Square Paws provides a whimsical feel. A few cats were entertained by visitors and volunteers. Other cats went in and out of a cat door leading to a room for cats and staff only. This area is where cats can take a break, eat, and go to the bathroom while staff prepare meals and clean out litter boxes.

Jackson explains that the cats are all socialized and fully vaccinated, and come to the center with vet health certificates and records. Trained adoption counselors help process same-day visitor adoptions. There is a $75 adoption fee, 100 percent of which goes to SOBE Cats Spay & Neuter, which does trap-neuter-return (TNR), feral cat colony feeding, and singles out cats with the most potential as pets. Cats for adoption at Cat Café South Beach are made available by this non-profit.

SOBE Cats Spay & Neuter founder Mary Thingelstad tells the BT that the City of Miami Beach provides the group with its headquarters, as well as a van and a volunteer driver who picks up trapped cats and transports them to their building overnight in preparation for a coordinated “30-cat spay day” with the Cat Network’s Meow Mobile, a “surgery center on wheels.” Cats are returned and released where they were trapped in cat colonies throughout Miami Beach.

Thingelstad organizes a network of 125 registered volunteer feeders who also handle TNR. She has actively been involved in TNR for ten years and started her non-profit in 2016. To date, the group has coordinated the spay and neuter of 8000 Miami Beach cats. After volunteering for Thingelstad as a kitten bottle feeder, Celyta Jackson decided to partner with this ambitious group. Socialization and vetting for the Cat Café is done by SOBE Cats Spay & Neuter.

January 23, 2019, was proclaimed Cat Café Day by the mayor of Miami Beach. As of April 2019, the café has adopted out 48 cats, whose photographs grace a wall of fame.

Future programs to be offered at the café are a responsible pet ownership class for kids, juggling, knitting, spoken word performances, and purrlates -- a yoga-like exercise based on cat stretching. Jackson admits this is a work in progress. The website is pretty basic for now, and she’s still in search of the perfect dust-free, easy clumping litter (


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