New Mississippi cat cafe — The Twisted Whisker — is where cat lovers can gather

Published 7:30 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

On a honeymoon trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a few years ago, Marcie Harper and her husband, Connor, came upon a cat cafe.

Her expectations raised and curiosity peaked, she was eager to take a look.

“We passed a sign that said ‘30 cats inside’ in all caps and an arrow, and I literally slammed the brakes,” she said.

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She was prepared to see a coffeeshop with cats inside, but it wasn’t set up quite that way. Due to laws governing food safety, animals and food don’t always go together, which was the case with the Chattanooga facility.

After another recent visit, Marcie was convinced that a cat cafe would not only meet a need in Northeast Mississippi, but it would be sustainable. And the Chattanooga facility served as a model for Harper, who recently opened The Twisted Whisker Cat Cafe.

“This is my brainchild and baby,” Marcie said proudly.

But initially she wasn’t ready to jump into it. After all, she was teaching at Tupelo Middle School, and finding the time to open and operate a cat cafe could be a challenge.

“It came time when I wanted to step into a different role,” she said. “I wasn’t planning to leave the profession because I love teaching.”

But she began working on a business plan for the cat cafe anyway, and the research revealed it would take about a year to launch such a venture.

The last visit to Chattanooga was in March, and four months later, The Twisted Whisker opened. As it turned out, Harper didn’t get the position she wanted, so she decided to step back and give the cafe a leap of faith.

With the summer off, she poured all her time – and money – to get it open. And to add to the challenge, Connor was laid off from his job.

“Everything kind of snowballed and fell into place,” she said. “I thought I could run it by myself, but I found out it takes two. It’s actually turned out to be a blessing.”

Located at 218 S. Gloster Street in Tupelo, The Twisted Whisker is a cat lover’s dream.

Inside, pre-made drinks (sodas, water), snacks and merchandise are for sale, and customers have access to the cat lounge for $11. All the cats are adoptable, courtesy of the Tupelo Lee Humane Society, and recently the Amory Humane Society.

“We can’t take cats from anywhere else,” Marcie said. “We can’t take in stray cats, you can’t bring your own cats.”

All of the cats are spayed and neutered, have their shots and are checked out by veterinarians. The Twisted Whisker can accommodate around 20 cats.

“We’ve had 21 adoptions so far,” she said. “We are cleaning them (the shelter) out.

The Twisted Whisker is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Customers can also bring their own food, but Harper asks that a $2 “cat fee” be paid, much like a corking fee a restaurant has for bringing in your own bottle. Customers can pay the $2 in cash, or buy a sticker or a drink.

“If you bring your own food, you do have to fend off the cats,” she said.