By Renss Greene

Cat and coffee lovers of Leesburg rejoice—the town’s first cat café is scheduled to hold a grand opening Friday, April 1.

Catty Corner Café is the passion project of Leesburg resident and cat lover Heather Donahue, whose entrepreneurial spark was fanned when she visited the cat lounge in Sterling, Meows Corner. But her love for cats reaches back much farther than that.

As a child, she said her family always had cats, like pure-bred Himalayans. But she said those kinds of pure-bred cats cost a lot and can come with health and attitude problems.

“Then I started fostering, and I just recognized right away that these cats are really special, because they are so grateful,” Donahue said. Fostering for the Humane Society soon turned into adopting, and when she decided to open the cat café, she reached out to the Humane Society to provide the cats. That helps out the Loudoun Humane Society, which relies on fostering to take care of the animals it takes in. And all the cats that guests will meet at Catty Corner are ready for adoption.

“That’s the beauty of it. People can sit here and go, ‘oh my gosh that cat and I bonded. I really want to adopt that one.’ Then they just go through the adoption process that you would with the Humane Society,” she said.

Donahue left behind a marketing career in New York and moved to Leesburg 20 years ago to raise her four children, which she said at the time was all she wanted to do. But once the kids were old enough to take care of themselves, she started taking side jobs.

Cello, one of the sociable cats at the new Catty Corner Café in Leesburg, relaxes on one of the cat towers. Renss Greene/Loudoun Now

“I did every side gig you can imagine—Uber driving, personal shopping, dog walking, cat sitting, estate sales, winery,” she said. “I was a waitress at the winery [The Vineyards & Winery at] Lost Creek—I loved that job.” But she also always wanted to be an entrepreneur, she said, and after visiting the Sterling cat café she was inspired to start her own.

“I said, ‘wow, maybe this is my calling,’ and I came back to Leesburg,” she said. “I live not far from here, maybe a mile, and I thought, what a great thing for Leesburg.”

Like many businesses that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Donahue faced some supply chain problems getting what she needed for the café. But her creative streak—and some help from her own mother—took care of that; much of the furniture for both humans and cats in the lounge area is up-cycled by hand.

The sunlit second-floor lounge is dominated by leafy, connected towers where cats can climb up high, peek out and play through the plastic foliage. Around the room, chairs and couches offer a place for humans to relax while hidey holes and platforms on the walls give the cats places to explore when they’re not busy meeting visitors—along with a quiet closet where they can hide out when they’ve have enough human attention.

Guests at Catty Corner can stop by the café downstairs or pay for time in the cat lounge, which comes with coffee and a cookie. And eventually, Donahue plans to grow the café’s offerings, opening up the second-floor balcony and expanding the menu.

The café is on East Market Street in the heart of downtown Leesburg, next to Plum Grove Cyclery and J. Morris Flowers in the building that previously housed Cowbell Kitchen, across the street from the County Government Center. And Donahue said she envisions an hour at the cat café as of a great weekend day trip for the family, or as a welcome reprieve for people working in Leesburg offices.

Cello, one of the sociable cats at the new Catty Corner Café in Leesburg, peeks out from the greenery in the cat room. Renss Greene/Loudoun Now

“It’s for people that can’t have a cat for some reason, like the landlord, and they want a cat fix. Or they’re obsessed with cats like me and they want to be surrounded by 20 of them,” she said. “And it’s just a fun, entertaining thing to do—it’s different, it’s cozy, it helps your stress levels. The cats can bring down your blood pressure.”

Business already began with a soft opening March 27. But the grand opening and ribbon cutting is scheduled Friday, April 1 at 1 p.m., in time for warmer weather and Leesburg’s First Friday.Catty Corner Café is at 116 E. Market St. in Leesburg. Learn more and make reservations at cattycornercafe.com, and follow Catty Corner Café on social media at facebook.com/CattyCornerCafe and instagram.com/cattycornercafe