Cat Tales Cat Café

431 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill,

Shortly after six on a Tuesday evening in April, ten young professionals gather at a cafe in Chapel Hill. Led by a teacher from Franklin Street Yoga, they go through the normal array of postures—child’s pose, downward dog, warrior I, cat and cow—like any other yoga session. 

The only difference: There are cats everywhere. 

This is Cat Tales, a new cat cafe that opened on Valentine’s Day. The class is the second in a soon-to-be-monthly series of cat yoga offerings, appealing to cat people and yoga people alike. (Disclosure: I am the very embodiment of the target demo.) 

Most of the time, there’s no yoga. There are prepackaged treats to munch on, like cupcakes from Pittsboro’s Phoenix Bakery, as well as an assortment of coffee, beer, and wine. And there are always cats—and those cats are always looking for a good home. 

“We just had our sixteenth adoption about thirty minutes ago,” co-owner and manager Katy Poitras told me during a recent afternoon visit. 

The two-story glass-walled building facing Franklin Street is a cat’s paradise. Sunbeams pour in midday, ideal for an afternoon nap. Cat trees and scratch boxes are dispersed throughout both levels, gifting each creature an opportunity to snooze, snuggle, hide—or whatever strikes their fancy. Plush pillows and blankets in pastel pinks and blues adorn a couple of soft and squishy couches, perfect for kneading and nesting, and, of course, being worshipped by humans.

It’s feline siesta time. Each day, the cafe closes for about an hour to give the cats a break from human visitors, which might account for their cordial behavior. 

“People are always pleasantly surprised by how social and friendly the cats are,” Poitras says, as Alistair, a seven-month-old part-Bengal who has already surpassed the size of an average housecat, nuzzles my forearm. 

Alistair, who does not like to be picked up, enjoys my head scratches and neck rubs. I learn that he’s an enthusiastic swimmer, a trait of his breed; his previous foster parent discovered him paddling around in a bathtub filled with water during Hurricane Florence. 

Like the other cats here, Alistair comes from the Goathouse Refuge, a nonprofit no-kill sanctuary in Pittsboro that, according to the Refuge, currently has about three hundred cats in its care. Poitras and co-owner Ilene Speizer partnered with Goathouse to help find cats who’ve been in foster care a permanent home. Cat Tales keeps twelve cats at a time, ranging from seven months to a year old. When one is adopted, another is on deck. In a recent letter to Goathouse donors (and shared with the INDY), refuge founder Siglinda Scarpa explained that, at the rate of six Cat Tales adoptions per month, the Goathouse could see a thirty-three percent annual increase in its adoption rate.

The cafe’s origins were fortuitous. A year ago, Poitras and Speizer were independently scoping out spaces for cat cafes in Chapel Hill. Their parallel efforts—from talking to the health department and county animal services to reaching out to Goathouse—led them to the same space, just a day apart, though it wasn’t the location where they eventually ended up. The landlord connected them. They met and decided that, rather than compete, they should work together, with Poitras managing the operation while Speizer, a research professor at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, would work behind the scenes. 

“The community response has been outstanding, supportive, and enthusiastic, way before we even opened,” says Poitras. 

From the beginning, Cat Tales, which recommends reservations—yes, you can reserve it for parties—has been consistently booked, especially on weekends. According to Poitras, it’s the Triangle’s first and only officially licensed cat cafe—and the fourth in the state—for now, anyway. 

This fall, Purr Cup Café will open near downtown Raleigh. 

A version of this article also appeared in print.

Contact food and digital editor Andrea Rice at 

Support independent journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.