Less than 10 minutes off campus lies Scruffy’s Cafe. This shop is seemingly a quaint cafe in the foyer, but, once guests move into the backroom, this cat cafe comes alive. 

Scruffy’s Cafe is locally owned and operated by Emily Deas, Talisa Cantrell and William Ridenour who all have a passion for rescues. Before Scruffy’s opened, both Deas and Cantrell aspired to own a cat cafe. As fate would have it, they crossed paths to embark on their mission to create Knoxville’s first and only cat cafe. Every Tuesday through Sunday they open the doors and greet guests with a smile. To ensure a spot inside the cafe, one-hour spots are available to be booked on the Cafe’s website.

Scruffy’s houses up to 15 cats at a time that all come from the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley. So far, this cafe has had 70 adoptions and counting since its opening on June 5. Cats tend to stay at the cafe for less than a week before being adopted and finding a forever home. 

Most customers can not adopt, however. Still, they all help with accustoming the cats to a friendly home-like environment by providing them with cuddles and human interaction. Scruffy’s presents a chill space for everyone to come relax, detox and escape the world for a few minutes. Another room has a TV with Netflix, so customers can binge-watch their favorite shows while keeping the cats’ company. Scruffy’s even offers cat yoga classes on their website.

Other than rescue adoptions, Scruffy’s Cafe focuses on mental health awareness and supporting local small businesses. “I want to take care of you and make you feel okay.” said Deas. 

If a customer comes in and says that they are feeling blue, they will be taken into a private room known as the blue room. Whoever is on staff that day will stay and offer support and bright conversation.

The cafe also offers a vast variety of goods for purchase, including cat socks, coffee mugs, handmade jewelry and coloring books. One item for sale is a custom drawing of pets. Rebeca Ortiz is one of the many young women artists that Scruffy’s Cafe supports. Her personalized artwork is for sale inside the shop and her artwork is featured on the cafe’s front window. All of the proceeds remain local by going to supporting the local artists and the cafe’s cat care. 

“The beauty of being a business owner is that I get to chose the priorities we focus on,” said Deas. “That’s why Talisa and I chose this cause.“

Scruffy’s logo is based on Cantrell’s rescue cat, Midna. She was found in very bad condition before she was brought to an animal shelter where she had to have her eye removed causing brain damage due to complications of surgery. Midna is the official logo for Scruffy’s Cafe because, like Knoxville, she is scruffy on the outside, but full of love on the inside. Hence the similarities between the scruffy city where the cafe resides and Midna, the one-eyed black cat with scrunched up whiskers became their business logo. 

“Midna embodies courage, kindness, and warmth,” Cantrell said. “This is exactly what we hope to feel and create in Scruffy’s Cafe.”

Scruffy’s Cafe offers volunteering opportunities for those who cannot get enough time with the cats. Volunteers are tasked with cleaning up messes caused by the cats, tidying up the shop and playing with the cats. If a tight schedule doesn’t permit volunteering, one can donate necessary supplies to help keep the cafe running smoothly, such as food, kitty litter, and toys. 

Those looking to adopt or simply hang out with some cats can visit Scruffy’s on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. excluding Monday and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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