"That is Tee Tee. This is Monica. That is Fur Ball," says Kanchan Singh pointing out some of the cats lounging around her new cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers.
"Fur Ball, did you spill water?"
Singh looks a little closer at the gray chair where Fur Ball is curled up. "Oh, it's his shadow," she says with a laugh. "I have had very little sleep, let me tell you." Specifically, the 24-year-old founder says she's gotten as little as four hours of shut-eye per night in preparation for this week's opening. Then she continues introducing the cats like reindeer leading Santa's sleigh: "That's Clapton, Midnight, Hoya... Hoya is crazy playful. That's Eunice, she refuses to come out of that cat bed. She just hangs out there. Hey, Eunice!" Upstairs, there's Olivia, "the diva cat." And let's not forget Joe Black, nicknamed "the bathroom cat," because he doesn't like to leave the bathroom.
All told, Crumbs & Whiskers is now home to 17 cats. That number will soon grow to 20. D.C.'s first cat cafe opened this week exclusively to members of its "Gentlemeow's Club," which includes Kickstarter contributors and people who signed up for the email list early. The Georgetown establishment opens up its online reservation system to the general public today and will charge $10 an hour for admission on weekdays and $12 an hour on weekends.
After some back and forth with the health department, Singh has decided to make her business more about the cats than the cafe. The place won't serve any of its own food or drinks, but guests will be able to get delivery of a few select items, like cookies (cat-shaped!), coffee, and smoothies, from Georgetown Dinette across the street. "Nothing messy, nothing that cats could get into, just something for you to sip on and nibble on," Singh says. She'll also bring in revenue from from cat tote bags, t-shirts with sayings like "the time is meow," and other cat-themed swag.
Crumbs & Whiskers has three floors. A basement room is limited only to cats and staff, so the felines can escape the attention if need be. The room is lined with food, water, and litter boxes. On the walls are profiles of each cat along with a form where the staff will note their appetites, energy level, sneezing, and so on each day.
The street level is the more laid-back lounge with earthy colors, while the upstairs is more of a fun, bright, play room. All the seating consists of cushions on the floor so people are at more of the same level as the cats. Cat-themed books are scattered throughout the space, including titles like Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too and I Could Pee On This. There are also some goofy costumes (for humans), bubbles, play mice, and a DJ cat scratching pad.
The cafe has a charitable mission too. All the cats come from the Washington Humane Society, and the goal is to aid adoption by allowing people to interact with the animals in a casual environment. WHS vets all the cats who come to the cafe and the people who want to adopt them. The cafe will be closed on Mondays for adoptions and to help any new cats acclimate to their new environment.
As Singh shows me around the new digs, WHS Director of Rehoming Lauren Lipsey, who oversees all the adoptions and foster care, arrives with four new cats: Wookie, Mitty, Tootsie, and Dory. (She also takes one with a swollen eyelid back with her, leaving the cafe's total at 17 cats.)
"I love it because it gives the cats another outlet for adoption. People who come here may not be people who come to our shelter, because the shelter can be intimidating," Lipsey says. "I hope we end up having cats adopted. I don't know what to expect though. We'll see."
"This is an experiment for all of us," Singh adds.
Early visitors have been a mix of ages—not just the Millennials—from older couples to families with teens. (The age limit is 13 and older.) And what exactly do they do for an hour?
"Mostly what I see is people playing with cats, petting cats," Singh says. "I hear a lot, 'Awwwww.'"
Read more about how the cat cafe came to be in this previous Young & Hungry column.
The cafe is open with limited hours for the first two week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.
Crumbs & Whiskers, 3211 O St. NW; crumbsandwhiskers.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman