Monday, June 17, 2024

Local Cat Cafe Offers Meowsic and Pawsome Fun for All

Cats are all around visitors to Cups and Claws Cat Cafe. (Cups and Claws)

NEWPORT NEWS — Kim Zettel was a teacher for 25 years who, after teaching virtually through COVID-19, decided she needed a change. After a conversation with her husband Philip, she decided to do something unique with cats.

During the pandemic, the Zettels were fostering upwards of 16 cats, and people would often visit their home to play with them and encourage Kim to do something with cats. Another conversation with Philip spurred the idea of a cat cafe.

In August 2022, Cups and Claws Cat Cafe officially opened its doors in the Port Warwick section of Newport News, However, work started two years prior to the official opening.

“There is a lot of research that you have to do. You have to understand the well-being of animals, you have to talk to local vets, you have to work with compliance and zoning officers, you have to work with local restaurants, you have to find a building that suits all of it. It’s a very complex process,” Zettel said.

Cups and Claws is a place where community animal rescues, the general public, and cats can interact in a safe environment. One of the cafe’s biggest goals is the importance of educating their customers on all things proper cat care.

“We teach people everything from the proper way to hold a cat, we teach about the importance of water fountains, to the Flehmen response (stinky cat smell). There are all sorts of opportunities for us to educate our guests,” Zettel said.

Humans of all ages can get tons of love from cats at Cups and Claws. (Cups and Claws)

The cafe has a laid-back vibe. Guests will find couches, chairs, high-top tables, and booths available for seating. Cats roam the cafe, and often can be found right under the chair a guest is sitting on or high above customer’s heads. There are dozens of cat toys strewn about and interaction with the cats is highly encouraged.

“We have a very relaxing, artistic, eclectic vibe. Our goal is to create this eccentric feel, but also a homey feel. Our inspiration was modeled after Central Perk in Friends. I want people to feel comfortable here,” Zettel said.

While the cafe promotes socialization for humans, it also encourages cats to have positive interactions with their two-legged counterparts.

When opening the cafe, Zettel wanted to make sure that potential adoptees were able to get up close and personal with the cats in the most natural way.

“People come in here and they get an experience. You are not looking at a cat through a cage, you can see a cat in its natural state. Then, when you bring it home, you know what to expect, because you have seen it in its most natural state,” Zettel said.

All the cats in the cafe are adoptable. Over the last two years, the Cups and Claws team has facilitated in the adoption of 540 cats.

The cafe works with local rescues only. They do not take in feral or household cats. However, Kim is happy to connect owners looking to rehome their cats with her local rescue organization contacts.

Beds, blankets, toys, and all things that a cat could want are strewn about Cups and Claws. (Cups and Claws)

The cafe boasts a wide variety of local items for sale, including baked goods, T-shirts, stickers and sweatshirts, all with a cat theme. Zettel had made up her mind on day one that the community would be involved with Cups and Claws as much as possible.

“We’re big into community, we truly find ourselves to be more of a community center with cats. On certain days, you’ll come in here and see someone playing the piano or the violin. There are people playing board games, there was a group of teenagers hanging out, where else will you see that? We are a place that is all-inclusive at all times,” Zettel said.

The cafe does require an entrance fee of $15 for teens and adults, $10 for seniors, and $13 for military personnel (including Shipyard and Newport News City employees) that goes back to caring for the animals, adoption fees, and the upkeep of the facility.

The cafe is open Monday and Thursday from 2-8 p.m., Friday from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cafe is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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