Friday, May 20, 2022

Yorktown Pub cats remain a local staple

Thomas Harms feeds the cats every morning for the past 15 years. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
Thomas Harms has fed the Yorktown Pub cats every morning for the past 15 years. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

Visitors to Yorktown Beach come to enjoy the sun, the sand — and the cats.

The Pub Cats are well-known,” said Thomas Harms, the cook at the Yorktown Pub. “They’ve been here longer than I have, and that’s saying something.”

The cats are fed by employees at the Yorktown Pub. Sometimes, they share their food with wild animals like groundhogs and raccoons. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
The cats are fed by employees at the Yorktown Pub. Sometimes the cats share their food with wild animals like groundhogs and raccoons. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

The Yorktown Pub has become known in the area for their popular gang of cats that have nested in the area surrounding the restaurant. The cats lounge on the cement steps on the side of the pub and soak in the attention from tourists.

Each cat has a name, many given by Cheryl Brown, a former pub employee who was known as the “cat whisperer” because of her connection to the felines. In 2012, Brown started the Yorktown Kitty Fund to solicit donations to pay for cat food, but now the money mostly comes from Harms and the other employees who care for the cats.

“We don’t want anything bad to happen to them,” Harms said. “These are our cats. We love having them here.”

At times the cats have been seen sharing their morning meal with wild groundhogs or raccoons. While Harms said tourists love seeing this odd spectacle, he always has to be wary that the wild animals aren’t eating the food that is put out for the cats.

A few years ago, pub employees started to notice that the cats were crawling out of the sewers because the animals were trying to find somewhere warm to sleep at night. The employees have built cat houses behind the restaurant so the cats have a warm and safe place to stay in the winter, Harms said.

Harms is the first in the restaurant each morning, so he feeds the cats on the side of the building.

Harms said he enjoys starting his day with the cats.

“I’ve grown up with cats, I love cats,” Harms said.

Homegirl was a favorite of the Pub Cats and passed away in March 2017. The employees of the Yorktown Pub had her cremated and she now sits behind the bar in the restaurant. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
Homegirl, a favorite of the Yorktown Pub cats, died in March 2017. Pub employees had her remains cremated, and the remains now sit behind the bar in the restaurant. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

One cat in particular, Homegirl, was a pub favorite and close to Harms. Homegirl was born about 15 years ago, just after Harms started working at the Yorktown Pub. Homegirl died in March 2017, and now her cremated remains rest in an urn behind the bar, decorated with photos of the cat from throughout the years.

The Yorktown Pub Cats attract tourists each year and have become a local staple. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
The Yorktown Pub cats attract tourists each year and have become a local staple. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

Many of the locals have become attached to the animals as well, such as Black Dog Gallery owner Virginia Lascara, who has taken home a couple of the cats herself. In 2012, Lascara helped start an effort to have the cats spayed or neutered to help control their population.

“Yorktown had turned into a place for people to dump their cats,” Lascara said. “We needed to get the population down.”

Lascara remembers when there were almost 20 cats around the pub. The spaying and neutering effort, now managed by Shirley Estes, has reduced the pub cat population to only about six or seven animals.

The Yorktown Pub cats remain popular with visitors and locals, Harms said.

“It’s like a zoo almost” Harms said. “People love it.”

WYDaily archives were used in this story.

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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