Updated: Jul 19, 2019
Publication: Loudoun Now
By: Jan Mercker
Date:July 5, 2019
Loudoun has officially unlocked a new achievement when it comes to suburban sophistication—and cuteness: The county’s first cat café opens Saturday in Sterling.
At the Meows Corner café, patrons can make an appointment or drop in to cuddle and hang out with a clowder of cute cats.
Owner Dina Abdel-Hamid will be starting with 15 adorable cats when the café opens July 6. And while all of the cats will be available for adoption through a local rescue organization, the café is also a cozy space where cat lovers can simply spend time with adorable felines.
“It’s therapeutic. It’s a little bit of stress relief,” Abdel-Hamid said, adding that the café is a natural draw for cat lovers who may not be able to have pets at home because of allergies or rental restrictions.
“I’m one of those people. I can’t have one at home because we have allergies at home,” she said. “You get that craving to be around animals.”
The cat café phenomenon has taken off worldwide since getting rolling in Asia in the late ’90s. After a boom in Japan, the sensation made its way to a number of cities in the U.S. in the past decade. Meows Corner is one of just a handful of cat cafés in the DC area, joining the established Crumbs & Whiskers in Georgetown, along with a new café that opened near George Mason University in Fairfax last fall.
For Abdel-Hamid, the lightbulb went on when she happened to walk by the Central Purrk cat café in Richmond and spied a cat in the window.
“When I went to visit, I was amazed by the idea,” she said. “It really stuck in my head as the perfect dream job, running this business and helping the rescue at the same time.”
Patrons can reserve 30-minute, 60-minute or all-day sessions and just spend time with the cats, but, as at most U.S. cat cafés, there’s also a rescue/adoption element. The café operates in partnership with the nonprofit 4 Paws Rescue based in Merrifield. Café cats will be available for adoption through the rescue if patrons fall in love and find the cat of their dreams. While Abdel-Hamid and her team will cover the cats’ daily care, the rescue is in charge of managing the cats’ healthcare and vaccinations and handling all adoption-related applications and paperwork.
Working with a cat café is something “completely new for us,” said 4 Paws adoption and intake coordinator Florence Homer. And the non-profit, which regularly works with foster families and several local pet store change, is excited about the new venture.
Homer says the new environment offers a chance for cats who may not shine in pet store cages to get noticed.
“For some of them, it’s really an opportunity to blossom,” she said.
The rescue makes sure that all cats in the café are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, are free of viruses and have shown they coexist well with other cats and humans, Homer said. Homer is also excited at the prospect of giving students and others who may not be ready or able to adopt a chance to spend time with rescue cats.
“It’s a chance to mingle without having to take them home,” she said. “It’s kind of like grandkids.”
For Abdel-Hamid, the clientele is likely to be a mix of folks looking to adopt, non-pet owners looking for a cuteness fix and cat owners who simply love the concept.
“I have a lot of people who are interested in coming who have cats at home, but they just like the idea and the atmosphere,” she said.
For Abdel-Hamid, the new business is an ideal way to bring the cats that were a big part of her childhood back into her life, and getting the bright, airy space in Sterling’s Cascades Overlook ready for the cats was a pleasure.
“I’m really an animal person, and I love cats in general,” she said. “It wasn’t hard for me to get in the mindset of preparing the space for the animals and wanting to do something with cats full time.”
The new space offers plenty of room and equipment for cats to play, along with couches for patrons to sit down for a cuddle. A separate food and drinks area offers brewed coffee and tea along with specialty drinks by the café’s neighbor Qwench Juice Bar and treats from Leesburg-based Dana’s Cake Shoppe.
Abdel-Hamid, who lives in Herndon with her family, initially looked at a small space in downtown Herndon, but when that fell through she found a spot at the up-and-coming Cascades Overlook Town Center, which features sleek apartments, trendy restaurants and shops and a town center-style plaza.
With Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun campus right across the street, the café is also perfect for students who want to get some cat cuddles in while doing school work or telecommuters looking for an adorable change of scenery. The café is open to children aged 6 and over, and a waiver is required for all patrons.
The retail center’s owners have been enthusiastic about the concept, Abdel-Hamid said. “They did their own research and saw that it’s something that’s really popular in other areas,” she said.
Reservations for Meows Corner’s July 6 grand opening are now full, but the café is taking reservations for the following week. Regular pricing will be $10 for 30 minutes or $18 for 60 minutes for adults, with a 10 percent discount for students, seniors and veterans. For children aged 6 to 11, the cost is $10 for 60 minutes. Work day passes on weekdays will be $40 for a nine-hour day. Meows Corner is located at 21435 Epicerie Plaza, Suite 115 in Sterling. For more information or to reserve a spot, go to meowscorner.com.