Coffee, Cake, and Cats – Interview with Cat Cafe Owner Lenny Popelier

Who knows us, or follow Kay and me on Instagram, know that we are cat people (we like dogs but too!): the Red cat Noboru Watya and the small MakeRel are our roommates. Not everyone who would like to have a hairy roommate has the opportunity to do: it is lack of space, lack of time, fear of binding, or a human roommate with cat hair allergy. In Asia, there are already more cat cafes: Cafés where you can order coffee and cake and be at the same time cuddle cats. In London, we ran over to one then in Tokyo in a cat Café full of breed cats for half an hour to spend. Now, Lenny Popelier brings us a cat café to Amsterdam! Katten Café of Kopjes celebrates its grand opening today. Last night, we were allowed to make Lenny kindly have a few more questions.

The first time I Lenny saw last summer, she had the world’s best cat duck shirt. She was immediately very sympathetic. Her cake was also delicious and so I was completely convinced a cat café to open their idea with a donation support. The goal was achieved and even surpassed.

Yesterday, we pedaled West to Amsterdam and were friendly. The first impression, even before we saw the cats: everything to take home! Cat pillow, Katzentassen…und delicious pastries. After we had disinfected our hands, we went in the spacious and bright room in which seven cats live.

The decor is great not only for cats, because it looks like a lovingly furnished living room, where it is can be made comfortable on vintage armchairs, chairs and sofas. In addition to the facility for people, there is also enough space and also places for the dogs. Places of retreat and also toys, scratching posts and climbing opportunities.

With a coffee Lenny and I get comfortable on a sofa (by the way, she had a great blouse with Katzenprint). We remain but not long for two, because joins one of the cats to us after a few minutes and stays all the time between us. Later, I notice that you purr is heard on the recordings.

Who is Lenny?
Wow! A question that is not about cats! I’m Lenny, 31 years old, Catlover extraordinaire and now the proud owner of Kopjes. I’m working more than fulltime here. Very little sleep, late to bed with hysterical thoughts “I have to have this and that!”. I must make more cat profiles! I have already bought photo frame and last night I actually wanted to start to take pictures along with a bio for each cat: name, bio, Karakter. Just much really going on, but I’m also very happy.

Tomorrow is the opening!
Yes, and I have still have a list of things, but most people don’t notice it safely. The little things. Now everything is good and ready and maybe we customize anything else on the menu, otherwise it’s somewhat stupid, if we have to say: “welcome, but here we did not and we just no longer have this!”.

What does ‘Kopjes’ mean?
Kopjes is the Dutch word for what cats do when you rub the head’s. But also the Dutch word for coffee or Tea Cup: kopje koffiee. [What followed a discussion and if there is a German word for Kopjes.] Is there one?]

The question you did today certainly already twenty times answer: why? Why have you to open a cat Café?
I was in Tokyo in a cat Café and thought “wow, that is really great!” “Maybe you can do that in the Netherlands!” I saw the whole thing in front of me as a place of humans and cats can deal with each other, and where people can also simply relax and drink delicious coffee. Tasty lunch and eating cake, magazines read, things like that. Play with cats.

I think it’s already comfortable in the Café where we were in Tokyo. Because all the people were very, very quiet and the atmosphere was relaxed, but at the same time quite stiff. Here it is gezellig [cozy]!
Yes, it’s there as a little sterile! Gezellig is really a typical Dutch word and exactly so it should be here, too! Relaxed!

You thought friends so needs a cat Café Amsterdam?
I wanted it even very happy, but I also thought to myself that’s sure a need there then. I did not really research. It was more the Crowdfunding. I thought, if that goes well, it will be fine, then there’s a demand.

What do you do with the Café?
What I have said, a place to the can relax, a place come to the people. And the cats, who all come from the animal shelter, offer a good home. Get affection from people, where they can be happy. [We interrupt us always through “oh look what the cat is there just” heckling. Catladies!]

What was the whole process of your idea to return to today?
At the beginning, as we in Tokyo were, we thought “cool, we do also!”. During the trip we have thought about a name and if it could work here, too. When we were back I had to consider whether I really want to make it. I had at the time even job interviews, because I had a completely different job doing so. I so did not know whether I should not just apply and simply wanted to have a normal job. Then I wrote the business plan and watched the Cafés there already in Europe, the United States and Canada. Then I saw that the woman in London had made for her Café Crowdfunding. I had this already heard and thought to myself, that I try too!

The Crowdfunding went well, the money was there, and then I had to find even a suitable location. That was really long! I was already the despair, because I could not find anything what affordable and Nice. Then I found this shop where previously was a quite criminal Café, what had caused quite a lot of problems in the neighborhood. There were arrests, shootings…

There was an information evening for the neighborhood, because it was actually discussed, that nothing more gastronomic should come in here. They were also afraid that I may not be long here would remain and it would then be a venue for a shady Café.

It was really a process with the community. But now all is well.

