Get Out of Town!
Sip a Cat-uccino while Petting Rescued Cats
April, 2017 - Issue #150
courtesy of Shutterstock
The website says it best: "Do you really charge to pet cats? Yes. Yes we do."

That's the business model of Crumbs and Whiskers, L.A.'s first cat cafe, and it's right there on the FAQ page.

First opened in Taiwan, and later becoming outrageously popular in Japan, cat cafes allow you to get your kitty fix without the ongoing responsibility and commitment of ownership.

I know what your next question is. "Did you really pay to pet cats?" Yes. Yes I did. A co-worker's description of her experience inspired me to plan a visit when my parents were in town for a weekend.

Mom and Dad are cat lovers. Which is a good thing, because strays always find their house. If cats have nine lives, they also have a sixth sense about my parents. They know that if they play their cards right, they can turn an occasional bowl of food into semi-permanent residency, if not full-blown adoption.

In fact, three of the fluffy little con artists are currently working the angles. One has made it as far as the garage. Another hit the jackpot and now sleeps in the house.

Allergies, along with an energetic German shepherd mutt, have rendered my home feline-free, however. My kids want a cat, or three, but it's not feasible. Enter Crumbs and Whiskers.

Off we went to Melrose Avenue for the morning, leaving plenty early to ensure we didn't miss our reservation. Yes, reservation. The cafe is that popular. They limit admission to about 15 people at a time and turn away walk-ins if they're full.

Guests pay $22 each ($25 on weekends) for a 75-minute hang-out with the cafe's 20 or so cats. Beverages and snacks can be purchased separately. Before you ask, the answer is no - they do not prepare food for human consumption in a room full of cats.
The answer to your next question is yes - for a fee, the cats are available, too. They're all rescues and adoptions are encouraged. Between their L.A. and D.C. locations, Crumbs and Whiskers has adopted out 234 cats.

That number is prominently displayed at the cafe, which sparked a barrage of questions from my kids. No matter who asked, or how it was asked, the answer was the same. No, we're not getting a cat. Especially those two black kittens that keep climbing the curtains.

To be fair, the kittens were chasing the laser dots bouncing around the floor. The cafe provides laser pointers and more traditional cat toys to encourage play. You can purchase catnip if you really want to wind them up.

If you'd rather curl up and veg like, well, a cat, you can do that, too. A white faux fur rug in the front of the cafe is ideal for sprawling. Otherwise you can sit at the small tables or lounge on the benches along one wall.

Wherever you sit, you're free to interact with the cats, as long as it's on their terms. Picking them up is a no-no, but you can let them climb on you, should they be so inclined. None granted me the privilege. Cats being cats, they showed little interest in me and went on to do their own thing.

Which is too bad. Because I'm hiring. My business model is putting a bunch of cats in a rescued school bus and driving to all the food truck hot spots.

Do I think people would really eat a gourmet grilled cheese, and then pay to board a mobile kennel and pet cats? Yes. Yes I do.

But I think the litter boxes would knock me unconscious.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, home of the county's Castaic Animal Care Center where you can pet cats for free. But they don't serve Cat-uccinos.

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