What It’s Like to Visit Sip & Purr, Milwaukee’s Cat Cafe

Looking for a new way to spend your leisure time? Pet a kitty while sipping an espresso – or Meowmosa – at the cat cafe.

Photo by Tom Grimm.

Some say you meet the most interesting people while riding the city bus, or strolling the grocery store aisles. I think it’s really the new cat cafe, Sip & Purr (2021 E. Ivanhoe Place) where humans bond over their appreciation of felines.

On a recent “walk-in” Wednesday, I’m perched on a counter seat facing the cat lounge. The cafe is divided into two rooms. The humans-only cafe, which offers a melange of seating and an espresso counter where you place your order for fare ranging from baked goods to burritos and drinks, including coffees, juices and alcoholic bevs.

The cat lounge is visible through windows in the cafe, but is closed off. To enter that inner sanctum of fur and purrs, patrons make a reservation and pay $8 ($5 on Wednesdays) for an hour’s worth of togetherness. The cats do their thing, snoozing in cat beds and on chairs (and tables!), exercising (check out that cat wheel), playing with toys and, when they feel like it, engaging with human fans.

So I’m in the cafe waiting for my burrito, sipping a Twig’s soda (from owner Katy McHugh’s hometown of Shawano, Wisconsin) and gazing at a sleeping calico through the window, when I notice a woman next to me. She speaks: “It was my birthday yesterday, and I wanted to treat myself.” Have you been here before? “Oh, yes. Many times. This is better than a spa day,” she says. 

The cafe’s goal isn’t just to supply humans with feline therapy. Owner McHugh took the leap from flight attendant to business owner because she wanted a place she could “drink wine and pet cats.” She also wanted to find homes for shelter cats. Since opening in June and in partnership with an Elkhorn cat shelter, Sip & Purr has secured adoptions for well over 100 felines. So while you’re getting your serotonin boost, you can also have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping the kitty cause.

Photo by Tom Grimm.

Mews you can use

Make a res if you want to visit the cat lounge, open to 12-14 guests, max, at one time. Time slots fill up fast.
Hungry? The menu offers miscellaneous yumminess, including a great veggie pesto burrito, a breakfast sandwich on a housemade biscuit, a cheese board, a seasonal salad and more ($7-$12). Former Wolf Peach pastry chef Justin Short is the cafe’s baker. Try his coffeecake and pies, in flavors from apple-crumble to s’mores.
There are more fun ways to get your tabby time. Sign up for Sunday cat yoga (order a post-workout Meowmosa), monthly drag bingo (featuring local queen Sylvia Nyxx), a cat book club and even movie night.

“Claws for Concern” appears in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop or find the issue on newsstands, starting Dec. 31.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.