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Gonzo Report: Feeling feline at North Park’s Whiskers & Wine

“Every stray topping from our delicious flat bread comes under attack”

For Misty, it’s time to dine at Whiskers & Wine
For Misty, it’s time to dine at Whiskers & Wine

The orange cat jumps into an older man’s lap like they’re best friends. I never catch the animal’s name, or at least I don’t retain it, because there are at least ten more of her kind stalking the dual levels of North Park’s Whiskers & Wine Cat Lounge and Cocktails. So I’m calling the cat Ava, for reasons I’ll explain later. For now: we’re in a short line to order punnily titled food and beverages while indulging in “Cat Therapy.” Nick takes our order for my “CATprese” and a “Pearfect Meowtini” for the Mrs. I detect an accent, and Nick reveals that he’s from England. He takes great joy in the laughter the menu elicits, because he came up with many of the names. In a made-for-radio voice, he lays down the law: the cats run the place, don’t feed them no matter how much they beg, and treat the critters with respect because we’re in their home.

Place

Whiskers & Wine Cat Lounge & Cocktail Bar

2856 Adams Avenue, San Diego

We sign a waiver that releases the venue (and any animal assailants) from liability in the event of biting and scratching. These are cats, after all, and they do that type of thing, for reasons often known only to them. (Though the one time it occurred here, the customer supposedly took it as a badge of honor.) We’re offered a small table that lets us look through glass at the animal antics, in case we just want to eat. Hell no! We’ve paid 30 clams each for a 75-minute Cat Therapy session, which strikes me as a fancy way of saying “hanging out with cats.”

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The majority of the lounge is encased in glass, including the door we use to enter a small foyer outfitted with a mandatory hand sanitizing station. A second door allows entry to the lounge itself. The delayed egress is a precaution against runaways (presumably the four-legged kind). Ava still cuddles her chosen human, and other cats are milling around. Some are walking up to the second floor along a series of walkways affixed to the wall. We bipedal types must use the stairs.

The temperature is comfortable, and I drape my Wolfman hoodie on the stool. It immediately becomes a makeshift fort for one of the male cats. He lets me pet him, but his impatient eyes tell me to close the cloth door. Elsewhere, two humans named Nanette and Rae have attracted the attention of some cats. I’m a little jealous because, with the exception of Fort Cat, we’ve been observed briefly and ignored completely. Nanette and Rae run Rainbow Pack, a pet service that has gone beyond sitting to include innovations such as field trips. Their evident energy and love for all animals (including a pig) proves inviting to the resident felines. They’re there for Cat Therapy, and their demeanor indicates they’re benefiting from it.

I count eight more balls of fur on the upper level, but that may be inaccurate, because two sibling cats, Pippi and Bean, look so similar that the staff have trouble telling them apart. Bartender Vanessa brings our food and drink to us and, though we’re on-board about not feeding the cats, a grey tiger-striped female named Misty feels she’s an exception who is entitled to our vittles. Every stray topping from our delicious flatbread comes under attack. When Vanessa approaches, the furry thief crouches down as if trying to become undetectable, until she’s physically moved to the floor. When the coast is clear, she hops right back up again (the cat, not Vanessa). There are plenty of bowls full of cat food. She just prefers ours.

We hang out upstairs for the full paid duration, and no one tells us our time is up — just one of the many factors that add up to a relaxed session. As I prepare to leave, Fort Cat looks shocked that I have the audacity to take my hoodie-slash-cathouse with me. Downstairs, Ava has glommed onto another human and is chatting away, seeming to beg for affection, which the patron freely gives. I learn that the cats rotate shifts, because they’re all up for adoption in conjunction with never-kill sanctuary Saving One Life. Inside, Ava has attempted to hitch a ride with every person that leaves. Her personality reminds me of Ava, the android from Ex Machina whose machinations involve getting humans to fall in love with her so she can manipulate them into releasing her from captivity. In the film, Ava is successful, and sets out on a mission of world domination. Ava at Whiskers & Wine would probably settle for a snack.

