Once a blank canvas, now bursting with life and color, Cups and Claws Cafe, an inspirational small business located in the heart of Newport News, partners with local businesses and rescue organizations on the Peninsula to not only advocate for homeless felines, but to also help educate the community on feline companionship and ownership. Owned by husband and wife, Philip and Kimberly (Kim) Zettel, the couple spend their time giving back to the community whenever possible. After 26 years of military service for Philip, and Kim retiring as a teacher after 25 years, they decided to open Cups and Claws Cafe, a space of community engagement, laughter and cheer.
When asked why she chose Cups and Claws Cafe as her second career, Kim responds enthusiastically, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was helping the rescue mission, so I fostered a lot of cats. With visitors who simply stopped by to spend time with the felines, I saw the emotional uplift and general benefits of what kitty therapy can do for one’s mental health. After my teaching career, Philip thought it would be neat to do something with cats, and we created Cups and Claws Cafe.”
Kim continues, “We didn’t want a simple hangout space for rescue cats; we wanted to create an environment accessible to everyone while being centered toward the community and providing resources for those who struggle with mental health.” In addition to a peaceful environment, Cups and Claws also exhibits displays from local artists. “We want to be advocates for artists who wish to showcase their work. Community members can even buy a cafe ceiling tile which they can paint with a design of their choice, and we display it. All artwork is created by local artists, including Christopher Newport University students,” says Kim.
With an array of day-to-day responsibilities ranging from deep cleaning sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and adoption interviews throughout the week, to maintaining the website and social media accounts, employee and volunteer management, inventory and financial responsibilities and most importantly, feline well-being, there is no moment of boredom for the Zettels. “While each animal is required to have a vaccination upon intake, I do a thorough, physical examination of each animal. I usually spend a few minutes, checking the animal’s ears and fur before I release him or her ‘into the wild,’” Kim says.
When asked what she loves most about living in and serving Newport News, Kim says, “We are a large pocket of diversity here on the Peninsula with senior citizens, young children, hundreds of thousands of military members and college students, all of whom can encounter great stress and unpredictability. Our service of providing feline education and companionship significantly helps those who can’t otherwise cope with stress and/or mental health in a healthy way.”
By providing the felines an opportunity to roam free of cages, learn valuable life lessons, as well as basic social interaction skills, Cups and Claws is providing vital steps to help prepare a feline for adoption. Since every interaction an animal encounters is precious, “our space also allows people to interact with animals in a safe, calm atmosphere while we teach basic care techniques (how to hold a cat, how to play with one), kitten interaction and language, and of course, what not to do,” Kim says.
In addition to tending to the near-constant needs of a growing population of 40 cats at Cups and Claws Cafe, Kim treasures her spare time with her family. With five children, ages 14 to 25, the couple often surround themselves with beautiful nature scenery, spending time outdoors. “My husband is an apiarist, so we love to be outside and around animals at all moments of the day. We also have many birdhouses we tend to with the kids so they learn to value and care for animal life,” Kim adds. She also enjoys outdoor exercising, traveling with Philip and reading mystery novels.
With an unlimited supply of love and compassion toward animals, Kim and Philip Zettel pride themselves on providing outstanding service to the Peninsula and beyond.
TO THE POINT:
Cups and Claws Cafe
Address: 11006 Warwick Blvd., Ste. 458, Newport News VA 23601
Contacts: Philip and Kim Zettel, owners