Café serves up coffee, cuddles and safe space for shelter cats

Rosie licks her paw inside the petting room at Felius. Photo by Maria Nevada.

Maria Nevada

The storefront of the new cafe Felius on South 24th St. is unassuming. Nothing about it screams, “There are cats in here!” Except, of course, the sign on the window in bold white type that says, “There are like, a bunch of cats in here.” If you peer through the window, you can barely see small gently heaving furry forms.

It’s a cat cafe. Cat cafes found their beginning in Taiwan and Japan, providing spaces for customers to interact with cats while enjoying a break.

At Felius, a nonprofit founded by Bre Phelan, the cafe has another purpose. By providing a safe space for cats to live, Felius is intended to provide relief to overcrowded shelters. The owners allow customers to interact with the cats in the hopes that they will adopt them and give the felines a loving home, reducing the likelihood of euthanasia.

Felius is a bright, warm space, filled with witty and cheerful cat-inspired sayings and decor. The cafe has a partnership with Muglife Coffee, a nearby coffee shop and roaster. Baristas staff the coffee counter while volunteers monitor the cats’ wellbeing inside a petting room separated from the rest of the cafe by a wall with a wide window.

Customers can choose to sip their beverages outside the petting room, looking in through the window, or at the tables inside the petting room. Cats wind their way through chairs and play with customers. Or they nap, a lot.

Ayah Nuwwarah, a barista and UNO student, was watching over the cats, as they lacked a volunteer during that shift. She described how the staff encouraged the cats to hang out in the petting room but never forced them. It’s a matter of socializing them.

“We do see them open up over time,” she said.

The cats are provided by neighbor nonprofit Wags to Riches, an animal rescue group. The cats are spayed and neutered and can be adopted for $75. Nuwwarah estimated that about six cats had been adopted since the cafe opened Sept. 18.

“I like seeing the cats go home.” Nuwwarah said. “It’s bittersweet, mostly sweet,”

Felius charges $7.50 for 30 minutes inside the petting room and $14 for an hour. It is closed on Monday and is located at 522½ S. 24th St., Omaha, NE.