Would you also recommend other people to make Crowdfunding?
Yes, sure! Of course I don’t know what would have made it a difference if I’d done a Crowdfunding, but now there are many people who really take part and there was a kind of community. People who are very excited by the idea. I would recommend it to others really. It costs just what: you have to put in some time and work, but then you get something out of this back!

There were also negative comments?
Yes, a few. It is a little divided, people who find it super great and people who see it more critically. It is often then but also people who don’t know what’s here will look like and what rules there are. Have already an opinion before they have seen something. Cats should not be entertained because here also not what they are. Although a pet is actually always a kind of entertainment, entertainment. Are more society for a itself. It works quite two tracks.

And what were nice things that have happened so far?
I have to just nachdenken…eine right anecdote I don’t now. There was a cat behavior researcher who wrote to me that there were negative reactions in their circles, but that she loves it what I do; the House rules were good and the establishment. Just me I’m not crazy to leave. Very sweet!

Last week there was also something sweet. A 7th girl had made a PowerPoint , I know not why a seven-year so something can make! Nowadays that is apparently so easy! She had to present what for the school and for their presentation was Kopjes. Their parents had me emailed the presentation. So cute! With a photo of me and things about the cats.

You wanted to only find a shop in Amsterdam Noord, then we would be stopped by every day, but you’re now here completely satisfied?
Yes! I am happy. I would have gladly opened in Noord, was also with the community in contact. They were excited by the idea, but just developed very much and it was still no match free. Now, I’m really happy with this site and the neighborhood here. It’s still very diverse here, not like in De Pijp [a district of Amsterdam with weekly market and many Cafés and bars]; so neighborhoods that I personally can’t identify me. I need now of course half an hour with the wheel, but actually that’s not too far. After all, better than take the train to, or to be with the car in a traffic jam. Only if I want to… be just quickly here [a cat who plays with her own cock brings us from the concept]

How were the cats actually chosen?
You were all chosen by the animal shelter. I was in contact the whole time with them, they knew that I wanted to like to have cats from the shelter. As the café as far as finished was, I went there and talked with them again and then they looked some cats in the home were and how is their character. They introduced me to a few cats and I liked everything. I had indeed no wishes with regard to the appearance of the cats. I just wanted that the cats are happy here.

We have now seven cats here, actually I was eight. When a cat they thought then that it would be not so well with other cats, so she never showed it to us.

Do you have a favorite cat here, or one with a particular story?
There is already a little meine…naja, I think all love. This cat here is sometimes a bit weird. The two found as are brother and sister and were on the road, this was found at the motorway exit, the two black were found in Noord. We also have a mother and son, the son has diabetes. He was not totally bald and is still somewhat thin. I peppel him now. To him, I notice but that he has the highest hunting instinct of all. He may like to out there, but then he would eat too much, which would not be good for his illness. What in turn calms me, because I know that it is ok to keep him indoors. We have also a tiny, who lost an eye. She and her sister come from a home with 37 cats.

How long do cats stay here? They go in retirement?
The idea is that they stay their whole lives here. As long you’re fine. When I realize that’s not well geht…wir do one, that they are not stressed out. Even a cat might happen but nothing more and not immediately. I want to now not mess up the group dynamics. Maybe, if the animal shelter says in a few months, that they have a cat, which here super good fits.

How you make sure that the cats are happy?
Lots of different things. There are House rules here for people, so that nothing is done, what the cats don’t like. The establishment; We give them opportunities to take advantage of the height of the room. There is also a space in which they completely can withdraw enough kitty litter boxes; We now have eight. Get organic feed from Yarrah and are at Petplan assured. If there’s anything we go immediately to the vet with them. And of course love and attention!

And how you think that the people happy?
With cake! With good coffee and delicious cake! Maximum here twenty people can at the same time, there are twenty-five seats, but I think twenty is much, or rather: it is full. We will also ensure that not twenty people at once come into the room. It is also the people. Some are quite noisy, more relaxed. Some are entertained just with others and others are very focused on the cats. It depends on.

When I was in London in a cat Café in December, I was alone and drank in silence my cup of coffee. If a cat came up to me, I have stroked it a little, but I was not actively engaged in the cats. Other people was really totally focused on the cats and sometimes I thought “wow” really! If there is a good balance, it will go well. Of course, it’s also nice if the people with the cats play.

There are still things that you miss here?
Actually, I haven’t really great cat toys at Tux & tabby ordered, which I get gesponsord. Really stylish, natural things. I hope things are on the move not been lost! It has sent them last week and every day I’m waiting anxiously on the post.

What is your dream for the future?
A still larger room would be great anyway, but now I’m just here and think it’s great. More stuff for the cats to build that you can from above in the extra space in which they can withdraw. In the area, I would adapt like even more, offer even more climbing opportunities.

We played a little bit with the cats before it with a Kopjes Goodiebag to our own happy went home.

If you’re so in Amsterdam like the combination of coffee, cake and cats: Lenny and the cats! The Café is open Wednesday to Sunday. Here you can make a reservation (the site is in Dutch, but it should be navigable; otherwise asks in the comments).

‘Thanks’ again to lenny en heel veel success! Early may see us on our first official visit to the Café!