Purr Cup Cafe is the Purr-fect Addition to the Raleigh Community

Raleigh’s first cat cafe makes a difference in the lives of rescue cats and pet owners


What if you could combine your passions and transform them into your livelihood? Arthur Hailey and Sarah Newton, co-owners of Purr Cup Cafe, don’t have to imagine this, for they turned their passion for coffee and cats into a successful business.

Hailey and Newton brought the cat cafe phenomenon to Raleigh when they officially opened Purr Cup Cafe Oct. 1, 2020. Newton explains the inspiration behind opening their business.

“We both really love cats, obviously, and we had visited one in Philadelphia, and it was really awesome and magical,” Newton said. “We just wanted to bring that experience to Raleigh and do something where we got to pet cats every day.”

The cat lounge provides a wholesome outlet for the Raleigh community.

“Cats are very enigmatic I would say, and you see everyone’s obsessed with the cat videos, and they’re just little weirdos. I think people really appreciate it as a novel thing to do and an interesting activity, but also people see it as kind of a therapeutic thing,” Newton said.

The cat lounge serves as a safe space for rescue cats to be socialized while they wait for their forever homes. Purr Cup Cafe attracts a wide demographic of guests looking to spend time in the cat lounge.

“I think a lot of people that come can’t have any cats for any reason, because they’re students or their apartment doesn’t allow it, but they really value getting to spend time with them. Then there are other people that are like ‘I have five cats at home, but I just love cats,’” Newton said. “We have a lot of out-of-town people too. I think it’s definitely become, for me at least, whenever I travel I’m like ‘If there’s a cat cafe, I’m going’, so I think cat people really like to spend time with cats, even on vacation.”

Though it’s run as a business, Purr Cup Cafe’s mission has always been to help their cats.

“Cats are the best thing ever, and coffee is the best thing ever, so you’re just putting the two best things ever together. That was the idea, that you do it in a way where it helps the cats get adopted. That’s the whole point of them, at least our’s. Most of the ones here are based around adoptions and getting them adopted, so you come here and you meet them where they’re at,” Hailey said.

In a partnership with a local feline rescue organization, Safe Haven for Cats, Purr Cup Cafe has made a small, but meaningful impact. Since opening Purr Cup Cafe, Hailey and Newton have set up 217 adoptions.

“Essentially, what we do in a month, they do in a week, so it’s like adding another week of adoptions for them,” Hailey said. “Even though ours are minimal and obviously our frequency isn’t as high, it still counts. It’s still making a difference.”

Purr Cup Cafe plays a significant role in adoptions by putting rescue cats in contact with potential adopters.

“The person who runs the rescue is always expressing a lot of gratitude for us partnering with them. I know it’s helpful to them, and of course, when there are cats down here, that’s more spaces that can be opened for cats up there. Basically, the more places cats can be displayed, for lack of a better word, it definitely helps overall,” Newton said.

Hailey describes how the dynamics of the lounge influence the community’s interaction with the cats.

“You’re visiting them somewhere where they’re comfortable as opposed to you know, the shelter vibe, which is wonderful too, but like they’re just in crates and it’s kind of more of a kennel atmosphere as opposed to a lounge where they live. Oh, this one might be up on the shelf, so you have to approach them where they’re at, and this one likes to be in an avocado cat bed because that’s where they like to be, so it’s more like you’re meeting them on their terms. You’re giving people a place to go and meet them and be around them for whatever reason,” Hailey said.

A large part of Hailey and Newton’s job responsibilities revolve around managing the cat lounge.

“It’s always something, especially when we had kittens. They were a mess. You definitely have to be constantly monitoring every single one, like ‘someone sneezed five times today’. Make a note of that because they might have a cold. They come from the shelter, so they have a clean bill of health before they’re sent down here, but of course, after being in a shelter environment they could have stuff like eye irritations, an undetected upper respiratory thing that flares up when they come down,” Newton said.

Hailey details the time and effort that goes into caring for the rescue cats.

“You got to clean them. You got to feed them. You got to clean up after them. You know, we don’t get days off of feeding cats, so we got to come here on our days off and scoop litter and all that, keep the room clean,” Hailey said. “We’re not here at night, so we have a camera to look in on them. We don’t use it often, but sometimes the alarm goes off, and we check and make sure they’re ok. We have to check in the morning if anything happened in the night. Usually, they don’t get into stuff, but there’s that too if we’re not here with them. Your cats at home, you’re there with them at night, so you know.”

In addition to keeping tabs on physical health, Hailey and Newton are tasked with navigating each cat’s personality.

“There’s definitely a lot of monitoring of the cats. Not only of their health but what they’re into, their temperament. Some groups are all very self-explanatory cats: they’re running around doing whatever, but some groups, you kind of want to point out one and what each cat is into and what they like,” Newton said. “If they’re sitting in their bed and aren’t as outgoing, sometimes people don’t know how to interact with them, and they don’t want to be pushy with them. We like to guide people on how to interact with all the different cats because they’re all sweet, and we want to help them get interaction and socialization, and hopefully, someone will fall in love with them.”

Working around rescue cats day in and day out, Hailey and Newton are bound to make strong connections with certain cats, especially ones that stay in the Purr Cup Cafe for extended periods of time.

“The cats that are here for a while, it’s really fun. Obviously, I want them to get adopted, but it’s really fun. Some of the quirkier cats have lasted a long time, and sometimes they last a long time for no reason. Some cats you’re like ‘yeah, they’re a little weird, and I love them, but I can tell this is going to take a while’. Regardless of when they’re here for a long time, it’s really special to build a bond with them, and when their person finally picks them, that’s a really amazing feeling,” Newton said.

Through Purr Cup Cafe, Hailey and Newton connect the community through coffee and cats and have changed the lives of many rescue cats and pet owners. Newton expresses the most rewarding part of their business.

“Definitely the adoptions, I really like getting updates from the people that have adopted the cats. Emails or Instagram messages that show them thriving in their new home. That’s really special,” Newton said.