It’s one thing to be the owner of a pet cat. It’s another thing to be the owner of a cat café.

Somehow, Karen Stratman ended up as both.

“I love cats and life just happened,” she says on a Saturday afternoon while manning the bar at Crooked Tail Cat Café.

Stratman opened the café — the first of its kind in North Carolina and located on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro — in late 2017. Cat cafés have become a popular concept in larger cities over the past few years, and since Crooked Tail’s opening, several other similar establishments have cropped up across the state in Charlotte, Chapel Hill, and Selma, with one planned for Raleigh, as well.

Like most of these cafés, Crooked Tail is part coffee house, part animal rescue. Stratman partnered with Red Dog Farm, a Greensboro animal sanctuary, to bring adoptable cats into the shop; a maximum of 12 at any time, with animals living day and night in the space for around a month at a time. Customers can come in to hang out with the cats, which range in age, size, and breed, and are all available for adoption.

The café is broken up into two separate spaces. There’s the main room where the cats hang out, and the café with a bar, seating, and a small gift shop selling all manner of feline swag. Cats aren’t allowed in the café area — which serves coffee, tea, beer, wine, and other beverages — but human guests are welcome to go back and forth.

The kitty lounge is tricked out with everything the café’s furry residents could need or want: toys, scratching posts, cozy beds, and even a big cardboard box (any cat lover knows how much these creatures love hiding in boxes). Litter boxes are discreetly hidden and climbing perches lead up to literal catwalks lining walls on both sides of the room, giving the furballs a place to relax and observe the action below.

Visiting with the cats is easy. Reserve time slots online or via phone; one hour is $10 and includes a drink token good for select items on the menu (or a discount on other beverages). Walk-ins can reserve 30-minute intervals for $5, space permitting. The café limits how many humans can visit at a time to prevent distressing the animals.

Crooked Tail draws an eclectic crowd including grandmothers with their pre-teen grandchildren, young couples, moms, and kids. Some visitors come to find a pet, some to simply get some kitty therapy. In fact, the café has a house cat, a chill tuxedo named Joey whose mom is Stratman, and he’s always on hand to provide consistency for visitors with disabilities.

“It’s a diverse crowd, but mostly women,” Stratman says. “I’d say 80 percent of our clientele is women, but we also get families with young kids, millennials, [and] college students.”

To date, the café has helped more than 100 cats find their forever homes. Stratman plans to increase that number exponentially this year as she opens a second café this summer on Fifth Street in Winston-Salem. For her, making those connections between the animals and cat lovers is the driving force behind her business’ success.

“It’s always satisfying when we get cats in good homes, and that’s what keeps me going — to see our adoption numbers increase,” she says.

Want to go?

Crooked Tail Cat Café

604 S. Elm St., Greensboro


Hours: Tues-Fri, noon–8 p.m.; Sat, noon–9 p.m.; Sun, noon–6 p.m.

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