Featured Photo courtesy of Curtis and Taura Byrd
Story by Destiny Mizell
When Catfeine Cat Cafe opened, owners Curtis and Taura Byrd strived to facilitate at least 100 adoptions a year.
They quickly exceeded that goal, nearly doubling it annually.
Since welcoming feline-friendly customers in 2019, the business helped more than 750 cats — or three to five per week — find their “furever” homes.
Their business plan allows 15 to 20 cats to roam freely, make friends and pick their parents. They only host rescues vetted by Rutherford County Cat Rescue, Puurrrfect Paws, Smitten Kitten, Saving Stevie and All Aboard Animal Rescue.
The Catfeine Cat Cafe acts similar to a foster home, rather than a coffee shop due to Health Department codes. Visitors can buy pre-packaged food and self-serve coffee upon mingling with the animals.
“You get to observe the cats’ behaviors in real time — how they react to other cats, how they play with humans and how curious or rebellious they may be,” said Rosie Young, who adopted her kitten, Ethel, two months ago. Young had her heart set on an older cat, but experienced love at first sight with Ethel.
Catfeine Cat Cafe is founded on the love for animals and one another.
Curtis and Taura Byrd met in Anniston, Alabama, in 1997 through Taura Byrd’s classified newspaper ad, looking for a bassist and a drummer to join her band. Curtis Byrd plays the drums and his best friend played bass. Fast forward to 2001, the two married after courting for years. That same year, they moved to Nashville to pursue their dreams as musicians.
Years of juggling corporate jobs and performing in different bands passed when a new dream found them through a “Shark Tank” episode in 2015. The show featured a Florida man who pitched a similar cat cafe to the sharks, which took the couple by storm.
Cat lovers through and through, Curtis and Taura Byrd spent the next four years navigating how to bring this dream to life. The journey brought more challenges than expected, such as finding the right location and navigating business procedures.
The couple knew they wanted each cat to go to the best permanent home possible. The rescues they accept cats from have application processes to prevent any impulse decisions when it comes to adopting.
“I like the fact that they simply don’t let just anyone have a cat,” said Ben Rumsey, who adopted his cats, Jamie Lee and Nuge, in February. “They want to make sure you are serious about adopting and that you will provide the love and care the animals need.”
The building itself is split into three rooms, separating animals from the food, drinks and gift shop at the entrance. Cats do their business or recharge social batteries in the furthest room. Most visitors focus solely on the middle room, where the cats lounge.
Teal and pink accents populate the cat room and puns run wild on the walls. Laughter, purrs and the jingling of toys echo, while Taura Byrd’s favorite mix of country and ‘80s music hums in the background. Commissioned cat-themed local art and Curtis Byrd’s handmade cat hideouts adorn the space. A mounted flat-screen in the corner presents a slideshow featuring a photo of each cat with notable attributes.
“It is definitely super cute and cozy,” Kenzie Willis said.
Though there’s many seating options in the cat room, most patrons sit or lay on the ground to entertain themselves with the lively bunch. For this reason, employees keep lint rollers and air purifiers on deck.
Four years of pairing rescue cats with their humans later, the Byrd family still feels waves of joy and disbelief that they’ve saved hundreds of lives through their dream operation.
“Even if you’re not looking to adopt a cat, any cat lover can book an appointment there to sip coffee and hang out with kitties,” Young said. “In addition to all of that, you’re giving your money to a great local organization that is going to use that money to help more rescue kitties.”
Catfeine Cat Cafe’s website includes more information on hours of operation, FAQ and ways to contribute.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email email@example.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.