Mise en Place: Whiskers Cat Café’s Audrey Boese pours lattes, love, and lots of hours into fostering cats
Audrey Boese loves animals. During the pandemic, she took a risk, changed careers, learned to operate an espresso machine, and started Whiskers Cat Café & Coffeehouse with the intention of giving shelter cats a playful outlet for adoption. She quickly discovered that while she was helping her feline friends, she was also cultivating a sacred space for customers to process their feelings whilst getting their daily cuppa joe.
The Pitch: Tell us about your journey as a pet owner and lover and how you came to be a steward.
Audrey Boese: When I had this idea, it was focused on the cats: “How can we provide a cool environment for cats, get them out of the shelter, get them out of kennels, and into a free-roaming space?” In the back of my mind, I was like, “People will love it too.” As we have been growing, the business is way more geared towards mental health and people in moments of crisis.
We support mourning and celebrating way more than I imagined. It’s a great surprise because we have many customers that have lost a family member, or they’ve lost a pet, or they are going through really tough times. One of our regulars got laid off first thing in the morning, and immediately drove here, and just wanted to talk to somebody and hang out. It can be really emotional (which is really hard to match somebody’s energy, you know, for our staff), but I think we are all very emotional. You know, it’s cheaper than therapy—but still go to therapy; we can make a recommendation.
For some reason, when you get in the room with cats, you kind of forget about everything else. I mean, that’s what I do anyway. You’re not thinking about the layoff or the loss, so it just kind of frees you up for mental stillness.
Does fostering break your heart?
Yes. And no. We get attached to every cat that comes through. Some of us get more attached to particular cats, spend more time with them, or care for them a little bit more than others. But the people that adopt from us are the best people in the world. We send them to the best homes. We sent a kitty, Figaro, home yesterday at 1:30 p.m., and by, like, 4 or 5 p.m., they sent us pictures of their son and Figaro snuggling.
What was your first pet?
I was chasing everything around the neighborhood all the time, any cat or dog, but I never brought them home. Baby birds—I would try to save baby birds. Looking back, I should have left those baby birds alone. I’ve always had an infatuation with animals, and when I’m on vacation, I’m naming the ducks in the pond. My first pet was a dog named Callie.
Do you identify as a cat or a dog person?
I am both, honestly. I would love to do something with dogs, but cats are kind of underrated. At a lot of shelters, dogs are their number one pet, so it’s kind of cool to spotlight cats. A lot of people think I’m a crazy cat lady. I’m just a crazy animal person.
A Midtown farm?
A rescue petting zoo?
Yeah, who knows what the future holds?
Do you rename your foster cats?
The shelter does a pretty good job, but sometimes, they’re pre-owned pets and keep their name. I let my staff name my foster kittens, and they come up with the most off-the-wall shit—like Waffle Maker. The last batch of kittens included Keurig, Waffle Maker, Spatula, and Toaster-Oven.
Whiskers Cat Café & Coffeehouse is located at 3705-3707 Southwest Trafficway, Kansas City, MO 64111.