Cat Cafes are Real and Are Now Apparently Legal in the US
Nasir Pasha & Matt Staub

Cat Cafes are Real and Are Now Apparently Legal in the US [e139]

Nasir and Matt end the week by discussing how cat cafes are popping up in cities across the US and the legalities behind how people are pulling it off.


NASIR: All right. Welcome to our podcast where we cover business legal news. My name is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: And I’m Matt Staub.
NASIR: And thanks for joining us once again. This is our Friday episode and this is the time where we’re going to just pause here for a second for you to pause and bring up iTunes and rate us with five stars. So, let’s just sit here for… how long does that take? Like, twenty minutes?
MATT: Yeah, it depends. Was that intentional? You really emphasized “pause.” Was that a pun based on what we’re talking about or no?
NASIR: Yes, it was.
MATT: Okay.
NASIR: I don’t do anything unintentionally. Everything’s intentional.
MATT: Yeah. Well, we’ve put it off for… what is this? 138 episodes.
NASIR: We’ve been planning this for about – I don’t know – about five years now, right?
MATT: Despite your requests and your cameo appearances by flowers and I forget the name…
NASIR: Marley.
MATT: Marley. I was going to say Hendrix. See, I was close.
NASIR: Hendrix?
MATT: Well, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley. That’s how I think of it.
NASIR: Oh, got you, got you.
MATT: Yeah, despite those cameos and everything else, we’re going to talk about cats – your favorite thing.
NASIR: Well, I don’t know if I would say favorite thing but, yeah, I’m definitely a cat person compared to a dog person, I would say.
MATT: Well, I’m a dog person. That’s fine. I had cats growing up. Just saw my parents’ cat so it’s nice. I did like it there. Cats, when they’re focused, they have their…
NASIR: Moments, right?
MATT: Yeah, they have their moments, but they’re usually just lying around doing things.
NASIR: Well, I actually don’t have any cats. I just have cats that are a guest in my home. I wouldn’t say I own them. They definitely don’t act like I’m their owner.
MATT: That’s the problem with cats. That’s the nature of their personality. It’s the exact opposite. I can’t remember ever coming home growing up and the cat was excited to see me. Every time I come home now, my dog is like, it’s like the best moment of his day.
NASIR: Well, yeah, that’s not completely true, but definitely there’s a huge difference between dogs and cats in that respect.
MATT: So, actually, we’re not even going to put a poll up on the site because I know what would win if people were going to vote cats or dogs. It’s not even going to be close.
NASIR: I’ll stay silent on that.
MATT: So, we’re talking about these cat cafes which is pretty interesting. You know, before I get into the story, it is interesting because every place that you see, especially in San Diego – I don’t know out in Houston if it’s the same but San Diego is a huge dog place so there’s a lot of dog-friendly restaurants, places.
NASIR: I think most cities are but I think the difference is where there’s so many outdoor seating and things like that that people have their dogs with them and there are people walking around in Houston like it’s hard to find outdoor seating sometimes, even when the weather is nice. And so, it’s not as common. Everyone drives around everywhere and goes inside.
MATT: I’ll give a quick plug to this company – this iPhone app, Doggie Door – that I saw on Wednesday. It’s only in San Diego right now but basically you can download the app only on your iPhone and it basically pulls up a map of all the spots that are dog-friendly.
NASIR: Dog-friendly? That’s cool.
MATT: But the point I was getting to was I don’t think cats are really allowed in the same, I mean, you never even see it. It’s not like, “Is this place cat-friendly?”
NASIR: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s allowed or prohibited. I mean, people just don’t carry their cats around either.
MATT: Earlier in the week, I was driving and some woman was walking her pig.
NASIR: Is San Diego pig-friendly? What would you say?
MATT: I don’t know. I’ve seen a couple of pigs. This was a big pig. I’ve seen, like, baby pigs walked around. This thing was a big, huge pig being just walked around.
NASIR: More like a show pig.
MATT: I don’t know. Well, before I get too off-track, even though I already have, what we’re talking about are these cat cafes, and I guess there is one – you brought this to my attention, of course, as you only would – there is one in San Diego that just opened up less than a month ago. Basically, it allows people to go to these cafes, get some food, get a drink, and then just sit around and mingle with cats. There’s a way they got around it because I think this was big in other countries. It was at least allowed in other countries.
NASIR: By the way, this is like a new phenomenon. Like, I think San Diego’s cat café was almost the first. I think the first one was in Washington or Northern California. But, anyway, the first one in the US was only last December.
Anyway, this New York City one, they were having problems they were trying to figure out because the New York City law – which I’m sure is not unfamiliar to other cities – is that you couldn’t have cats in the same vicinity or location as where food is being served – which makes sense – and so they had to figure out a way to get around the regulation. They had to do some research and I’m even looking, I don’t even think they hired any attorneys to do this. It almost seems like they did it themselves. They did some meticulous research and making many calls to regulators. So, they came up with this idea of basically setting two separate physical locations where, if a patron comes in, they can buy their cookies and coffee or whatever and then, if they choose to do so, bring it over to the cats section. Even though I like cats, this whole cat café thing is kind of weird to me. But, hey, whatever it is! It just seems weird because, you know, cats have different personalities. Some cats are very aggressive, they fight with other cats and it’d be kind of weird to just see a bunch of cats running around at different temperaments during the day, you know?
MATT: Yeah, it’s definitely interesting and I guess it’s also interesting how they got around this. But I would think they’d have to have some sort of separation. I guess there has to be some sort of gate or something that separates or I guess possibly even a door, like, in a wall and everything that separates the two different spots because they can’t cross that cats having in where food and beverage is served.
