I first heard about Crooked Tail Cat Cafe from a coworker, and there’s been quite a buzz around town, mainly comprised of people asking, “What the hell is a cat café?” While I waited outside the café on the morning of my visit, I heard this exact sentiment from passerby, and my curiosity was just about to kill me.
As soon as I was permitted to enter, I found myself in what could be likened to a holding cell, where I was instructed to sanitize my hands before entering further. I was surprised to note that the “Kitty Lounge” was outfitted to be quite mod, with 70s-style furniture and 3D paneling on the walls. This is the main area where visitors pay ten dollars to be surrounded by cats. For those who believe that cats still remember being worshipped and carry resentment over it into the 21stcentury, this feels like a fitting way to honor these crooked-tail creatures.
Here’s the gist of how things work: visitors pay their fee and are welcomed into the lounge. Behind another door lies the café section, where coffee, tea, and baked goods are served. These treats can be brought back into the lounge if the visitor so chooses.
Karen Stratman, owner of the business, is never off-brand. She greeted me wearing cat earrings, cat shoelaces, and a cat t-shirt. I’m not sure what I envisioned the owner of a cat café to look like, but she fits the bill. She explains how the café figures logistically with the cats: “In America, how cat cafes work is that we usually partner up with rescue organizations or animal shelters and the cats live here,” she says. “They’re up for adoption. At some cafes, they crate them at night, but here, they’re going to live here organic and cage-free at all times. They’re not crated at night at all.”
Crooked Tail works specifically with Red Dog Farm, who Stratman says rescues “everything from a tarantula to emus to horses to pigs, cows, donkeys. They try to rescue any animal they can.”
After watching YouTube videos about Asian cat cafés in 2011, Stratman started following the trend and made it a life goal to open one. “I just love cats and the café atmosphere is just a chill atmosphere,” says Stratman. “When you combine the two, it’s just awesome. I really liked how in America, they took the model and made the cats adoptable. It’s about helping animals. That’s really what I was put on this earth to do.”
Even if you aren’t in the market for adopting a feline companion, Stratman says, “If you need cat therapy, some students that live in dorms, or if you have a family member who’s allergic, you can come here. If you want to adopt a cat, you can see how they are in a home environment. When you come and pet a cat, even if you’re having a bad day, you pet a cat and everything’s going to be okay.”
Stratman also would like to point out “there’s a lot more dog advocacy than there is for cats,” mainly because we as humans may not understand that cats aren’t constantly sneering upon us like we think: “We do have some shy residents here, but that doesn’t mean they’re not friendly,” says Stratman. “I love that they secretly love your affection. At the end of the day, they really do care about humans, whether they want to admit it or not.”