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Dispatches From DC’s First Pop-Up Cat Cafe

Thursday's event at Rock & Roll Hotel raised more than $1,000 for the Washington Humane Society.

Image via Shutterstock.

I saw the future, and it was: cat cafes.

You knew they had to be coming eventually, didn’t you? The first US version of the overseas phenomenon opened in Oakland this October. New York’s launched on Monday. And last month, news of a Kickstarter-funded DC cat cafe made Washingtonians act as if they just snorted a line of catnip.

That cafe, called Crumbs & Whiskers, won’t be open until at least the summer. But Thursday night, cat fanciers got a taste of the action when Rock & Roll Hotel hosted the city’s first ever pop-up cat cafe in its upstairs bar area. And it was packed.

“I knew there was a lot of buzz, but I didn’t expect it to get that big,” says Zenit Chughtai of the Washington Humane Society, which supplied the cats and got a 15-percent cut of the night’s sales. Slots to get in filled up within an hour, necessitating the creation of a wait list for determined feline aficionados.

Last week, one of the Rock & Roll Hotel’s owners told Washington City Paper he expected about 60 people to show up. The Humane Society is still waiting on exact attendance figures, but if you do a little math based on how many slots there were plus the length of the wait list, you get a number closer to 200. Among them, there was a higher than average percentage of cat ears being worn.

Ten cats were the stars of the show, lounging on the plush couches in the bar’s two VIP rooms. All were adoptable, and Chughtai says about two dozen adoption applications were handed out to smitten bargoers. This reporter is mildly allergic to cats, so when I entered the room I mostly stuck to myself—though I did strike up a notable connection with a shorthair mix named Pop, who sat under a table and glowered at me. The rooms were filled with toys, but as a dog person, I had to be reminded that cats do not play fetch.

When attendees like myself weren’t unsuccessfully trying to seduce the animals with squishy balls, they could peruse the tables of literature the Humane Society had set up around the bar, featuring books such as How to Tell If Your Cat Is Planning to Kill You. The organization raised more than $1,000, and Chughtai says the event’s success means they’ll be looking to hold more in the future. Dog people, you’ve been warned.

Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.