Cats And Coffee (no, Really, It's A Thing!)
As Halloween approaches and I enjoy the various decorations scattered throughout the neighborhoods on my drive home, I am struck by a giant inflatable black cat next to an inflatable green-faced witch displayed in front of a local coffee farm.
Now as far as Halloween images go, I get the witch but why a black cat? Is it as simple as the seven years bad luck thing? Even knowing there are just as many cultures (England, Japan, Egypt) where black cats are a symbol of good luck, I assume it has to be more.
Upon further investigation, it turns out that puritan pilgrims feared “witchcraft” in a deep and complex way. Superstitions regarding the connection between witches and black cats were rampant. From the late 1500’s to the early 1700’s a certain hysteria regarding witchcraft spread wildly and sadly black cats (who were seen as an animal form of a witch) fared no better than their innocent human counterparts accused of witchcraft and executed at the stake.
Just writing that sentence I have tears welling up in my eyes.
I love Cats. I really, really love cats. If you’ve ever watched the famous viral video of the girl doing an E-Harmony clip and goes crazy on her love of cats, I totally relate to her. (By the way, that video is now known to have been a “created character” by aspiring actress Cara Hartman. If you have never seen it, have a laugh and watch this.)
Anyway, yeah, I really love cats. In fact, I may be considered slightly crazy when it comes to my feline children. So, when I recently read that the oldest cat to ever live drank coffee every day, I had to know more. Down the rabbit hole, I went, finding many interesting things at the crossroads of “Cat” and “Coffee”.
Meet Cream Puff (The Cat who drank Coffee Every day)
Born in 1967 and passing away in 2005, “Cream Puff” was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest cat ever recorded. She lived for 38 years and three days. She drank coffee every day of her life.
Although cat owner, Jake Perry, from Austin Texas, claims that exercise was one of the keys to her longevity, he also fed her a rather unique diet. Breakfast every day was scrambled eggs with turkey bacon and broccoli, and coffee with cream. Dry cat food during the day. Every 2 days she received an “eyedropper” of red wine, which Jake claims circulated the arteries.
No veterinarian that I know would ever recommend such a diet and yet Jake Perry also had another cat named Grandpa Rex Allen, who lived to be 34 years and 3 months. Same diet.
Many claim it wasn’t the diet but the love and stress-free environment Jake created although I’m certain food had to play a role. Since the 1980’s, Jake raised and re-homed hundreds of cats, and his veterinarian reports about a third of them living to between 25-30 years. Read More here.
Every major animal diet report I have seen says caffeine is toxic to cats and yet there are YouTube videos of cats eating roasted coffee beans. I guess it depends on the cat?
I couldn’t find any reference to the actual amount of coffee Cream Puff drank every day, but based on the moderation of other components of her diet, I assume it was a little cream with a spoonful or so of coffee.
Cats and Coffee Grounds
While gathering information about Cream Puff, I was surprised to find that people spread used coffee grounds around their garden beds to act as a cat repellant. Another cat and coffee connection!
I have access to a lot of used coffee grounds that I regularly mix with my compost and spread through my garden and it does not affect my cats at all. Great for retaining moisture in the soil though.
I tried holding used grounds near my cats and they weren’t interested but had no visible aversion. Is it an “Old Wives Tale?” (Are we still allowed to use that term?) Most of the aroma of coffee is lost after it is brewed, and it would take an enormous amount of used grounds to cover even a small flower bed.
I read several anecdotal accounts of people using coffee grounds to repel cats, claiming it works, but I am not convinced, not even a little bit. Some suggest mixing fresh grounds with the used but I would think after the first rain, the effect would be gone.
I live on a small farm and my cats have full privileges anywhere they want to go so this is not a problem for me, but if you are trying to keep cats out of your garden beds, coffee is probably not the best solution.
If you’d like some good ideas for using your leftover grounds click here.
America has seen a rise in cat cafés in recent years. With names like “Give Purrs a Chance” and “Eat, Purr, Love”, the remarkable Asian phenomena of relaxing with a cup of coffee while playing with cats is here to stay.
A cool, American style twist on these cafes is that many have partnered with shelters and rescue programs so shop patrons can adopt cats they have bonded with from the café. Every cat deserves a forever home. (Eyes watering again.)
In Asia, the first known “Cat Café” started in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. Named “Cat Flower Garden” it evolved from a struggling café with 5 cats to an international tourist destination.
Austria claims it had the first cat café in the city of Vienna in 1912, but it more likely was a café with a single cat that gave comfort to the owner and a few customers who befriended it. I’m going to have to call foul. Cat cafés need a lot of cats.
In Japan, however, the cat café concept really took off. The city of Tokyo boasts over 60 cat cafés. In a city where apartments are very small, often with no pets allowed, and work hours are very long, the luxury of owning a pet can be out of reach for many. So, to visit a café and pay a small extra fee to have the enjoyment of “cat time” was a natural fit.
Cat Cafés are now found all over the world. We are seeing the evolution of this concept into Cat Wine Bars, Cat Beer Gardens, and Cat Yoga Studios.
Cat Poop Coffee
I have been asked many times during our farm tours what I think about Cat Poop Coffee. It always makes me laugh, and then get misty. Here’s why.
The “Cat” they are referring to is in fact not a cat but a “viverrid” known as the Palm Civet (although technically a feliform). It is native to Southeast Asia, it became best known for a very special coffee called Kopi Luwak, which is harvested from the excrement of the Civet.
Now if you did a double-take, don’t worry, you read it right. Traditionally, the Palm Civets freely choose the fresh-picked coffee cherries piled on the ground. They would eat to their heart’s delight and using their superior sense of smell they would eat only the sweetest, ripest cherries.
As coffee seeds are indigestible the civet would leave something behind resembling a dark “Oh Henry! Bar.” Now who the first person was who said, let’s clean that off and roast it, has been lost to history but…respect. When you need your coffee, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Then this very rare coffee got famous.
If you remember the movie, “The Bucket List” Kopi Luwak makes a brief appearance allowing Morgan Freeman’s character to laugh until he cries, letting him cross an item off of his bucket list. Yet the simple mention of the “world’s rarest coffee” piqued the interest of enthusiasts all over the world.
(Note: Real Kopi Luwak sells at over $200 a pound and around $35 a cup. This is very reasonable when compared to say, Elephant Poop Coffee, also known as “Black Ivory”, which hovers closer to $800 per pound.)
The Sad Part
As demand rose, enterprising Indonesian coffee farmers began to cage the Civets and force-feed them inferior coffee. Once the Civet was no longer choosing the sweetest cherries, the whole thing changed. PETA sent secret investigators to Civet farms and have documented horrible conditions, even when their coffee labels read “Wild Sourced.”
The claim that the Civet’s digestive juices allowed for a unique fermentation of the coffee beans really doesn’t pan out scientifically. Yes, coffee does ferment, but unlike the elephant who has a very long and strong digestive cycle, the civets would eat and poop in a day or two. The choosing of the best, sweetest coffee cherries is, without a doubt, the most important aspect of Kopi Luwak.
Having said all that, reviews of Kopi Luwak by some of the most respected coffee voices in the industry are so-so. Its price was born of its rarity rather than its taste. Now, it’s not even that rare and certainly something I couldn’t drink in good faith. Cat or not, I’m not down for treating animals that way.
So, there you have it, Cats and Coffee. Some strange and unique connections of two things that are fantastic black. Happy Halloween!
About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.