I Visited a Very Large Cat Cafe
And barely escaped with my life.
My 25th birthday was approaching. The man I was dating at the time, Gregory Wartbutten, asked me what I wanted to do. I should have said “break up with you and find a man who doesn’t leave his toenail clippings in the bedsheets,” but I wasn’t ready to make that sort of statement.
I knew we’d break up eventually, but my plan was to wait until winter was over. Winter is a terrible time to be single, because there’s less body heat in the apartment.
Plus, sometimes I needed the comfort of being wanted, even if the person wanting me wore novelty kerchiefs on the weekends and had an inexplicable obsession with Neil Diamond (the least impressive of the diamonds).
“I want to go to a cat cafe,” I said.
I’d seen pictures of my friends on Instagram cuddling with kittens and sipping at lattes. My Instagram page was alarmingly cat-free.
“You got it, kiddo!” said Gregory Wartbutten, before wiping his nose with the sleeve of my t-shirt, a habit he considered endearing, but I considered inconsiderate, as it meant I had to change my t-shirt 20 times a day and the laundry bills were starting to add up.
When the morning of my birthday arrived, he led me down a dark alley. For a moment I wondered if he was going to murder me. The truth, it turns out, wasn’t far off.
“Here it is, kiddo! The cat cafe! Don’t say ole Gregory didn’t never do nothing for you!”
I was still trying to figure out what the combination of different negatives added up to when he opened a door and ushered me inside. It smelled like raw meat run through a car wash.
“What kind of cat cafe is this?” I asked.
The battle-scarred woman womaning the front desk looked at us and sighed. “It’s a very large cat cafe,” she said.
“So the cafe is very large?”
“No, the cafe is medium-sized. The cats are large.”
I turned to look at Gregory Wartbutten. There was a smile pasted across his face, like he’d just heard the best punchline ever constructed.
I wanted to cry. My dreams of dainty kittens were drifting further and further away. Something in the other room roared and the walls shook.
“Why don’t you read through this release form while I make your lattes,” said the woman.
“Are the big cats drugged or something? So they won’t eat us?” I asked her.
“No, that would be unethical.”
“Have they been trained? Defanged?”
“You’re missing the point of this whole experience.”
That’s when Gregory Wellbutten decided to, well, butt in. “Oh, come on, Sarah! I know you’re more exciting than all those basic betsys you hang out with. I knew you’d want something a little more extreme for your birthday… something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
“Which might not be that long,” added the woman. “Make sure to read line 23, whereby you’re not allowed to sue us if you die and we have permission to taunt your children on social media.”
“I don’t have children.”
“Are you sure you want to do this, then? What legacy are you leaving behind if you don’t have any kids?”
“Well, first of all, that is extremely sexist. But, also, I’d prefer not to die.” I put down the paper and glared at Gregory Wellbutten. “Take me to a normal cat cafe.”
He picked at a piece of dirt beneath his thumbnail and flicked it at me. It stuck to my cheek. “You always do this. You told me you were quirky, but instead you’re as boring as every other girl in this city. All you care about is your Instagram feed and your need to sleep at least four hours every night. I’m bringing you the chance for true adventure. You’re welcome.”
These kinds of domestic squabbles were why I had no interest in long term commitment. One day you’re looking for someone to split the mac and cheese, the next day he’s calling you basic for not wanting to end up as some tiger’s toothpick.
But it worked, damn it, it worked. Because for some reason I was gritting my teeth and signing my name on the release form. I was not unadventurous! How dare he! I mixed velvet and flannel all the time. I decided to dedicate my last remaining minutes to proving Gregory Wellbutten wrong.
Hopefully my demise would earn me a few additional likes.
Gregory Wellbutten and I suited up in cumbersome, padded unitards. Gregory Wellbutten took a picture of me while the woman informed us that the unitards were no real shield against the claws of a large cat.
“Let’s be honest,” she said, “if they wanna eat you, they’re gonna eat you. So your best defense is to not look tasty.”
“Do a peace sign!” said Gregory.
I gave him an angry peace sign using my middle finger.
Then the woman handed us each our lattes and let us through a metal door with the words “Pawsitively Adorable” written above it in Papyrus font.
There were the cats.
They were the first thing I saw. Lions, tigers, bobcats, leopards, jaguars, and even lynxes. They were scattered about the room, lounging in frilly cribs, draped across comfy chairs, and gathered beneath the skylights, soaking in what little sunlight drifted down from above.
That song about walking a thousand miles just to see you again was playing over the speakers.
The cats all looked at us.
There’s a curious thing that happens when you walk into a room with twenty very large cats. The world gets simple. And you begin to realize things.
I realized that I hated Gregory Wellbutten. I’d always hated Gregory Wellbutten.
And I didn’t want to die.
But I might not mind if he did.
“Pose with the tiger!” I said. “I’ll get a picture.”
He squatted down beside the tiger, his novelty kerchief tied above his unitard at a stupid angle.
“Maybe you should put your arm around him,” I said. “Give him a hug like you’re friends.”
“Good idea, kiddo!”
Now the tiger, to its credit, was remarkably composed during all of this. Perhaps working at a very large cat cafe had helped it grow used to humans. The look it gave Gregory Wellbutten was one of long-suffering bemusement.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d never have quite as good a chance as this, but the tiger didn’t seem inclined to eat Gregory Wellbutten’s face off.
Then, it happened.
A familiar sight.
A small rivulet of snot peeked out from within Gregory Wellbutten’s nostril. He looked toward me, but I was too far away for easy wiping.
What came next was entirely his own fault.
He wiped his nose on the tiger.
Of all the indignities that poor tiger had suffered in its life, that nose wipe was one too far. It roared in anger and bared its teeth. The other very large cats gathered.
“Golly, that doesn’t seem right,” said Gregory Wellbutten.
I was already backing away toward the door.
The cats devoured Gregory Wellbutten. They tore him apart and then they played with the pieces of him.
It was very tragic. I guess.
Me? I got out in time.
That night I lit a single candle in my birthday cupcake and sang Happy Birthday to myself. My 25th winter would be a cold one.
I can stand the cold.