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For Misty, it’s time to dine at Whiskers & Wine
For Misty, it’s time to dine at Whiskers & Wine

The orange cat jumps into an older man’s lap like they’re best friends. I never catch the animal’s name, or at least I don’t retain it, because there are at least ten more of her kind stalking the dual levels of North Park’s Whiskers & Wine Cat Lounge and Cocktails. So I’m calling the cat Ava, for reasons I’ll explain later. For now: we’re in a short line to order punnily titled food and beverages while indulging in “Cat Therapy.” Nick takes our order for my “CATprese” and a “Pearfect Meowtini” for the Mrs. I detect an accent, and Nick reveals that he’s from England. He takes great joy in the laughter the menu elicits, because he came up with many of the names. In a made-for-radio voice, he lays down the law: the cats run the place, don’t feed them no matter how much they beg, and treat the critters with respect because we’re in their home.

Place

Whiskers & Wine Cat Lounge & Cocktail Bar

2856 Adams Avenue, San Diego

We sign a waiver that releases the venue (and any animal assailants) from liability in the event of biting and scratching. These are cats, after all, and they do that type of thing, for reasons often known only to them. (Though the one time it occurred here, the customer supposedly took it as a badge of honor.) We’re offered a small table that lets us look through glass at the animal antics, in case we just want to eat. Hell no! We’ve paid 30 clams each for a 75-minute Cat Therapy session, which strikes me as a fancy way of saying “hanging out with cats.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

The majority of the lounge is encased in glass, including the door we use to enter a small foyer outfitted with a mandatory hand sanitizing station. A second door allows entry to the lounge itself. The delayed egress is a precaution against runaways (presumably the four-legged kind). Ava still cuddles her chosen human, and other cats are milling around. Some are walking up to the second floor along a series of walkways affixed to the wall. We bipedal types must use the stairs.

The temperature is comfortable, and I drape my Wolfman hoodie on the stool. It immediately becomes a makeshift fort for one of the male cats. He lets me pet him, but his impatient eyes tell me to close the cloth door. Elsewhere, two humans named Nanette and Rae have attracted the attention of some cats. I’m a little jealous because, with the exception of Fort Cat, we’ve been observed briefly and ignored completely. Nanette and Rae run Rainbow Pack, a pet service that has gone beyond sitting to include innovations such as field trips. Their evident energy and love for all animals (including a pig) proves inviting to the resident felines. They’re there for Cat Therapy, and their demeanor indicates they’re benefiting from it.

I count eight more balls of fur on the upper level, but that may be inaccurate, because two sibling cats, Pippi and Bean, look so similar that the staff have trouble telling them apart. Bartender Vanessa brings our food and drink to us and, though we’re on-board about not feeding the cats, a grey tiger-striped female named Misty feels she’s an exception who is entitled to our vittles. Every stray topping from our delicious flatbread comes under attack. When Vanessa approaches, the furry thief crouches down as if trying to become undetectable, until she’s physically moved to the floor. When the coast is clear, she hops right back up again (the cat, not Vanessa). There are plenty of bowls full of cat food. She just prefers ours.

We hang out upstairs for the full paid duration, and no one tells us our time is up — just one of the many factors that add up to a relaxed session. As I prepare to leave, Fort Cat looks shocked that I have the audacity to take my hoodie-slash-cathouse with me. Downstairs, Ava has glommed onto another human and is chatting away, seeming to beg for affection, which the patron freely gives. I learn that the cats rotate shifts, because they’re all up for adoption in conjunction with never-kill sanctuary Saving One Life. Inside, Ava has attempted to hitch a ride with every person that leaves. Her personality reminds me of Ava, the android from Ex Machina whose machinations involve getting humans to fall in love with her so she can manipulate them into releasing her from captivity. In the film, Ava is successful, and sets out on a mission of world domination. Ava at Whiskers & Wine would probably settle for a snack.

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