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Appetite: Calling All Cats: Mount Purrnon Offers Cuddles, Rescue on the Menu in Alexandria
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Appetite: Calling All Cats: Mount Purrnon Offers Cuddles, Rescue on the Menu in Alexandria

Pam and Aqua, a 1-year-old bonded pair: The last two stalwarts of the original adoptable group of cats, Pam is a medium-haired black cat; Aqua is a calico. Both are wonderful cats, owner Kristin Cowan says, who’ve managed to be overlooked by adopters so far. But they’ve taken matters into their own paws and now can often be found lounging about in the window.

Pam and Aqua, a 1-year-old bonded pair: The last two stalwarts of the original adoptable group of cats, Pam is a medium-haired black cat; Aqua is a calico. Both are wonderful cats, owner Kristin Cowan says, who’ve managed to be overlooked by adopters so far. But they’ve taken matters into their own paws and now can often be found lounging about in the window. Photos courtesy of Mount Purrnon Cat Café

Cat lovers of the region, rejoice: Alexandria’s first cat café is on the loose. Despite delays, unexpected permitting issues and even a pandemic, Mount Purrnon Cat Café opened its doors at 109 S. Alfred Street last month and has been delighting both felines and those who love them ever since.

Waiting out the covid-19 pandemic wasn’t an option, said owner Kristin Cowan. Not when there were cats out there waiting for new homes. And not when Mount Purrnon had come so far and was on the precipice of opening before the pandemic struck.

“We just kind of went for it,” Cowan said. “We’re taking it day by day and trying to look at the positive side of everything. Every time we send a cat home, we get very excited.”

So far, the café has sent 17 cats to new homes, most recently the “fan favorite” Lily, who’d won over dozens of hearts during her stay.

“We’ve had so many people say she was their favorite, they just couldn’t adopt her” at the moment, Cowan said.

Fourteen cats reside at Mount Purrnon as of press time. All of them come from partner Fancy Cats and Dogs Rescue Team, which pulls animals from various shelters around the region that have a high euthanasia rate.

“The majority of ours are from Caroline County, Maryland, but we’ve gotten some from North Carolina, Baltimore County and West Virginia,” Cowan said.

The cat café process works like this: Book a reservation on Mount Purrnon’s website (located at https://www.mtpurrnoncatcafe.com/), select a time slot and show up at your appointed time. (Walk-ins are welcome based on space available for half-hour increments.) Pro tip: While Saturdays and Sundays are often filled to the brim, the weekdays offer much more scheduling flexibility – and more one-on-one time with the kitties. And don’t forget your mask.

“We are limiting capacity to 20 people per hour,” Cowan said, adding that her team is rigorously cleaning and sanitizing after every group of visitors.

With all the focus on the felines, it’s easy to forget that Mount Purrnon Cat Café is, also, a café. While Cowan says the eatery is still in the process of obtaining its ABC license (“It’s an ongoing process that we’re working on really hard. It’s out of our hands right now,” she said), there’s still plenty to eat and drink. Perk up with espresso, cappuccino and coffee; fill your stomach with an assortment of prepackaged meals from local vendors. Sandwiches, salads, parfaits, grain bowls and sweet treats like edible cookie dough give you all you need for anything from a light bite to a hearty nosh.

Up next for Mount Purrnon: More events. The café is hosting a meditation class (complete with cats, naturally) this Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. Not quite up for a socially distanced class in person just yet? A virtual option is also available. Prices are $25 for in-person and $15 for virtual; register on Mount Purrnon’s website.

Hope Nelson is the author of “Classic Restaurants of Alexandria” and owns the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at hope@kitchenrecessionista.com.