By Courtney Pomeroy

WASHINGTON (WNEW) — Cats are often perceived as aloof, sometimes prickly creatures, but felines can actually be used as therapy animals to help lower blood pressure, anxiety and ease symptoms of depression.

Residents of some retirement and nursing homes and hospices have benefited from their soft purrs, gentle nuzzling and overall calming presence. Soon, D.C. residents will have a similar opportunity in the form of a cat café called Crumbs & Whiskers.

“It’s a place where you can, you know, come in, grab a cup of coffee and just hang out with cats,” founder Kanchan Singh says.

“And these cats are up for adoption and basically how it works is, you know, we kind of foster the cats so we get them out of the shelter from our partner shelter Washington Humane Society and they live in our establishment, in our cat café, until they’re adopted out.”

Singh, a 24-year-old University of Maryland grad, has always had a soft spot for the four-legged.

“I’ve always been like, in love with animals and always wanted to do something with them but just have never really came across an idea that I was in love with,” she says.

“Recently I was in Thailand and found a cat café and the rest is history, and here we are.”

As far as anyone knows, the world’s first cat café was located in Taipei — “Cat Flower Garden” opened its doors in 1998. Not long afterward, the idea took off in Japan. But cat cafés just recently became popular in the U.S.

When Singh first started working on Crumbs & Whiskers in September, there were no cat cafés stateside, but a handful have opened across the U.S. in the last several months , including in Oakland, California, Naples, Florida, Denver and Portland.

Singh says she expects Crumbs & Whiskers to open this summer, pending certain permits and approvals.

And judging by the Kickstarter campaign, which overshot its $15,000 goal by more than $10,000, D.C. is anticipating the opening just as much as Singh.

She says she can’t wait to get started on creating the space, which she wants to make “really comfortable and awesome for people and really comfortable and awesome for cats.”

Not only will there be a basic café menu and spots for humans to lounge and play with the cats, but also “wall-climbing things and cat towers and I really want a cat wheel,” she says.

Singh envisions one part of the space being very relaxing, with plants and fountains, and a second part being more playful, where people and cats are meant to interact in a more active way.

“I know, you know, when people want to hang out with cats, they usually want one of two things, they either want to sit there and pet a purring cat and that just makes them the happiest person in the world, or they want to see the cat chase after its tail and they think it’s so amusing.”

She also wants to have about 20 adoptable cats in the café at a time, which may sound like a lot, but, as Singh points out, “cats sleep like 70 percent of their lives.”

“I want it to be something where people walk out and they kind of have this like, natural high, just because that’s what I had.”

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