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Sana Hamelin, the owner of the Denver Cat Company, cuddles one of her fur babies. —Courtesy of Sana Hamelin

Denver Cat Company Celebrates First Anniversary

This Tennyson shop has become a successful foster home and community fixture.

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For cat lovers, nothing makes for a cozier afternoon than curling up with a cup of coffee and a feline companion. Thanks to the one-year-old Denver Cat Company (DCC), even those without cats of their own can enjoy the company of a furry friend.

When the shop originally opened on Tennyson Street last December, it made Denver the third U.S. city to open a cat cafe. Like the cat-and-coffee attractions that first gained popularity in Taiwan and Japan, the DCC offers visitors a chance to play with adoptable kitties, enjoy a hot drink, and relax. “Denver was on the cutting edge of this trend,” says owner Sana Hamelin, who originally worked in law before opening the cafe.

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Unlike many other cat cafes around the globe, which require visitors to make reservations, the DCC asks customers to pay a $3 cover charge on weekdays and $5 on weekends to cover the cost of fostering the kitties, which come from five different local rescues, until they are adopted. So far, the model has been quite successful. Nearly 100 cats have found permanent homes since the cafe opened last year.

In addition to being a loving foster home, the cafe also doubles as an art studio. A rotating assortment of eclectic artwork hangs on the walls, and the cafe also partners with Teller Street Gallery & Studios to host cat-themed painting classes several times a month.

But the DCC has also faced challenges in its first year of operation. In May, a customer sued the Denver Cat Company after being bitten by a cat at the cafe and sustaining an infection. The customer and her daughter insisted that Hamelin pay the $305 medical bill. Hamelin offered to pay part, claiming that she provides customers with multiple warnings to pet at their own risk (and since, frankly, it’s the nature of cats to scratch and bite). The plaintiffs refused the offer and filed a claim demanding almost $6,000 to cover medical expenses, missed work, and for the emotional toll of the ordeal.

Once word of the lawsuit got out, the community rushed to Hamelin’s aid, raising more than $4,000 in a week to help pay legal fees. Because of the public outcry, the lawsuit was dropped before the end of the month. “The suit drove home how much the community wanted us to stay. It was, ironically, a cool thing to go through,” says Hamelin.

As they DCC enters its second year, Hamelin hopes to continue building community bonds. The cafe now serves local Handcraft Bakery goodies alongside black java and tea, and Hamelin plans to start housing 10 or 11 cats at a time, instead of the current eight, so that more homeless kitties can find loving homes. Hamelin has recently taken on the role of co-director for the Colorado chapter of the Paw Project, a nonprofit fighting to ban the practice of declawing cats, and also hopes to use the cafe as a space to educate visitors about the harmful effects of this procedure. (Those who adopt cats from the DCC already sign a contract promising not to declaw their new pet.)

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Hamelin is glad to provide Denverites—and countless kitties—a unique space to feel comfortable and loved. “The cafe has brought joy to so many people. It’s wonderful to be part of something revolutionary,” she says.

Meet the Kitties: The Denver Cat Company is hosting a birthday celebration on December 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. The cafe is open Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 3929 Tennyson St.; 303-433-3422; $3–$5

(Read more: The Denver Cat Company Delivers on Coffee)

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