Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Black Cat Market is Pittsburgh's Newest Cat Cafe

Co-owners Olivia Ciotoli and Indigo Baloch opened the Lawrenceville location to provide a venue for animal interactions for those without the ability to keep pets themselves.

photo by olivia ciotoli

Walk to the back room of a sunny little cafe on Butler Street and 52nd Street and you’ll be greeted by the mischievous little faces of purring cats. The Black Cat Market, which opened a month ago, blends a relaxed cafe vibe with a love for adoptable feline friends. For $4 per person and a quick signing of a waiver, patrons can spend a half hour in the cat room playing with the cafe’s cats. After making sure to take a hefty dose of allergy medicine, I headed to the cafe to see if even I could be charmed. A set of bright green eyes peered at me through the back window and within five minutes of meeting Buddy and Cupcake, the cafe’s current adoptable friends, I was sold.

Co-owners Olivia Ciotoli and Indigo Baloch met through the Pittsburgh music scene and began booking shows together. Eventually they co-ran a DIY punk venue called the Venus Fly Trap and their shows were often fundraisers for animal rescue and aid organizations. In spite of this work, they always found they were asking themselves if it would ever be enough. The Black Cat Market is a realization of their vision to provide a safe space for people to come and be with animals while helping the cause they both believe in.

photo by remington taylor brooks

The Black Cat Market provides a venue for animal interactions for those without the ability to keep pets themselves, whether it be because of apartment living or lack time or resources. It’s the second cat cafe to open in Pittsburgh; Colony Cafe opened in February 2017.

Cat cafes first became popular in Japan and Taiwan for these same reasons. Much of the population lives in apartments that don’t allow animals so cafes provide access to that experience. Baloch visited both Japan and Taiwan and took copious notes on the cat cafes she visited. Returning with that knowledge helped inform The Black Cat Markets setup. Baloch and Ciotoli are excited to keep making improvements so it can become their dream space. “It’s not going to be perfect at the beginning,” says Baloch. “We’ve been telling folks we’re soft open because we’re still working through the kinks and permitting.”

Studies show that having a pet can lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. When cat cafes came to the U.S., it became possible for them to become adoption facilities. The Black Cat Market works with Frankie’s Friends, a cat rescue out of New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Adoptions from space are considered outside adoptions, meaning that while they are processed through an animal rescue, they occur outside its facilities. “When you go to a shelter and you see a cat in a cage, they’re probably miserable, tired and confused. It’s harder to picture taking that cat home because you’re not seeing their full personality,” says Baloch. In a facility like The Black Cat Market’s cat room, cats have a chance to roam freely, socialize and adjust to their surroundings, making it easier for potential owners to get to know them. Even this allergic reporter found herself in a brief daydream about scooping up one of these friendly kitties.

photo by dan brown

Currently the cafe is working on developing its coffee and espresso program as well as getting a food preparation permit. Store manager and lead barista Alexandra Zimmerman will lead that wing of the business. Currently all of their beverages are bottled. In the future they plan to link their coffee program with Grounds & Hounds, a coffee company that donates 20 percent of its profits to animal rescue organizations. Pre-packaged food is currently available with vegan and non-vegan cookies from Good Chroma and tea from Té Amo tea, a mother and son run company that sells his Peruvian grandmother’s recipe for black tea blended with cloves, ceylon cinnamon, anise and cane sugar.

Baloch and Ciotoli are also dedicated to providing a space that’s supportive of the arts with monthly art exhibitions and installations. Currently The Black Cat Market is hosting an installation by local artist Lafawn Barefoot about healing from trauma called “The Snake Medicine Tent. Both women want the cafe to be a place for healing and support. “We never want anyone to walk in here and feel like they don’t belong. I really love talking to customers that seem like they want to talk. It feels healing for me as well,” says Baloch.

5171 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/408-2218, blackcatmarketpgh.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

New Smallman Galley Cocktail Menu Pays Homage to The Royal Tenenbaums

The Strip District food hall's late-summer drinks menu riffs on the Wes Anderson cult classic.

What's Your Favorite Happy Hour?

After Dark wants to know about your preferred spot for after-work drinks and deals.

The 400-Word Review: Good Boys

This raunchy comedy isn't just funny — it's surprisingly sweet.

#Shalieve in Love: An Exclusive Look at the Shaziers' Wedding

Ryan Shazier and wife Michelle Rodriguez never lost faith that they’d get their dream day. A year and a half after the Steelers linebacker suffered a severe spinal injury, he danced at his wedding.

11 Real Pittsburgh Weddings

Chosen from more than 70 submissions, these 11 couples celebrated with lots of personal touches at local venues. We share all of the details that got them to “I Do.”

Coach Mike Tomlin Confronts Sorrow from the Heart

The Steelers’ head coach dug deep while leading his team through its grief over the loss of beloved assistant coach Darryl Drake. The words were hard to find but Tomlin found them while revealing a side of himself the fans and media don’t always see.

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says fried chicken, sour cherry soup, longevity noodles and garden-fresh Italian cooking have his attention this month.

Sandcastle's New Water Slide Promises a Wild Ride

The Homestead water park's new slide will send riders free falling at 26-feet-per second.

Cookie Table Contest Winners and Runners Up: A Taste of Pittsburgh

Cookie tables are wonderful things in and of themselves, but more and more couples choose to go above and beyond.

Get a Sneak Peek at Homes About to Hit the Market

Launched by North Hills resident Wendy Gilch, Selling Later is a new online community that allows future home sellers and prospective home buyers to connect — before the house is listed.

History Made in a Big Pittsburgh Way

A local organization has established a world record for the largest wedding cookie table, and we've got the pictures to prove it.

Giant Holiday Light Display Coming to Pittsburgh

What makes this display different is that it's all indoors.

PM on KD: Golden Anniversaries

Pittsburgh Magazine editor Brian Hyslop appeared on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss our August issue feature story on six important dates from the year of our founding — 1969.

What Millennials Want to See on Screen

"Reclaimed Roles," a photo series by local photographer Joe Lowrey and creative director Cat Burton, imagines what iconic films could look like with more diverse leads.

Steelers Rookie Getting His Ducks in a Row

Off-the-radar, out-of-nowhere quarterback candidate Devlin Hodges is making a name for himself at Saint Vincent College. Can the NFL really be his true calling?