By Helen Ravenel Hammond
An orange tabby is curled up in the front window. Across the café, another is cuddled up in a basket or sprawled out on the kitty ledge. Look high, look low; try to spot each cat.
Here at Pounce Cat Café + Wine Bar, there are comfy couches to sit on, plenty of feline-related books to read and a basket of toys handy to play with the kittens. I make my way to the back, through the glass door of the café where I order my pastry and tea. I eye a T-shirt I want to buy later. I take my treats back and coo at a cute little black cat that rubs up on my leg.
The “pouncers” are nearby to ensure that no kitty is mistreated (and they hand out treats every hour). “Boss Kitty” Ashley Brooks and I find a cozy couch to settle down on for our interview—though we are frequently interrupted by curious cats climbing on us. In December, she and Annaliese Hughes opened up Pounce, the South’s first cat café, and they have contributed to an amazing 232 adoptions for Charleston Animal Society, since Pounce opened 6 months ago.
“We are part adoption center, part wine bar and cat café,” Brooks begins. “All cats are rescued from Charleston Animal Society. Come hang out, have a drink, play with our cats. If you fall in love, you can take one home.”
“Talk about a godsend,” gushes Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Animal Services. “Pounce has increased our lifesaving reach, by attracting a crowd of adopters who may not have had a chance to visit our animal care campus.”
Cats, cats, cats
Brooks and Hughes work with AnnMarie Kenyon, Charleston Animal Society Offsite Adoption Coordinator, who brings the cats to the café. Kenyon further assists with any animals that are having health or behavioral issues, and administers flea treatments and vaccines each month. Together, the Pounce owners also monitor each cat’s health—their eyes, ears, noses, eating/drinking habits and litter box visits with a special chart.
Out of the hundreds of cats that have been brought to Pounce, Brooks says, they have only sent back six who weren’t adjusting. “I love working with the Pounce team because they don’t shy away from difficult cases,” Kenyon said. Socializing the cats is a big part of the Pounce philosophy. The more social a cat, the better the chance at adoption.
These days the café mostly sees families and couples in their upper 20s and 30s, and has the same adoption process as the shelter. That procedure entails filling out adoption paperwork, having a one-on-one consultation with a member of Pounce’s staff, and paying the one-time adoption fee. Adult cats (over 1 year old) are $50 and kittens are $100. All adoption fees benefit Charleston Animal Society, and include a complementary veterinary wellness exam. “We also give owners a bag of food!” Brooks adds.
The Pounce cat experience is just $15, which includes a drink of your choice and an entire hour with the felines. “I don’t think it is an unreasonable price to ask for cats not to live in cages,” Brooks says. “We are averaging ten adoptions a week and this is helping save cats in the community.”
In essence, Pounce serves as a big foster home for Charleston Animal Society. “They bring us the cats, we take care of them, we get them adopted and they bring us more,” Brooks says, summarizing Pounce’s process.
And as this writer settles down at her spot in the café to start her story, Sapphire, a beautiful Persian with the most stunning icy blue eyes, jumps right onto my open laptop, vying for attention. Purrfection.
Cat Café 101
When at Pounce, Brooks notes it’s important to play by the rules. She calls the pointers for interacting with the cats their “Cat Café 101.”
- Don’t pick up and carry the cats
- Floor to lap is okay, but the cats are not fans of being carried
- Do not disturb sleeping cats
- Keep an eye on your drinks (“We have some wino cats,” Brooks said.)
- Pictures are allowed, but no flash photography.
- Please tag Pounce on Instagram @pouncecatcafe