Maiya Mahoney & Danielle Filjon
For a slideshow of photos at Witty Whisker Cat Cafe: https://youtu.be/wMouLz-mKW0
An eclectic array of cat decor, twinkling fairy lights, and vibrant mandalas adorn the Witty Whisker Cat Cafe in St. Augustine. Described as a “bohemian” space serving coffee and baked goods, Angeli Rodriguez opened the Witty Whisker Cat Cafe to foster cats and kittens, helping these furry friends find their forever homes.
Pairing with the Feline Canopy of Care, a no-kill animal shelter, Angeli Rodriguez brings in cats in need of adoption and loving care.
“The Feline Canopy of Care takes in the cats that are abandoned, very sick, and the ones with fleas and worms. They help them get healthy,” Rodriguez said. “Once the cats get healthy and they are sociable enough to be in this environment, then that’s where I can come in and bring them here, so that [The Feline Canopy of Care] has more room for other cats waiting for adoption.”
According to the Kitten Coalition, approximately 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, about 3.4 million are cats. Additionally, each year, 2.7 million animals are euthanized, including 1.4 million cats.
“There are way too many strays in St. Augustine. People who aren’t in cat rescue don’t know. Our phones ring constantly,” said Sherrie Moore, executive director for Feline Canopy of Care. “St. Johns County has a very high kill rate of cats in their shelters, and it really breaks my heart.”
For Moore, pairing up with Rodriguez at the Witty Whisker has been a great relationship, resulting in over 100 adoptions this year.
“The cat cafe definitely helps increase adoptions,” Moore said. “There is no shortage of people paying to go to the cat cafe, so these cats are being seen and given more opportunities to adopt our cats.”
Of the cats entering shelters, according to Kitten Coalition, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
Always a cat person, Rodriguez was first inspired to start a cat cafe four years ago when her mother handed her an article about a girl who left corporate America for Thailand and discovered cat cafes. Working a string of corporate jobs and feeling unfulfilled, Rodriquez felt intrigued by the concept of cat cafes.
“I’ve always loved cats, and I thought ‘if I could make one, what would I do?’” Rodriguez said.
Since Rodruiguez had an MBA, she began a business plan. At first, she was discouraged and took a break for six months.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, and after that time I picked [the business plan] back up,” Rodriguez said.
Opening the cat cafe has been beneficial to not only the cats who seek and find adoption, but for Rodriguez as well. To enter the cafe, it is $10 a person per hour. The money spent from admission to the cat cafe goes towards food for the cats and upkeep of the space.
“Opening the cat cafe helped me get out of my comfort zone, and helped me grow as a business person, and a human being,” Rodriguez said. “This job is extremely fulfilling. I work harder than I ever have before, but it’s fun.”
The Witty Whisker’s main goal is to help cats become adopted, but the cat cafe also serves as a space for the community to destress with a cup of coffee, a baked good from CraCraves, and a furry companion. Beer, wine, and hard seltzer is also available. Special events and classes are offered in the cat lounge, such as Painting with Kitties, Meowditation, and Mewsic Nights with Kat. Flagler College students can even take advantage of Flagler Student Day every Wednesday where showing one’s student ID grants half off admission to the cat cafe.
Displayed by the entrance to Witty Whisker is their tagline: “Warming hearts with a drink and a whisker.”
“My more formal mission is to help pair up cats with their forever homes and help people find their little furry partners in a nice, warm environment,” Rodriguez said. “We want to make the adoption experience happy versus sad and depressing.”
Whether it’s spending some time to destress with a furry friend, adding a new member to your family, or sipping on a warm drink, the Witty Whisker Cat Cafe continues to strive to make a difference in the lives of the cats and in the community.
If you are interested in working at the cat cafe, Rodriguez has expressed the need for part-time employees and encourages Flagler College students to apply. For those looking to volunteer, Feline Canopy of Care is looking for help and in need of fosters.
For more information:
Witty Whisker Cat Cafe:
Angeli Rodriguez, Owner
112 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. (Suite A), St. Augustine
Feline Canopy of Care, Inc.
To donate to Feline Canopy of Care, Inc.