Walking into the room, hearts stop, be it from sheer excitement or an allergic reaction. Crumbs & Whiskers could not be described as anything less than a “kitty heaven.”
A large, neon pink sign on the far wall inside the Los Angeles business reads, “Coffee and cats, please,” a perfect description of the establishment meant for the lonely or in love alike.
Considering that it is one of the only cat cafes to maintain permanent residence in the Southern California area and only the second location to open — the original in Washington D.C. — reservations are a must for anyone who decides they would like to spend 75 minutes surrounded by furry, purring cats and kittens waiting to be adopted.
“I came back to the U.S., quit my job and set off to create Crumbs & Whiskers,” said Kanchan Singh, owner of Crumbs & Whiskers on her website. “I had finally found my dream project — a way to intertwine conscious business, animal welfare and design. I didn’t know if this would work and I was honestly scared out of my mind, but I knew I believed in the idea. I just had to give it a shot.”
Instead of cramped cages and sad faces, the felines are able to roam freely around the cafe, donning blue or pink bowties to indicate gender. At any given time there are around 20 adoptable cats ready to be played with and pet, as long as they are not disturbed while they sleep.
More often than not, small toes hang off the edge of shelves, belonging to a cat that chooses to take to higher ground for a nap. Couches sit against the wall where guests can play with the cats. Small baskets are provided in which to hold the felines, as they are not to be physically picked up without the baskets to prevent too much overstimulation or stress.
“This is Judith,” Singh said of a small tabby kitten racing across the floor after a pingpong ball. “She is very popular.”
Giggles erupted from a small group of women who followed Judith in hopes of taking a picture with her, one of them mentioning that she would not be surprised if she walked out that day with the kitten in hand.
“It’s just so cool that the animals are there and interacting with people,” said Erin Abbott, sophomore business administration major. “They’re probably going to be happy just living there even if they don’t get adopted right away.”
Since its Sept. 15 opening on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, the cafe acts as a supplement to a traditional shelter where the cats can socialize with each other and people, making them friendlier, gentler and less shy with strangers.
Crumbs & Whiskers paraphernalia is available, with many of the proceeds going back to help cover cat-care costs. Patrons can also purchase treats for the cats while visiting as well as coffee and snacks for themselves from nearby, local coffee shops, even offering up such delights as a “cat-uccino.”
Considering all of the cats are rescues, several came from difficult backgrounds, indicating a rough life for the fluffy animals. Crumbs & Whiskers does not discriminate and houses many handicapped, elderly or feral felines, giving them a chance at a new life. Plans for a large wall devoted to Polaroids of cat “graduates” is in the works as a way to showcase the good the cafe does and promote its true identity as a charity.
“I have five cats at home, but this place is literally amazing,” said Kaz Daneshmandi, 28-year-old entrepreneur and visitor. “All these cats are getting attention. Everyone will hopefully find a home — that’s the key — they’re raising money for charity and (Singh) is making money as a business owner. So you can’t beat that.”
Between cuddles and selfies, guests are likely to get a visit from Singh herself as she walks around the shop and offers up advice on each cat’s scratch preference. Inspired by cat cafes in Thailand she visited while living there and working at an elephant sanctuary, her love for animals and business acted as catalysts for the growing franchise.
Partnered with Karma Rescue, an organization that finds permanent homes for animals, currently 134 cats have been adopted, a number growing every day.
“We are proud to tell you that our cats are 100 percent organic and free-range,” the website reads in jest. “While traveling in a city called Chiang Mai, Kanchan stumbled upon a cat cafe. After she came back home, she couldn’t stop thinking about how it could be used as a force for good for shelter cats. And the rest is history.”