Animal lovers who are deprived of an animal are liable to behave erratically when one comes into sight: lunging at a neighbor’s border collie to smother it with belly rubs, for instance, or lurking by a stranger’s front door because there’s a cute cat keeping watch. But there are plenty of spots around the D.C. area where “no pet” turns into “no problem” — places where farm animals, exotic animals and take-them-home-today animals are awaiting hugs. Here are five ways to hang out with an animal if you don’t have ready access to one.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Cassidy Jagger strapped what appeared to be an empty backpack onto a young woman’s chest, issuing several instructions: Use a secure, firm hold, but don’t squish the contents; no loud noises. The woman, celebrating her anniversary, gasped as a fuzzy gray head suddenly shot out of the bag. Clara, an 8-month-old wallaby, wanted to say hello.
Jagger owns Roos2U, an educational outreach facility in Germantown that’s home to more than 20 wallabies and red kangaroos. There are a variety of packages that allow visitors to interact with the marsupials, such as the $160 “Koffee with a Kangaroo” — a 90-minute hangout during which guests can feed the animals treats and bottles of milk. (When a 6-foot, 200-pound kangaroo is offered a bottle, he tilts his head back, eyes blissfully closed until it’s empty.) “They’re incredibly unique and amazing animals,” Jagger says. “And intelligent and affectionate.”
A dozen Girl Scouts recently participated in the facility’s “Meet the Mob” tour ($180 per group), greeting and feeding every animal. Within 15 minutes, one adult voice — straining to remain hushed — rang out clearly over the chatter: “No, sweetie, we can’t get a kangaroo.” Germantown, Md. 240-426-1284. (Roos2U’s address is provided upon booking.)
More than 300 rescued farm animals live at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, a 430-acre property in western Montgomery County. All were neglected, abused or abandoned, “and they get to live here for the rest of their lives,” Director Terry Cummings says.
Visitors go wild for Evie, a three-legged Nigerian Dwarf goat whose leg was amputated after she was trampled by an emu. Her owners planned to euthanize her, so the veterinarian overseeing her care contacted Cummings and arranged for Evie to relocate to the sanctuary, where she enjoys being held and snacking on vegan gummy bears.
Another crowd favorite is Remi, a blind 6-month-old calf who’s being housed in the sanctuary’s special-needs area. “She’s very sweet, and she loves people,” Cummings says. To visit, contact Poplar Spring about a week in advance to arrange a guided tour; there’s a recommended donation of $5 per person. If you’re particularly eager to impress, bring fruit for the resident pigs. 15200 Mount Nebo Rd, Poolesville, Md. 301-428-8128.
On any given day, a handful of the 30ish cats who reside at Crumbs & Whiskers — the District’s first cat cafe — luxuriate in a fluffy, pastel-colored window bed that’s appropriately royal. The bow tie-clad animals stretch periodically, their sharp eyes fixed on Georgetown passersby. They enjoy people-watching, and the people, presumably, enjoy watching them.
Elsewhere in the cafe, attention-craving cats — who are all available for adoption — stalk about the airy, two-story space, eyeing potential laps. Visitors pay for an hour or so of cuddle time, or can opt for a 7½-hour pass, which is popular among students who prefer to study in the company of a feline. (Co-working is $54, or $36 for students; a 70-minute visit goes for $22, or $9 for a 15-minute drop-in.)
“We’re providing all our cats with a comfortable, enriching environment that gives them exposure to potential adopters and helps get them socialized,” says store manager Jack McDaniel, pausing as a white cat with striking green eyes is delivered to him in a wicker basket. A few minutes later, McDaniel laughs as the cat smacks its tail across his face mid-sentence and then leaps to the floor, facing off with a jet-black feline named Moose. 3211 O St NW. 202-621-7114.
Nearly every Saturday morning in the spring and summer, a dozen rescue dogs take sightseeing humans for a walk. That is to say: When faced with a spunky terrier on the ground and a perfectly nice monument in the distance, it’s clear which will be the main attraction. Lucky Dog Animal Rescue’s two-mile guided tour of the Mall, which is booked through Airbnb’s “experiences” tool, provides exercise and attention to canines awaiting adoption, and the chance to walk (and pet) a dog to eager humans.
“The guests are everybody — they’re people who are coming here internationally for a visit; they’re locals who just want to hang out with dogs,” says Stephany Smith, Lucky Dog’s director of development. “We’re getting repeat guests, and some want to do private bookings.”
The tour guides always warn walkers that the dogs have just been pulled out of high-kill shelters, so they may be shy or unsure how to behave on a leash. “But they just love being outside, and getting love and pets from the guests walking them,” Smith says. Reserve a spot ($30) on Airbnb’s website; they tend to fill up quickly.
You could do goat yoga at this 25-acre farm in Prince William County, nimbly stretching in a front of a serene lake. Or you could exercise your cuddle bone. There are nearly two-dozen baby goats, and visitors can attend regularly scheduled snuggle sessions. “I tell people that baby goats are loosely a combination of a real baby and a puppy,” says owner Susanne Marsh. “But puppies pee and make a mess, and they bite, and you don’t get that with a goat. They’re very innocent creatures, especially when they’re sucking on a bottle and you’re holding them in your lap.”
The kids weigh anywhere from one to five pounds, and Marsh says they’reaffectionate: “They find a little nook or cranny and snuggle right in, and they’ll give you little kisses — it’s very sweet.” Count on a farmer popping in, too, to ask if anyone cares to join him for his rounds around the property. Tear yourself away from the baby goats, and you’ll meet the resident chickens, alpacas and llamas — full-grown, but still endearing. There’s a reservation system on the farm’s website (littlegoatfarmatthelake.com), and prices range from $20 to $35 depending on day, time and type of activity (such as bottle-feeding, snuggling or yoga). 8954 Burwell Rd., Nokesville, Va. 703-929-7228.