Let’s Try Tuesday is a series dedicated to trying new experiences. Many adults are afraid to fail or embarrass themselves, so they stay in their comfort zone. But there are countless amazing things to see and do in the world, so let’s get out there and try!
Friday, January 20, 2017 was a quintessentially bleak day in Washington, DC. Regardless of your political affiliation, there was a feeling of tense uncertainty in the air, inauguration tourists and protesters stretching city resources thin, and freezing rain to top it all off.
So, I decided that my rare work-free Friday would be spent entirely on self-care. And how best to do that? Hanging out with cats, of course!
I had actually been to this café once before for one of their regular appointments. But this time I decided to splurge and get a more expensive day pass. I figured I could do some work on my computer and chill with the cats.
Read on to find out why I fell in love with this place, and to get some pro tips to get the most out of your cat café experience!
What is Crumbs and Whiskers?
Crumbs and Whiskers is DC’s first (and at the time of writing, only) cat café. Its founder, Ms. Kanchan Singh, was inspired by her volunteer experience at an elephant sanctuary and subsequent visit to a cat café in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She wondered if there was a way to combine the two, in order to create a special foster home for cats in need.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised double its target amount, this dream became a reality! Crumbs and Whiskers DC opened in 2015, and it has been so successful that they were able to open their LA location in 2016.
The basic concept is that you pay a cover charge, and then you get to spend time with the cats. It’s a café too, so there are chairs to relax, tables to work at, and coffee/snacks available to buy.
Cats are Living Creatures, Not a Product to Buy!
It’s easy to think that the cats are being exploited in this case. After all, people are paying the café, but what are the cats getting out of this?
When I went in the first time, I was a little worried about how the cats would be treated. Anyone who has owned cats knows that many of them don’t like socializing 24/7. They’re pretty independent.
So, I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of safeguards for the cats when I visited. At the entrance, there is a giant sign posted with the rules, which they also tell you verbally when you sign in.
There are lots of high shelves and boxes that act as hiding spots for the cats. In addition, there is an employee-only basement that lets the cats get away from the customers completely if they would like.
However, the best part is that the entire café acts as a foster home! The DC cats are brought in from Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, which rescues cats facing euthanasia in overcrowded shelters. The LA cats come from Karma Rescue, which is dedicated to saving animals in need by finding them permanent homes and providing the resources for successful companionship.
All of the cats are adoptable, and as of the time of writing, Crumbs and Whiskers has had over 360 adoptions!
Ewww, Cat Hair in a Café? It Doesn’t Seem Sanitary.
Cat hair in your mouth? Just think of it as the most authentic cat-ownership experience.
Kidding aside, they don’t prepare any food or drinks in-house. Instead, they pick up the orders from Olivia Macaron nearby. There’s a selection of tea, coffee, and non-caffeinated drinks, as well as several flavors of macarons!
I personally didn’t like the tea much, but their iced coffee and hot chocolate were some of the best I’ve ever tried, and the macarons were fantastic.
Alright, You’ve Convinced Me! How Does It Work?
First, you need to buy your pass from their website, and sign your waiver. There are several different options:
• Regular Pass($18 weekday/$22 weekend): Hang out with the cats for an hour and 10 minutes. This is their standard appointment.
• Telecommeowter Pass ($35 regular/$25 students): Hang out with the cats all day, from 1pm to 8:30pm. You can come and go as you please, and enjoy all of the kitty attention when the other guests are forced to leave between appointments. However, actually getting work done is definitely not guaranteed.
• Cat Yoga ($28): Sadly, it’s yoga for humans, not cats. But every Sunday morning, you can do yoga while the cats try their best to distract you. One hour class, then 30 minutes of cuddles. Time to cat-cow!
• Private Event ($550/75 minutes): Cat paradise! Rent out the entire café, and receive tons of free treats and Polaroids. Host a party for up to 25 friends and family (or use your riches to have the best solo night ever?)
On the day of your appointment, make sure you show up at least ten minutes early! They’ll do a mini orientation of the rules, and make sure you have signed your waiver. They will also take your food and drink order, because they only do one batch order for the entire café at the beginning of each regular appointment time. Getting there early ensures that this stuff doesn’t cut into your cat cuddling time!
During the appointment, have fun! There are lots of different cats to hang out with, and tons of toys and places to sit. Each customer is entitled to a free Polaroid (just ask!), and you can buy treats on-site to get even more kitty love.
For the regular appointments, after 75 minutes they will call out that it’s time to leave. If you’ve bought an all-day pass, you can ignore this and keep chilling until closing time if you want.
Tips for a Purrfect Visit
- Follow @crumbs_whiskers on Instagram, Twitter, or FB, and subscribe to their email. Aside from seeing adorable cat pics every day, you’ll also get notifications about special events (Harry Potter trivia night, anyone?)
- Make an appointment, don’t do a walk-in. They rarely have availability, and the actual appointments are a better value for your money.
- Schedule an appointment first thing, or later in the evening. In my experience, the cats are super active when it first opens. Then, they get tired from playing (and, you know, because they’re cats). But you can also usually catch some night owls that don’t come out until the evening.
- If you’re doing cat yoga, bring your own mat and water.
- My only major criticism is that, like most of Georgetown (and DC in general), their cafe is not very handicap accessible. For anyone in a wheelchair, I think it would be a big struggle to get up the front step and through the 90° turn at the entry gate, and you would be unable to access the second floor. A lot of the seating (especially on the second level) is on the floor, and I believe the restroom is on the second floor too. So, even if you don’t have a wheelchair, be aware that if you have trouble bending or climbing stairs, some aspects of this cafe’s layout may be tough for you.
- They have plenty of outlets, but if you’re planning to work, bring an extension cord so you can pick whatever seat you want! (the cats don’t always chill near the outlets)
- If you have a day pass, you cannot have outside food delivered to the café! So unless you only plan to eat macarons (no judgement here), you will need to go out and get something. Luckily Georgetown is full of restaurants. However, if you have leftovers, either toss them or make sure they’re in a sealed, airtight container (NOT a takeout box) before you return, because otherwise the cats will be really intent on breaking it open!
- If you get red eye in pics, don’t rely entirely on the free Polaroid! Take some pics of yourself, too. Unfortunately, I have blue eyes, so I have yet to get a Polaroid with the cats worth keeping.
- Follow the rules! No picking up cats unless they’re in a basket, no flash photography, etc. If you’re nice to the cats, they’ll be chill with you too! Scared, hiding cats or painful scratches aren’t fun for anyone.
- The staff are the best resource available at the café! They love their cats and know them well, and want the guests to have a good time. So don’t be afraid to talk to them. There is a cat profile page, but the staff members know what toys each cat likes, how they like to be scratched, etc. They will also take pics for you with your phone/camera if you ask nicely.
For the record, I thought that the day pass was totally worth it! I didn’t get much work done, but it gave the cats time to get used to me, so they were way more cuddly after a few hours. I got to see nearly every cat, since they came in and out of the employee-only room throughout the day. Plus, unlike a spa day or shopping trip, I didn’t feel guilty at all for spending the money, since most of it goes to support the cats!
Have you ever visited a cat café, or do you want to? Do you think animal cafes could become as popular in the US as they are in Asia? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Also published on Medium.