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Purr-fect vibes for cat-lovers at The Great Catsby

Chico’s first cat café and lounge hosts felines and humans alike
Heather Taylor
Photos and names of adoptable cats are proudly displayed at the café. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023.

Chico has no shortage of cafés and gathering places, but one business holds the distinction of being the first of its kind in the city. The Great Catsby is Chico’s first cat café, or as the café spells it, the “furrst.” 

Cat puns abound at the café and lounge, located on Esplanade next to Nash’s Restaurant, where The Great Catsby hosts a crew of rescued, adoptable cats. 

The comfortable atmosphere provides opportunities for visitors to play with cats and kittens, which socializes them and boosts their chances of adoption, according to the café’s stated goals

The Great Catsby opened in 2022, and owner Jodi Belongie said it has facilitated the adoption of more than 60 cats. 

Exterior of The Great Catsby with front lawn, walkway and decorative balloons.
The Great Catsby is Chico’s first cat café and lounge. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023.
(Heather Taylor)

All feline guests are rabies-tested, vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The café owners work closely with animal shelters as rescue partners. While they wait to find their “furrever” home, the cats have a safe foster home at the café. 

In early August, the cats on-site ranged from two feisty kittens who were still getting settled in, to a 16-pound gentle giant named Bubba, who was content to spend his time napping. 

Each cat has its own personality traits and quirks, which are celebrated and encouraged by the  staff. Owners John and Jodi Belongie are passionate about their work and quick to share stories or facts about the cats.

A very dapper black cat is painted on a blue background on a wall of The Great Catsby.
Colorful cat themed art, like this painting of Great Catsby’s mascot, Babette, fill the café and lounge. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023. (Heather Taylor)

For those interested in visiting the cat café and lounge, reservations are required and can be placed through their website. Reservations cover 50 minutes among the dozen cats.

Monday through Friday, fees are $20 per adult, and $15 for students with a student ID. Children and senior admission is $10. On Saturdays, all prices increase by $2. 

The reservation fees go toward the care, feeding and veterinary services for the cats, as well as staff salaries and building maintenance. 

Upon arrival, visitors must ring the doorbell and wait for the café hosts to provide entry. The café uses an airlock method entryway to ensure no cats escape as guests come and go. 

Once inside, The Great Catsby’s purpose and rules are briefly explained. Guests are asked to use hand sanitizer and complete brief waivers. When this process is finished, the interior doors can open to the impatient cats waiting to be greeted. 

A tabby cat lounges on a blue chair
This seat is taken by a café resident, Love Bug. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023.
(Heather Taylor)

The café is located in a building that looks and feels like a house. It has been adapted to span three main rooms, including an activity lounge, a co-working area and a gift shop. Additionally, there is an enclosed “pawrlor,” which is used for private parties and the café’s many events.

The majority of fun is found in the activity lounge which has many comfortable chairs. Some have scuff and scratch mark renovations, courtesy of the cat’s claws. 

Feathery and fuzzy toys are spread thick across the floor, spilling out of baskets, and cat trees fill the broad window. The back wall is covered with a feline jungle gym of bridges and hammocks. 

An orange striped cat is fast asleep at the top of a cat tree.
Entertaining guests seems to require a lot of cat naps. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023. (Heather Taylor)

Most of the cats in the café are scattered around this room, sleeping in the many alcoves or stretched out on the rugs. The cats are all friendly, though some are more outgoing than others. The Great Catsby’s etiquette is to wait for the foster felines to come up to you or to approach them gently. Most need little enticing to play with toys or receive affection. 

A bulletin board contains the cat’s names and pictures, and the café provides printouts which detail each cat’s backstory and any pertinent information. Many were rescued from large colonies of 40 to 130 cats. 

Two cats sleep on a jungle gym mounted on the wall.
Cats can be seen everywhere, even on the walls. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023. (Heather Taylor)

While the title of “cat café” implies the presence of food and coffee, the menu is limited. Included in the price of the reservation is one bottled drink and two pre-packaged snacks. 

Despite their attempts at begging, no human food can be shared with the cats. 

The café also has a small menu featuring coffee drinks made with Cal Java coffee, with punny names matching the café’s own “Great Catsby” title. Drinks including The Black Cat, Meowca, Hot Chococat and Cold Meow can be purchased Monday through Friday until 2 p.m., and on Saturdays until noon. Prices range from $3.50 to $5.50. 

A small gift shop area offers locally-made jewelry, which unsurprisingly features cats prominently in all the designs, as well as cat-themed books, old-fashioned postcards and The Great Catsby branded shirts. 

Gift shop offerings include resin jewelry handmade by a Great Catsby employee. Photo by Heather Taylor on August 11, 2023. (Heather Taylor)

The 50-minute time period passes surprisingly fast, but for those who are looking for more activities, the café offers a coloring night on Tuesdays, date night every Friday evening, and many other events and craft days which are announced through their social media

The main appeal is interacting with the cats, and The Great Catsby provides a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy them. 

The entire café and lounge is surprisingly clean despite the many feline occupants, and the café information states, “We follow cleaning procedures similar to hospitals and veterinary clinics and are cleaning and lint rollering very often.”  

The Great Catsby is ideal for a one-of-a-kind Chico experience, especially for anyone who might be homesick for their own pets or someone looking to adopt a cat. The cat crew will be sure to offer a warm welcome and plenty of entertainment not available anywhere else.

Heather Taylor can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Heather Taylor
Heather Taylor, Copy Editor
Heather Taylor is a journalism major at Chico State. This is her third semester with The Orion. She has worked as a reporter and copy editor. Outside of school, Taylor enjoys reading, collecting vinyl records, hiking and kayaking, making crochet projects and spending time with her pets. 

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