BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) — You'd be hard pressed to find a cup of coffee at Give Purrs A Chance, West Virginia's first and (so far) only cat cafe. Cuddles, pats and naps, though, are easily the top sellers.
For $7, customers spend time with some of the sweetest, most playful kitties in town — possibly a better deal than a cappuccino anyway.
However, Purrs opened last May with a mission deeper than offering cuteness to its customers. The cat cafe is dedicated to helping rescue cats find loving "furever" homes.
Purrs, a nonprofit, is a temporary home for up to 50 cats and kittens at a time. The furry felines are brought to Purrs by local rescue organizations.
"The cats aren't in cages," said Purrs President George Farnham. "That's the difference between us and most of the animal shelters."
Farnham worked at an animal rescue for more than 20 years. Before that, he studied political science and went on to law school in Washington, D.C. He only practiced law for about five years when he decided to escape to West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle for a quieter life in the early 1980s.
Now he's in the antique collectibles business and is known for his roadside attraction Farnham's Fantasy Farm in Unger.
Caring for the cat cafe has become a second full-time job. He prefers cats over people, anyway.
"I have 26 of my own cats," he said. "I couldn't take anymore, but I wanted to help get them adopted, and cat cafes are pretty much the wave of the future in terms of how adoptions are done."
Farnham claims the cafe is the largest of its kind in the United States.
Cat cafes were originally meant to be an escape from urban life in bigger cities. They offer a few minutes of comfort and companionship to those who might not be able to care for a pet in their own home.
The first known cat cafe popped up in Taiwan in 1998. The trend became popular when it spread to Japan, and then cat cafes began appearing around the world.
About four years ago, the first cat cafe in the U.S. opened in Oakland, California, with a mission to help shelter cats get adopted.
"I have been following them all since then because I think it is such a great concept," Farnham said. "Everyone else just kept opening in major cities, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and I hoped the concept could work in West Virginia in a rural location."
So far, Purrs has been quite successful, he said.
Since opening nearly 10 months ago, more than 170 cats have been adopted from the cafe. Each adoptee's picture is posted on a wall at the entrance to Purrs.
Farnham works closely with the rescues to ensure he is helping as many cats as he can.
"We pride ourselves that we take cats who might have imperfections," Farnham said. "We just adopted out two three-legged cats the other day. We have cats who have their tails cut off, one is deaf."
Most cafes Farnham has visited only have about 15 or 20 cats at a time and are forced to limit the number of people who can come into the shop at any given hour.
Being in a five-bedroom Victorian house in a rural location allows the cafe to accommodate more cats and cat lovers at one time.
"When you're in a cage, you don't get to interact with the other cats like these guys do, so the cats are just much happier than when they're in the cage," Farnham said. "It's much more conducive to getting them adopted out."
There's not necessarily a limit on how many cats he can keep at a time, but Farnham said it gets challenging once the number exceeds 50.
While most of the cats are allowed to wander, the kittens are confined to a smaller space, known as the kitten room while they adjust to life in the house.
"There are a lot of challenges at a cat cafe, but most of them is keeping the cats socialized and healthy so that they can easily get adopted," he said.
However, visitors are able to spend as much time as they like with the kittens, as they are with any of the cats. The $7 admission price covers a whole day at the cafe, and a visit isn't limited to those only looking to adopt.
The cost, as well as adoption payments, help Purrs purchase litter, food and pay veterinary fees.
The cafe also raises money by hosting yoga with cats and several other events throughout the week. It has an onsite Catique Boutique, which sells cat-themed items along with locally made art, pottery, soaps, jewelry and clothing.
"Being in a tourist town, we get pretty good traffic on the weekends," Farnham said. "Adoption-wise, we've done an impressive total."
He's expecting the nonprofit to break 200 adoptions by the end of its first year.