JAMES CITY — Longtime 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 the four-legged friends of Williamsburg. Soon, the shop, which is located in 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 adopted cats at a time. Like similar cat cafés, the Cat Cove allows visitors to spend time socializing with the cats in a comfortable, free-roaming environment.
The Cat Cove is set to make its grand opening on July 16, celebrating what would have been Schwartzy’s 21st birthday. In his home at The Nautical Dog’s original location, Schwartzy, who Wilbourne called the “love of my life animal,” spent five years charming customers from his chair near the register, basking under the attention of every enamored visitor.
“It’s actually ironic that I’m doing this because Schwartzy hated other cats,” Wilbourne said with a laugh.
Construction began around three months ago to expand the store and combine it with the space next door. It will actually be something of a homecoming for The Nautical Dog, which originally opened in the space that will now be used for the Cat Cove back in 2006 before moving to its current home in 2018. When the space became vacant again recently, Wilbourne jumped on it with the idea of making the dream of the Cat Cove a reality.
The new space includes a large area for the cats who will live there, with seating for humans and felines alike, plenty of room to run around and cat-friendly structures adorning the walls. Visitors can also visit the expanded cat supply section, which occupies part of the new space near the Cat Cove. The Cat Cove will be free to visit, though there is a donation box available.
During opening weekend, the shop plans to hold some giveaways and sales, though they don’t expect that they’ll need to do too much to get people to come in. According to Wilbourne, people have been calling daily asking when the Cat Cove will open.
The cats who will call the Cat Cove home will be available to adopt through 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 might be overlooked in shelters, with visitors getting the chance to know the cats for their personalities in a comfortable environment without the preconceptions of labels on a cage door.
It’s Wilbourne’s goal to find cats like Schwartzy the loving homes that they need, one adoption at a time.
Sian Wilkerson, email@example.com, 757-342-6616