NASIR: Yeah. Somehow, there has to be some separation. Otherwise, it ends up looking like it’s the same location. It’s all very strange to me.
MATT: Yeah, and I don’t know if they’re all like this, but the nice thing about the one in San Diego is that it is a lot of cats from the humane society.
NASIR: That’s really cool.
MATT: Because that’s the whole thing. You can go there, see a cat, and basically be like, “Oh, I want this,” adopt it right there and take it home with you so that’s cool. At the same time, it seems like there are some liability issues in terms of you have all these cats from the humane society and you don’t know – I don’t know cats – do they have a lot of diseases? I feel like dogs have more diseases than cats.
NASIR: Cats and dogs spread disease to each other all the time. In fact, when you adopt, that’s one of the problems; they often have some kind of disease or whatever that has to be treated. Most of them are treatable but, every once in a while, there’s some kind of infection that gets pretty bad and actually causes death. And so, that’s something to be aware of. But, you know, there’s a lot of liability issues here, too, because, when you have cats in the same vicinity – whether they’re fighting, just like dogs – I mean, things could happen. Some cat can scratch somebody or some dog can bite somebody in the same sense. In our law system, legal system, whether you like it or not, cats and dogs are treated as property or “chattel” and so, whether they’re injured or even cause death by disease or what-have-you, the actual liability from that perspective is pretty small because it’s the cost of the cat or the cost of the dog. There’s no emotional distress or anything like that that may be associated with it.
MATT: That’s not very “cat”-astrophic is what you’re saying.
NASIR: You must have read that book of puns that we talked about a couple of days ago.
MATT: Yeah. Don’t need to! I wrote the book. So, I guess, at least in California – California Retail Food Code – it has to be they’re allowed in a food facility if it’s kept twenty feet away which is pretty manageable.
NASIR: Any live animals must be twenty feet away.
MATT: I mean, there’s restaurants and bars in San Diego that’ll let you have your dog inside the actual place – not even on, like, the balcony – just inside.
NASIR: And we’ve talked about it in the past, like, usually, companies or restaurants can prohibit animals, especially dogs, outside – unless it’s like a seeing dog or helper dog. What do you call them?
MATT: Guide dog?
NASIR: A guide dog or what-have-you. Basically, the dog is there to support an individual that may be disabled in some way. That’s the only exception.
But, hey, I wanted to mention this whole humane society thing. I don’t think people realize that these shelters that actually kill the animals, most of them are actually killed. We actually adopted our cat. When we went to the shelter, it was just sad because people, there was long lines turning in dogs and cats and they’re just overpopulated. I think we asked, I think it was, like, maybe 15 percent or less were actually adopted. The rest ended up being killed after a week. So, I don’t know. It’s pretty crazy how many animals are actually taken. So, that’s one cool positive aspect of it and I think, from a business perspective, I think you’re required to actually buy something to actually go in, right? Or am I wrong? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just a café.
MATT: Yeah, I would think you wouldn’t have to be. I don’t see why they would require you to.
NASIR: Yeah, probably not. But it does look like the first one was opened in Oakland – first one in the US opened in Oakland and, like I said, I think it was last December – pretty new thing.
MATT: The biggest customers, according to them, are someone who’s roommate is allergic to cats, students who can’t have cats in their dorms, people whose landlords don’t allow cats, and then potential adopters. When I was renting before, I ran into issues of dogs and, usually, my dog’s small – under 25 pounds – so there’s never really an issue. But I don’t see people would have… well, I guess if cats have claws then you could run into problems, but I don’t see why people would really care about restricting cats in rentals.
NASIR: I think it’s a cool business. From a legal perspective, I think it’s a low-risk aspect. I think, honestly, I think dogs have more risk than cats because of the dog bite issue because there are certain types of dogs that, if they do bite somebody, it could cause quite a bit of damage, but even I think the worst cat that may be very aggressive or what-have-you, the damage that it occur is very, very little to a human being – relative sense. Obviously, there are some cats that are, you know, if you get, like, one of those bigger cats like a…
MATT: Lion.
NASIR: Yeah.
MATT: You walk in, there’s just a big tiger in there.
NASIR: Yeah, I think there will be some liability there.
MATT: What’s your favorite cat breed?
NASIR: I don’t know cat breeds that well. I used to have a Bengal cat which was really cool. They have really nice coats and Savannah cats are pretty cool, too – they’re a little bit larger and almost look like a mini-leopard or a mini-tiger.
MATT: The person that got interviewed in this San Diego story said cats are so versatile. Cats are the LeBron James of animals, apparently – can do so many different things.
NASIR: Okay, okay. There was one quote I liked that someone said. “I can imagine many people in downtown can walk over here and just pet a cat and grab a sandwich or something.” I mean, that kind of paints the whole picture.
MATT: Maybe we’ll try to go check it out and see. Well, no, I don’t want to check it out because then my wife will end up, like, talking us into adopting five of them.
NASIR: When I’m in San Diego next, we’ll record our episode in the cat café. Why not? We’ll ask them.
MATT: Yeah, it would be pretty fun and just the constant meowing in the background. Well, I guess cats don’t meow too much.
NASIR: I don’t know. When they’re in cages – if they are with those adopted cats – they probably will.
MATT: These cats are free. They’re not caged up. They’re just walking around, hanging out.
NASIR: I bet you, even the ones that are being adopted, they would cage up. I would assume, but who knows? I don’t know. Because of spread of disease and stuff, I’m not sure. We’ll have to check it out next time.
MATT: Yeah, seems like a good reason to take a trip out.
NASIR: All right. Well, thanks for joining us, everyone.
MATT: Keep it sound and keep it smart.


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