JAMES CITY — A lifelong animal lover, Amanda Wilbourne has been in the pet business for a long time.
Sixteen years ago, Wilbourne opened The Nautical Dog, a pet store that caters to four-legged friends in Williamsburg. Soon the store, located in the new town, will expand even further, with the addition of Schwartzy’s Cat Cove.
Named after Wilbourne’s beloved shop cat, Schwartzy, who passed away in 2018, the Cat Cove will house up to 12 adoptable cats at a time. Like similar cat cafes, the Cat Cove allows visitors to spend time socializing with cats in a comfortable, free-range environment.
The Cat Cove is set to open on July 16, celebrating what would have been Schwartzy’s 21st birthday. In his home at the original location of The Nautical Dog, Schwartzy, who Wilbourne called “the love animal of my life,” spent five years charming customers from his chair by the checkout, basking in the attention of every amorous visitor.
“It’s really ironic that I’m doing this because Schwartzy hated other cats,” Wilbourne said with a laugh.
Construction began about three months ago to expand the store and combine it with the neighboring space. It will actually be something of a homecoming for The Nautical Dog, which opened in the space that will now be used for the Cat Cove in 2006 before moving to its current home in 2018. When the space returned to vacant recently, Wilbourne jumped on it with the idea of making the dream of Cat Cove a reality.
The new space includes ample space for the cats that will live there, with seating for both humans and felines, plenty of room to run around, and cat-friendly structures adorning the walls. Visitors can also visit the expanded cat supplies section, which takes up some of the new space near Cat Cove. Visiting Cat Cove will be free, although a donation box is available.
During opening weekend, the store plans to hold giveaways and sales, although they don’t expect they’ll need to do too much to bring people in. According to Wilbourne, people are calling every day asking when the Cat Cove will open.
Cats that will inhabit Cat Cove may be adopted through the Heritage Humane Society. In honor of Schwartzy, who came to The Nautical Dog as an older animal with special needs, Wilbourne hopes to level the playing field for cats who may be neglected in shelters, with visitors given the chance to get to know cats for their personalities in a comfortable environment without the preconceptions of labels on a cage door.
Wilbourne’s goal is to find cats like Schwartzy the loving homes they need, one adoption at a time.
Sian Wilkerson, [email protected].com, 757-342-6616