Feeling Down? Pet a Cat at One of these Purrfectly Queer-Affirming Feline-Forward Coffee Shops in Michigan

Drag queen bingo AND cats in one place is our new mood board

While the world’s first cat cafes opened in Taiwan and Japan in the late ‘90s and mid-’00s, the U.S. didn’t get its own permanent cat cafe (as opposed to pop-ups) until 2014. Just one year later, Michigan’s The Catfé Lounge, the state’s first cat cafe, opened its doors in the Detroit suburbs.

Most American cat cafes let visitors mingle with adoptable felines while enjoying coffee and treats. Many also host events such as yoga classes, crafting activities and board game meetups. Several cat cafes in central and southern Michigan provide something extra by welcoming the local LGBTQ+ community and being intentionally inclusive to all.

The combination of unconditional cat love (eh, from most cats) and the unconditional welcome from cafe staff and volunteers make cat cafes perfect for hanging out in an affirming space while potentially gaining a new four-legged family member.

Here's a few in Michigan that you'll go "meow" over.

The Catfé Lounge (Ferndale)

While the typical cat cafe is a business that partners with a local rescue group or shelter, The Catfé Lounge is run by the Ferndale Cat Shelter. The suburban Detroit spot features floor-to-ceiling windows, a cheery floral mural and free coffee and tea. A volunteer-created pollinator garden welcomes visitors just outside the entrance, while bird feeders serve as feline entertainment.

Usually, about 30 cats are in residence here, with more than 100 others living in temporary foster homes. In 2023, the Ferndale Cat Shelter found homes for more than 700 homeless felines.

The cafe is committed to fostering an inclusive environment, and customers recognize it as a safe space, says Deanne Iovan, founder and executive director. “I think they feel comfortable coming in here and know that they're going to be welcomed — warmly welcomed — and accepted.”

The volunteers are a diverse group, too, she says. “A lot of [them], and a lot of our adopters and fosters are part of the LGBTQIA community.”

Kevin Kearney, shelter manager (and former pastry chef), says many volunteers and guests are neurodiverse, too, and they also feel welcomed.

A more visual sign of the cafe’s inclusive nature is its participation in Pride, and its Pride merch. In 2023, for example, the Catfé created a T-shirt depicting a cat with a rainbow bandana, with the message “Join Our Pride.” Proceeds from the shirts, which were a big hit with Catfé visitors, benefited the community pet food pantry.

Constellation Cat Cafe (East Lansing)

Not long after opening, Constellation Cat Cafe faced a major challenge that Kelsey Maccombs, founder and executive director, couldn’t have predicted. The cafe welcomed its first customers in September 2019, and just months later, the COVID-19 lockdown struck.

With some adjustments, the cafe made it through, and so far, it has placed more than 2,000 homeless cats, according to Paula Crow, social media manager. The Constellation crew cares for 20 to 25 kitties at a time and performs five to 10 adoptions a week.

The cafe’s temporary feline residents come from two local groups: Happy Feet Pet Rescue and Saved by Zade. Happy Feet has partnered with Constellation Cat Cafe for almost three years, and in 2023 adopted out more than 100 cats through the cafe, says Happy Feet Pet Rescue director, Patience Cole.

While you’re getting your cat fix, you can also get your coffee fix at the in-house coffee shop serving cat-themed drinks and more. “We have Meowshakes that come in little cute cat cups,” says Crow. “We also have a Purrly Temple mocktail, which is really fun for the kids.”

A welcoming environment is another key feature of Constellation Cat Cafe. In addition to a prominent message on its website declaring it a safe space for all, it supports the local queer community by taking part in Lansing Pride, selling cafe merch from local queer artists, and hosting events for LGBTQ+ business networking and friend speed dating.

Cole echoes the website’s inclusive message. “Anyone, regardless of race, religion, age, gender identity and sexual orientation are welcome, so long as you have a kind heart and a love of felines.”

Karma Kat Cafe (Mt. Pleasant)

Like The Catfé Lounge, Karma Kat Cafe is run by an animal rescue organization and doesn’t do double duty as a coffee shop. Refreshments include cold drinks, self-serve coffee and snacks. As the nonprofit Karma Kat Rescue, staff and volunteers provide adoptions and low-cost spay/neuter services for both owned and feral cats.

Mystie Beckwith, Karma Kat Cafe’s founder and director, says she founded it as “a safe space for all humans and all cats,” and she emphasizes the “therapeutic” effect of spending time with kitties for those in need of comfort.

As a queer woman, staff member Ashley Bergman says she’s experienced the cafe’s welcoming nature firsthand. “It’s been a very open and welcoming place for me and my friends personally, and I like working here because of that,” they say.

Even more than the Safe Space sticker on the front door, the cafe’s frequent drag bingo events reveal its inclusiveness to potential visitors. Besides offering a couple hours of fun, the events also boost the cafe’s operating budget. “[The performers have] raised thousands of dollars for us,” Beckwith says.

The drag performers have also shown their support in other ways. “I think every one of the performers has adopted from us, pretty much, at this point,” says Beckwith. In fact, her friend Wayne Johnson, who as Cherry Poppins will host the Pride edition of drag bingo on June 8, was the cafe’s first adopter in 2018. (The lucky cat’s name is Egg Salad.)

For some future queer-centered events, the cafe may collaborate with the new Mt. Pleasant Pride Center, Beckwith says. “They did a really cool speed-dating friendship thing [and] I've been talking to them about doing something here too.”