Pluto and Astro couldn’t work the room fast enough. Sprout took his time greeting visitors. Joey was content to just take it all in from a safe perch.
For the most part, the cats of Crooked Tail Cat Café were receptive to opening-day visitors to the café’s Kitty Lounge.
The café, one of the first of its kind for North Carolina, opened at 604 S. Elm St.
What is a cat café?
Crooked Tail owner Karen Stratman described it as a place where cats and humans can enjoy each other.
“The goal is to provide an environment that is enriching to humans and cats,” said Stratman.
The concept originated in Taiwan in the late 1990s, when cat cafés sprung up as places where people who love cats can interact with them without actually owning one.
Cat cafés quickly caught on throughout Asia and Europe before reaching North America a few years ago.
Here’s how it works at Crooked Tail.
Visitors are escorted through the Kitty Lounge to the adjacent coffee bar at the rear of the café. The coffee bar is a separate room to comply with codes and to keep cats safe.
After signing a waiver and paying $10 for an hour of cat time, visitors can purchase a cup of coffee or tea and a prepackaged snack and return to the Kitty Lounge where cats scamper and play among sofas, tables, kitty mazes and cat perches of various levels.
Stratman said the café appeals to people who like cats but for whatever reason can’t have one of their own.
“We heard about one in New York City and when we heard about one here, we thought ‘Oh, my gosh!,” said Cristi Driver, whose daughter Lily, 11, couldn’t wait to visit the café. “Everything she (Lily) owns is cat-themed.”
“I like cats and I love the idea of a cat café,” said Kathy Rogers, who sat on a sofa and watched a kitten play on a coffee table. “And I’m trying to support the new business.”
Katherine Defina and her father Paul Stirewalt were amused by rambunctious kittens darting around their chairs as they drank coffee at a table.
“I found out about Crooked Tail from a post on Facebook, and I’ve always been a crazy cat lady myself. I had six cats when I was growing up,” said Defina, who was visiting from Raleigh.
“I enjoyed coming here. It was a good time with my daughter,” said Stirewalt.
“It’s really nice. There is a lot of interaction. There are a lot of cat toys. I am in love with the cat bridges,” said Defina, gesturing to the catwalks mounted above the lounge. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s pretty neat.”
Stratman is also a cat lover and was inspired to open a cat café in Greensboro after hearing about cafés in Washington and Charleston.
She found a retail spot in southside Greensboro that was formerly Crawford’s Creations.
Stratman said the difference between cat cafés abroad and those in the United States is that cafés in America often double as a way to showcase felines up for adoption.
Crooked Tail partners with local rescue organization Red Dog Farm.
“We’re doing something good to match cats up with the perfect person,” said Stratman.
Lily Driver made good use of her lounge time, teasing several of the kittens with cat toys and feather wands placed throughout the lounge. She had a hard time singling out one as her favorite.
“I don’t know … I like them all,” said Lily.
“She’d adopt them all if she could,” said her mother.
Some of the cats, like Sprout’s brother Bean, were a little more cautious and allowed interaction in measured doses.
Joey, Stratman’s own pet feline, took in opening day from a safe spot inside an old-school television cabinet repurposed as a cat bed.
“Basically anybody that is fan of cats can come and visit,” said Stratman.
A waiver is required and there are rules, such as no flash photography and no feeding the kitties.
Picking up the kitties is discouraged and cat naps are to be respected.
Crooked Tail opened with nine cats, but will soon host up to a dozen felines.
Proceeds from cat-related merchandise such as T-shirts, watches and bracelets, benefit the rescue organization.
Café hours are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Reservations are encouraged. Walk-ins are welcome if space is available.
© © Copyright 2017, Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC