Comma Coffee owner starts petition drive to allow cat in shop |

Comma Coffee owner starts petition drive to allow cat in shop

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

In the midst of what will likely be one of the most heated battles of Nevada’s Legislature, a petition of a different sort is circulating in the capital city: Bring back Smallcat.

The long-haired calico called Comma Coffee home for about five years. But an anonymous complaint to the health department got the feline banned from the premises.

“I was told to get rid of her immediately or my business license would be suspended,” owner June Joplin wrote in an e-mail to customers. “I got rid of the complainer instantly, but apparently they meant the cat.”

Dustin Boothe of Carson City Health and Human Services said Nevada law prohibits animals from places where food is served.

“Animals can carry diseases that can spread to humans,” Boothe said. “It’s not a routine thing, but they can carry bacteria or other organisms that can make people sick. Obviously the mascot’s great, but there are reasons behind (the ordinance).”

Joplin is now seeking a variance from the state board of health.

About 160 people have signed the petition in the store and more than 180 have signed the online petition with comments like, “Smallcat, for me, represents what Comma Coffee is all about. She’s a furry little symbol of freedom, free thinking and comfort rolled into one.”

Joplin said Smallcat first appeared as a stray during a mild winter about five years ago.

“The whole block was overrun with mice because there was no real cold snap to get rid of them,” she said. “I was trapping mice and trapping mice ” it was just ridiculous.”

She called an exterminator but didn’t like the idea of poisoning the mice.

Then Smallcat came along.

“She seemed like a viable solution to the problem,” Joplin said. “That’s organic. That’s natural.”

She said just the presence of the cat has kept the mice away from not only her shop but the entire block of old buildings.

“It’s much healthier,” Joplin said.

She said the cat is not allowed in the food-prep area.

And as for people who don’t want to dine with a feline, Joplin has a simple solution. Starbucks.

“There are places to have a homogenous, sterile environment to eat in. That’s not what Comma Coffee is all about. This is a homey place. And the cat is part of the energy of a healthy environment.”

Smallcat, who spent nights in the shop’s office, free to come and go through a pet window, is now at Joplin’s home.

However, Smallcat is not used to Joplin’s other cats, or being confined.

“She’s in exile,” Joplin said. “She’s very stressed and very unhappy.”

The petition, Joplin said, is a way to address larger issues about personal freedoms and responsibility.

“As a business owner, I should be able to decide how I want to run this business. If people don’t like it, they can go somewhere else,” she said. “This is about one small cat, but it’s about so much more, too.”

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at or 881-1272.