Everybody knows that petting animals can help combat anxiety and depression as well as lower your blood pressure. (Unless you’re allergic. Or you’re an animal hater.)
So what’s a girl or a guy to do if his/her apartment strictly forbids pets? Or if your mom won’t let you have one? Or if you’d love a furry friend, but just don’t have the time, what with working your day job, your weekend job and going to school? Or you love cats, but your boyfriend hates them?
Rent-a-pet? Not exactly, but close!
Spread the Love
Cat cafes are a growing industry in the U.S., and have been popular in Asia and Europe for years. (Japan also is home to cafes with not only cats, but bunnies and owls too. Can the U.S. be far behind?) Cat cafes have sprung up in New York, Oakland, Philadelphia and another is reported to be opening this year in Alexandria.
But right now, your only avenue for petting cats in the D.C. metro area (outside of alleys and private homes) is Crumbs & Whiskers, a cat café chock full of cattitude right in the heart of Georgetown at 3211 O St. NW.
For the bargain-basement price of $15 (students, $12), you get 75 unfettered minutes to pet a variety of furry feline residents — some curious, some extra friendly, some deep into cat naps.
Reservations are recommended — guests are limited to a number that isn’t overwhelming to the cats. This isn’t a circus or a zoo, it’s more of an orphanage. Cats come from the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation and are offered for adoption. So far, Crumbs & Whiskers has adopted out more than 50 cats.
Rules and Regs
On a recent Saturday, my party and I got four spots for the 12:15 p.m. petting. We were given a cheerful reading of the house rules before being admitted, among them:
- Don’t wake up sleeping cats — it’s rude.
- Don’t pick up the cats without asking an employee if it’s OK — it’s dangerous.
- Be gentle.
- No flash photography.
We were told 20 cats were on the premises that day, though it was hard to locate more than 10 at one time. (Cats have access to a basement where they can go and decompress and have a smoke. OK, they don’t smoke, but they can get some solitude down there.)
All cats are friendly, but we were told those with purple collars were given to grouchiness and episodes of swatting. Filled with excitement, I dove right in and pet the first available cat, a big, white male named Trouble. He quickly cuffed me, and my son, 13, chided me for not listening or checking for the purple collar he was sporting. No harm done; I moved on.
A black youngster with tuxedo markings named Miss Whiskers, intrigued by my note taking, took up residence on my lap, forcibly marking her territory by rubbing her chin on my pen and notepad.
A small, black female named Christmas climbed onto my daughter Gilda’s leg as soon as she sat down, and stayed there for close to an hour until a café employee came to remove her (she was being adopted).
This was Gilda’s second visit to the café. She and a gaggle of her high school friends paid their inaugural visit late last year, when her friend Catherine Horowitz fell in love with Kippie, a playful and active kitty. Catherine convinced her mom, Vickie Rocha, to return with her to meet Kippie. Rocha deemed that particular feline a little too rambunctious for their household, but agreed to consider a different cat, since they had no pets at home.
On a subsequent visit, a suitable prospect was found. “An attractive, brownish-black tabby with pretty green eyes caught my eye and I asked about him,” Rocha said. “It was Rigatoni! The staff said he was very affectionate and liked to sit on laps … just what I was looking for.” The rest is history. “We love having him around,” Rocha said. “He’s a great companion.”
The cost for adoption is $150 for one cat, $250 for two, and covers spaying/neutering, a health screening and all shots. C&W’s setup is ideal for successful adoptions, because you can see your prospective cat in action, rather than in a cage at a shelter, isolated from others.
To fulfill the café part of the name, Crumbs & Whiskers offers coffee and tea for $3.79 per cup, cappuccinos and lattes for $4.95, and macarons for $3.50 each or three for $10. Animals and food prep generally do not coexist well, so to conform to local health codes, C&W employees run out to Olivia Macaron to pick up the refreshments. That’s why you have to order them right away when you get there. If you decide later that you want a macaron after all, the runner has already left and you’re out of luck.
Most of C&W’s revenue comes from the 75-minute petting sessions, and alternatives include a quick, 15-minue fix for $4.50 (no reservations required), an eight-hour pass for $32 ($22 for students), and a 1½ hour yoga session with cats (during which downward dog is no doubt prohibited) for $25. C&W also rents out the premises for special events like birthday parties, company outings, etc., and they sell T-shirts, socks, mugs and all the traditional souvenirs.
C&W cats look happy and content in their cat-centric surroundings. I’d say they love having people come to see them, but I’m pretty sure the cats think they’re the ones visiting the people.
Shhh, don’t tell them!