The Time Is Now

Support local, independent reporting.

Help the city we love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

SUPPORT WW

Purrington’s, Portland’s Only Cat Cafe, Has Cute Cats and Surprisingly Good Snacks.

“Some customers are really excited to learn about the wine, and others just want to drink wine with cats.”

Small miracles happen daily at Purrington’s, Portland’s only cat cafe.

Cats who’ve spent hours hiding in cozy, carpeted caves cautiously extend one small paw before stepping out into the room. A mesmerized toddler plays with a circular pet toy for 10 minutes while the cat she came to see sits and primly observes. Blossom, a sleepy Siamese—who nevertheless has a bit of a scratch reputation—allows a grade school girl to pet her carefully for far longer than her usual two passes.

Purrington’s co-owner Garrett Simpson seems to have a preternatural sense for Blossom’s level of engagement and ire. Her soft tan and brown fur is lovely to touch, but after about two careful ear caresses, Blossom will let you know she’s done. And if you push it, you’re bound to get a scratch.

“Blossom got someone,” Simpson says out of nowhere, during a visit. He gestures to the staffer in the interior cafe to give a guest a Band-Aid. No one else has noticed, and the scratched patron doesn’t seem upset.

The interior cafe’s enclosure of geometric, wood-framed windows allows those working the coffee counter to peer in on the group in various states of cat fancy. Currently open four days a week, Purrington’s regularly sells out its weekend sessions—45-minute reserved slots of an assortment of singles and small groups.

During one visit, a chaotic sea of kindergartners filled the lounge—each with an enormous cat face cookie made by Jen’s Pastries PDX and sold in the cafe. They were taking advantage of the other reservation approach: booking the entire space for a single group.

Simpson and his co-owner and partner Helen Harris are reluctant to reopen fully to six or seven days a week, still worried that another unforeseen shutdown could lead to a repeat of the heartbreaking March 2020 layoffs. They’ve recently been able to bring back some of their pre-pandemic staff, like Torie Myser—whom you can thank for the cafe’s vegan, housemade spread board of carrot hummus, sunflower seed dip and kale pesto, served with baguette and veggies for dipping.

It’s the lighter twin to Purrington’s indulgent cheese board, which comes with rotating offerings like crottin de Chavignol, pecorino Romano, and Cottonwood River cheddar—all of which Simpson sources from local cheesemonger Cowbell.

Simpson comes from a food and wine background—occasionally still popping in for a shift at his old haunt Division Wines—and he largely deserves credit for the cafe’s above-average snacks. He’s hoping the cafe can get back to hosting wine tastings with local winemakers soon. “Some customers are really excited to learn about the wine, and others just want to drink wine with cats,” he says with approval.

This particular incarnation of Purrington’s is—all things considered—still new, barely introduced to Portland. Harris and Simpson bought the cafe from the original owners in 2019 but put it through an extensive renovation, building a more open cafe space and expanding the exterior sitting area for customers who might love cats but be allergic, or those who just want to sip a rich matcha latte and watch feline drama from afar.

Sitting outside the cat enclosure can be almost as delightful as being inside, especially since the realities of social hierarchy dictate that all adults must take a backseat to the wonder of well-mannered kids, single-mindedly fixed on petting all available cats. Pro tips: If you sit quietly and do nothing, cats will be entranced. If you bring a backpack, cats will want to smell it.

When Purrington’s was forced to shutter in 2020, it had barely been open for six months. But during that time it arranged 123 cat adoptions with its partner and cat supplier Cat Adoption Team. When Purrington’s cautiously reopened in September, it adopted out all the cafe’s cats in the space of a week. Every time we visited, there were always new cats moving cautiously across the cafe floor littered with toys.

On one visit, Fester, a tall white cat with a black cow spot on his side, ventured into the cafe hesitantly—the cats can stay out of the public eye if they choose to—only to face the playful Tasmanian Devil-like whirling of a small black cat with white paws named Lilac. Fester bolted. But five minutes later he was back, a little miracle: a curious cat.

GO: Purrington’s Cat Cafe, 3529 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-334-3570, purringtonscatlounge.com. 9:45 am-6 pm Thursday-Sunday.