By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer —
Naughty Cat Cafe in St. Elmo strives to connect the community with adoptable felines in a unique environment.
Whitney Sickles and her husband, Heath Hanson, opened Naughty Cat Cafe in March of 2019. While travelling and living all over the world before settling in Tennessee, the couple visited more than 40 cat cafes.
“We were very surprised to learn that Chatttanooga did not have a cat cafe,” said Sickles, “ So, since you cannot get a small business loan for a cat cafe, we took a mortgage on our home and opened Naughty Cat.”
Cats are often limited to shelters and can’t be brought out to adoption events like dogs can, meaning they often have a harder time being adopted. Naughty Cat Cafe strives to connect adoptable cats with potential owners by allowing customers to come and interact hands-on in a comfortable setting.
“People can see these cats outside of cages in a calm and relaxed home environment and can get a better feel for the cats personality and energy level,” Sickles said.
Since opening a year and a half ago, the cafe has served more than 30,000 guests, and currently, they house about 30 felines.
“Unlike most cat cafes we specialize in adult cats. Kittens get adopted very easily from the shelters so we focus on the adult cats that were not thriving in the shelter environment.” Sickles said.
Naughty Cat has partnered with other small Chattanooga businesses, including Mad Priest Coffee Roasters, Coyote Cove, and Cupcake Kitchen. While they were closed due to COVID-19, Pizza Bros, State of Confusion, Hutton and Smith, and Southside Pizza all included fliers of the cafe’s adoptable cats in their to-go orders.
“When other local businesses realized the work we are doing directly benefits our community, they were keen to collaborate.” Sickles said.
It’s not an easy feat to run a cat cafe of this size. Sickles says she and her husband spend hours every day to make sure the cafe is sanitary. This process includes scrubbing every surface, sanitizing and vacuuming each morning before customers enter and each night before closing.
“Heath and I are the only two staff and we have to be at the cafe 7 days a week, so Naughty Cat is our life,” Sickles explained.
Despite the hard work, Sickles says it is memorable and rewarding to watch shy shelter cats come out of their shells and show their true personalities.
“They learn what love and affection is, and they relax and become more comfortable over their time here,” she said. “Their true personalities shine, and ultimately, they end up getting a great forever home.”
Naughty Cat Cafe offers a 20% student discount on the $13 entry charge. Reservations are recommended. For more information visit their website at naughtycatcafe.com