A Georgetown business owner woke to a surprise on Sept. 1, when she discovered her unusual D.C. cafe had ended up as a clue in the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
The clue for number 111 across read: “Establishment such as Crumbs & Whiskers or KitTea.”
The seven-letter answer was “cat cafe.”
“We had no idea it was coming until emails started flooding in from people saying ‘You’re in the New York Times crossword,’ and we thought that was so cool,” said Kanchan Singh, Crumbs & Whiskers owner and Montgomery County, Maryland, native.
Crumbs & Whiskers was the first cat cafe in the D.C. area when it opened at 3211 O St., NW in 2015, and one of the first in the nation. KitTea is an independent cat cafe in San Francisco.
Singh visited a cat cafe in Thailand and ended up falling in love with the idea. She came back to D.C., quit her corporate job, started a Kickstarter campaign and raised about $36,000 to start the business.
Crumbs & Whiskers has since opened another cat cafe in West Hollywood, California, and this past March, she opened Kitten Lounge as a pop-up on M Street, that has extended its run and may now be permanent.
Cat cafes boast a rather strange business model — in essence, they operate as any other cafe would with the notable addition of cats with which customers can cuddle and play.
But unlike a standard cafe, entry to a cat cafe isn’t free — at Crumbs & Whiskers, a $22 contribution buys a 70-minute visit with food and drinks available.
Who goes to a cat cafe to play with cats?
“Most of our clientele are millennial women. Girls just like cats. I don’t know what to tell you. We just love cats,” Singh told WTOP.
“There are also a lot of families who bring their kids in.”
The cats are all rescues that have been given a second chance.
“Any shelters where the cats are on the list to be euthanized simply because the shelter is out of space. So they are perfectly healthy, perfectly social, perfectly adoptable cats, but the shelters don’t have room for those cats anymore,” Singh said.
“So rescuers pull those cats and bring them to cat cafes.”
The ultimate idea behind cat cafes is to find those cats homes. Singh said since 2015, her customers have adopted more than 1,250 cats.
Crumbs & Whiskers works with rescue partner Homeward Trails in Arlington.
Singh says she often gets requests to open more locations, though she is in no hurry to grow the business too quickly. Preliminary planning is underway that could lead to a new location in Boston, but nothing is set in stone.