Dallas gets its first cat café. Here’s a look

Whiskers and Soda is the purrfect place to meet — and maybe adopt — a feline friend.

By Sally Verrando, KERA NewsAugust 30, 2023 12:35 pm, ,

From KERA News:

It’s Tuesday afternoon, around 1 o’clock, and the main room at Whiskers and Soda cat cafe is buzzing with a low din of 30 cat-happy customers, many of them children.

Shannon Regan, a computer programmer, sits at a table, wearing a headset. Once a week, he drives 30 minutes to the café to work remotely. And yes, cats do jump on his laptop’s keyboard and press buttons.

He doesn’t seem to mind about the cats or the noise. After working in silence at home, “a little noise can be comforting,” he said.

His kids clamor to go with him to the café. “And every single time, they want me to come home with a cat,” he said. So far, he’s resisted. “I’ve made it three times here and not gone home with a cat. But I’m due. I’m due.”

Johnathan Johnson / KERA News

Ashley Hanlon with her son, who was committed to petting every cat in the kitten room at Whiskers and Soda Cat Cafe.

Silent kitties scurry across open floors or weave between chair legs to sniff extended fingers. Some duck into hidey holes. Others are tuckered out and curled up on cat beds or pillows. A curious orange tabby gently bats at my mic cable as I interview owners Caroline and Rob Stovall.

The Stovalls, who have six cats, were inspired by cat cafes they visited in Asia and Europe. But they also created Whiskers and Soda to make pet adoption easier on the cats. Caroline is the president of rescue group A Voice for All Paws.

As with all cat cafes, there are rules for interacting with the cats: no picking up, no chasing, no tail-pulling, no waking, no yelling, no rough-housing.

After checking in, patrons can remove their shoes or walk around in their socks or put on plastic covers over their shoes – they’re provided by the café to prevent the spread of disease. Then customers go through a magnetically locked door into the cafe.

Cultivar Coffee Roasting Co. and Leila Bakery, both nearby, provide refreshments for the café. It’s the only one of the four North Texas cat cafes that offers fresh pastries and locally roasted coffee.

“We’re Lake Highlands residents,” Rob said. “It’s very important for us to keep things local.”

Johnathan Johnson / KERA News

An orange tabby explores the rafters while a flat screen TV below plays videos of birds, squirrels and fish. When Rob and Caroline Stovall gutted the space for Whiskers and Soda Cat Cafe, they kept the rafters exposed for additional cat climbing.

Separate from the main café are a kitten room for the youngest residents, a quiet room for adoption bonding and a cats-only lounge.

“If they get tired of people, that’s where they go,” Rob said. “They just chill.”

The Stovalls also run a cat boarding facility, Griffin Rock Cat Retreat, in the same building. Each of the 12 suites has nooks and hammocks for the cats, camera and audio for owners to watch, listen and talk 24 hours a day. And a flat-screen TV with nothing but bird, fish and squirrel videos.

The Stovalls plan to add additional boarding suites and an intake center for A Voice for All Paws. The group has completed 350 adoptions this year from foster homes and from the café, Caroline said. She hopes to raise that number to 1,000 cats a year.

“It’s something we’re very passionate about and that we all really love,” she said. “When you see some of the cats that come to us in the states that they arrive, and then they go to wonderful homes, there is really nothing that beats that.”

North Texas is home to at least four cat cafés. Learn about each and plan your visit.

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