I’m not a cat person. Whenever I pass cats on the street, I get the strange sensation that they’re judging me. They sit still and they stare with their sharp luminescent eyes; I walk a little faster around cats. This is why I was hesitant to visit the cat café: Crumbs and Whiskers.
“Crumbs and Whiskers?” my Uber driver asked on the way there. “That’s an interesting sounding place!” “Yep. It’s a cat café I’m going to review.” She smiled and spent the entire drive describing her six deceased cats. I stopped listening as soon as she started to describe the one named Catpernicus. “I hope you enjoy the place!” she said dropping me off. “Thanks. Me too.”
The café, located on Georgetown’s O Street, resembles a light gray scratching post. Whether this is purposefully done or just a coincidence, the look of the place gave me the urge to swing around and walk in the other direction. Just as I was considering an escape, the glass door creaked open and a flannel-clad worker said, “come in quickly so he doesn’t run out.” The he being an orange cat sitting on top of a wooden counter.
As I walked in, I was expecting the place to have a lingering cat-smell. There were cats everywhere: on the couches, in baskets, under tables. But instead, all I smelled was peppermint. It was actually pleasant. The inside of the two-story building looks like every hipster 20-something’s Urban-Outfitters-catalog-dream come to life. White walls plastered with motivational quotes, cat puns and, of course, ironic merchandising. The T-shirt of “Cat Betsy Ross” kind of made me cringe.
I sat down at the corner of one of the quirkily-low-to-the-ground couches. I felt something warm and fuzzy rub up against my leg. I looked down and a little orange face looked up at me. I slowly lowered my hand onto the cat’s head and it slid it’s entire body through. It felt nice. The cat seemed, sort of, cute.
The cat’s collar said “Jojo” and he kept rubbing up against me, pining for attention. He started to purr and I couldn’t help but to continue petting him. The cat made me feel strange. Like I was starting to feel calmer than usual. I decided to explore the upstairs.
Another cat, peeked out from the top of the staircase. We exchanged glances and I headed towards a window at the opposite end of the room. I counted around twenty cats within the whole building, but they weren’t cramped up like I would have expected them to be in a small townhouse. The cats freely walked about without a care, while café-goers tried to touch them and grasp their attention.
The scene looked like something out of a sitcom. Three to four people, mostly women with glasses, surrounding one cat at each artisan wood table. The people competed for the cats’ affection: swinging around little sparkly cat toys found on the ground, making little sucking noises. While some cats were extremely social like Jojo, others just enjoyed their own peace and wanted to be left alone. Understandable.
As I made my way back downstairs, I decided to look into why exactly this place housed cats. “Adoption.” an employee said, “All the cats come from the Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation and people adopt them every day. They go through a screening process, the people, and can end up with a cat they really like playing with at the café.” I looked toward Jojo, I knew he would be adopted in a snap. He was a star amongst all the felines.
A minority of visitors actually ordered any of the pricey pastries and drinks (seven dollars for a small slice of chocolate cake? Really?). That’s not what the Crumbs and Whiskers experience is about. Students and young adults who can’t have cats in their own apartments or dormitories come because they miss their own family cats from back home. Families come to do something interesting and “out-there” while visiting DC. I found the experience to be strangely therapeutic. My natural anxiety stopped and I genuinely enjoyed spending an hour and fifteen minutes with a bunch of cats.
If you’re looking to take a break from finals, a tough work week or just life, Crumbs and Whiskers is the place to go. It’s almost surreal, an entire townhouse dedicated to cats, but it’s just what busy-DCers need: a place to sit down, relax and enjoy themselves around furry little buddies who meow, purr and sleep. My only complaint is that the merchandise blatantly advertised around the room is disturbingly overpriced (Crumbs and Whiskers stickers for five dollars each? Come on). Other than that, the café’s converted me from cat cynic to cat person. I’m even considering going back, when I become an actual adult who pays bills, to adopt my own cat. One could say the place worked it’s “meowgic.” Sorry, it had to be said.