Most of the cats I know are remorseless killers. I have seen cats kill, in no particular order, lizards, mice, voles, birds, squirrels, rabbits and one particularly small and unfortunate groundhog (RIP, wildlife of Virginia). For 19 of my formative years, my mother was in possession of a deceptively benign-looking cat named Buttons who used to sit on top of the refrigerator and whack the shit out of anyone who went in for a beer. My friend Molly owns a barn cat named Bad Boots who kills baby bunnies like they were bred to be the bacon bits at his own personal salad bar. Cats are terrorists, is what I’m saying.
But I effing love them. I admit it, I’m one of those animal freaks who thinks the cat café opening in Georgetown tomorrow—with the oh-so-twee name of Crumbs & Whiskers—is the best thing since Netflix. Why do we, as a generation, have such a hard-on for a species that at best regards us with mild disdain and at worst is actively trying to draw blood? I don’t know but we do and providing the masses with the opportunity to pet tiny, furry sociopaths and drink coffee simultaneously is genius.
However, having mostly only been exposed to outdoor cats and lovable(?) assholes like Buttons, I admit to being a little skeptical that this was going to be safe/sanitary/sane for cat and human.
Spoiler alert: Owner Kanchan Singh nailed it. Over the O Street storefront is a light-filled loft punctuated with pops of bright colors and napping kitty-cats that have been hand-selected by the Washington Human Society to be friendly. Kanchan is a grade-A BAMF who got the idea for this place from a bike trip through the back roads of Thailand with some dudes she met in a hostel that culminated in a trip to a cat café—she’s smart, funny and delightfully charming and you all better go over there and spend your money to pet her cats. Do it.
Here are a few important questions than Kanchan helped me answer.
I’m nervous. How many cats are there.
There are 20 cats spread across two stories. You’re fine, they are a curated group of extroverts. These cats are the furry equivalent of Tom Hanks.
How much does it cost.
$12 an hour on weekends and $10 an hour on week days. You have to book in advance online at crumbsandwhiskers.com. I promise you it's worth it.
Don’t beat around the bush. Where is the poop.
Cat poop is the grossest of all the animal poops, my mens and womensfolk. It just is, don't try to argue with me. I can attest, however, that I neither saw nor smelled litter in Crumbs & Whiskers. Kanchan assured me that the majority of the litter boxes are in the basement, although there are a few hidden ones on each floor, which staff will be “constantly scooping.” Trust, those lil' poop hiders are mega-stealth. Kanchan literally said to me: "See that table over there? That’s not a table."
Of course, those Sydney Bristow litter boxes are necessary in the first place because cats are assholes. Originally, Kanchan had all the boxes in the basement—until she noticed serial offender Wookie constantly hanging out in the litter box.
"I thought, maybe he just likes to hang out there," Kanchan said. "Then I see another cat trying to use the litter box and Wookie's sitting there freaking them out. Now I know why you want to hang out near the litter box, you just want to terrorize other cats. Why would you do that? I don’t know. But now Olivia can't go to the bathroom!"
Is there going to be cat fur in my food.
Okay, first of all, my Internet friend Dan Diamond found a TOOTH in his salad from Whole Foods. WHOLE FOODS, where one pays a premium to kneel at the altar of organic purity. You're gonna be fine if a cat hair gets in your food, you picky little city slickers.
If it makes you feel better: Crumbs & Whiskers doesn't make food on the premise—they have a delivery arrangement with the café across the street, which will be offering a hand-picked menu of coffees, smoothies and cookies. You still get the café experience: You get a menu and order in Crumbs & Whiskers, but someone prepares the food next door and then brings it to you.
How the hell did she get Department of Health approval for this.
Mainly because the food isn't made on premise. Had she put in a commercial kitchen, Kanchan says, it would have cost much more money than she had to be able to meet the DOH's standards—and would have pushed her opening back.
"I decided that my goal with this place was to get cats out of shelters, get people and cats connecting and get cats adopted," Kanchan said. "If I cut off one floor and make it a commercial kitchen and have only one floor for the cats—it's not in line with my mission and it doesn't make sense from a financial or timeline perspective."
The main regulation she faces is from the Washington Human Society, which runs the city's animal control unit. Basically, the city of Washington is way more concerned about the cats than they are the human beings. (As it should be, we can fend for ourselves.)
What happens if one of the cats is an asshole.
You would think this is basically like that IKEA video of cats romping amongst the prefab furniture, but you would be wrong. Kanchan learned the hard way that TV is not real life when she brought her first 10 cats in as a unit.
"It was a complete shit-show," Kanchan said. "For a solid day I thought this whole cat café concept was doomed. I was like, I'm screwed, this is over. If you stood still for a minute, all you heard was rowww-hiss and thousands of things dropping."
Serenity mostly rules now, although I definitely heard a cat fight while I was cuddling with a particularly adorable kitty named Porky (NB: Porky is a girl and this is great). You do have to sign a waiver to hang out with the cats and also, don't ice Olivia.
"Olivia is a sweetheart," says Kanchan. "But if you pet her and then leave her for someone else, she will screw them up. Don't do that."
Can I bring my own cat.
No. WTF is wrong with you. Do you know anything about cats? This isn't the goddamn dog park.
You can take a cat home, though! You can apply on-site to adopt one of the kitties through the Washington Humane Society. Which, btw, if you are thinking of adopting a cat, this a great place to do it because they are adults. People are also assholes and only want kittens, but that is short-sighted and dumb and results in a lot of really lovable kitties languishing in shelters for months. Grown-up kitties are much snugglier anyway. Kittens are grubby. I'm serious, they don't even know how to groom themselves properly. No.
Are you Veronica Corningstone.
(Editor's Note: Could not find YouTube video of cat fashion show, am distraught.)
Crumbs & Whiskers opens Saturday and they are already booked solid for their first day.