LOS ANGELES—Chetan Singh, co-owner of Crumbs and Whiskers, the first cat cafe in Los Angeles, is allergic to cats. He even has to take allergy medication, although he sometimes forgets.
"But that doesn't stop me," he said, at the pre-opening of the cafe in the Melrose District, with eyes slightly red and watery. "I love cats. I have five cats back home."
The new cafe, which officially opens on Sept. 30, is now the second Crumbs and Whiskers location. The first is in Washington D.C., where Singh and his co-owner and sister Kanchan Singh live.
It all started when the Singh sister went to a cat cafe in Thailand in 2014. Always an animal lover, she decided to quit her well-paying corporate job to start her own dream career, intertwining a responsible business model, animal welfare, and creative design.
"The whole concept is you come in, you just relax with a friend, you drink a chai, and you cuddle with some cats," she said. "We have 13 cats right now, but by the time we open in general we'll have about 20 cats."
The cafe's airy room smells clean and fresh and minty. This is because a peppermint oil diffuser is used as an all-natural herbal remedy to keep the cats calm and happy, while multiple air purifiers keep the space toxin-free.
Customers Annetta and Pavana visited Crumbs and Whiskers on the first day of the cafe's pre-opening on Sept. 22.
"We heard that there was a cafe opening with cats, and that's the dream," said Annetta. "I had it in my calendar weeks in advance."
Pavana already has two cats at home, and is considering adopting another kitten. But she also simply enjoys spending time with cats of all kinds.
"I love it. The setup is adorable, and I love the 'Cats Before Bros' [sign]," she said. "[The cats] look really happy."
All the cats are available for adoption from Karma Rescue and are specially chosen for the cafe experience.
"We have social cats," said Kanchan Singh. "What that means is these are cats who love being around people and love being around other cats, because those are the only kind of cats that would enjoy it here."
So what brought Crumbs and Whiskers to Los Angeles?
"It's unbelievable that LA doesn't already have a cat cafe," said Chetan Singh. "It's just sort of something that we think is a really good cultural fit. LA is a very hip and trendy city, and also LA has a lot of street cats and a lot of cats in rescues that need homes."
"So this is a pretty great way of making sure that at least a few of those cats have a really nice home, even before they transition into their actual homes."
Although it's called a "cafe," health regulations don't allow food or drinks to be prepared in the same place as the cats. If customers wish to order a coffee or tea drink or a snack, it will be delivered by Crumbs and Whisker's partner cafe called Open Space.
Visitors must pay $22 weekdays or $25 weekends for a 75-minute cat cuddle session, or 15-minute sessions are also available for $9. Reservations are recommended. The minimum age for visitors is 7 years old.