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“These cats have a cooler, hipper apartment than I do. It’s like rags-to-riches cats over here, I don’t feel bad leaving them.” Kanchan Singh hears it all the time from visitors to the cat café enterprise she opened in Georgetown in 2015 and which now has a sister location in Los Angeles. A native of India, the 30-year-old Singh moved to the U.S. as a teen and immediately started volunteering at animal shelters in Maryland’s Montgomery County.
“My goal with Crumbs & Whiskers was to create an environment that was healthier for the cats and more comfortable, and one where they wouldn’t be withdrawn,” she says. Felines in Singh’s care, generally 20 to 25 at a time, have the run of the place cage-free. She and her staff work with rescue groups, including Homeward Trails, to select suitable candidates for the café, with the ultimate goal of finding them forever homes.
Notably, however, Crumbs & Whiskers is open to anyone needing a little purr in their life, even if it’s strictly for a “no-strings-attached” encounter. “A lot of people come in who want to connect with animals, but they’re not going to take one home,” says Singh. “Maybe their apartment doesn’t allow pets, or they already have enough pets, or they or their significant other is allergic.”
Forced to close both cafés and furlough staff at the start of the pandemic, Singh finally reopened in late June. While the business was put on pause for 16 months, the cause was not. “[With] all of our partner rescues in D.C. and L.A., we were online through our platforms, sharing the different cats that needed homes, and still continued to place cats in homes.” Since Crumbs & Whiskers opened six years ago, the “for-purpose business” has helped more than 1,700 cats get adopted and has saved more than 3,500 from euthanasia, while donating upwards of $40,000 to animal welfare charities.
Singh says it’s not just the perfect, cute cats that are the most popular. “One-eyed cats or three-legged cats in shelters, it’s very rare that they get adopted.” By contrast, Singh recalls a one-eyed cat at the D.C. Crumbs & Whiskers who generated “multiple adoption applications within the first couple of days,” as well as a three-legged cat at the L.A. locale adopted within a week, or several times faster than the average. “Who knew that in an environment like a cat café, it’s seen as desirable and a quirk, and people want to help that cat?” she says. “It’s been cool to see that.”
Crumbs & Whiskers is at 3109 M St. NW. Tickets are required and run $20 for a 30-minute experience, or $35 for a 70-minute session. Visit www.crumbsandwhiskers.com.
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