UPDATE — Lease signed!
BREAKING MEWS -- We have signed a lease on a downtown location! Less exciting news: the lease is conditional on City Hall approval, which will be about a three-month process. We’ll be hard at work over the next few weeks on our development permit application, and will share what we can in the meantime. We’re waiting on final approval from the City before releasing further details, but suffice it to say, we’ve got our paws on a central location on the SkyTrain line with ample parking and, most importantly, many large windows for sunbathing felines. We’ve found the PURRFECT space -- now it’s all up to the City!
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What is Catfé?
Catfé is one part cafe, one part foster home for cats, and all parts community gathering space for cat lovers in Vancouver in need of some quality kitty time. We'll have a colony of adoptable cats living onsite, and will offer drinks and snacks, wifi access, a library of books and boardgames and a lounge area for hanging with the kitties. It will be a community space that feels like an extension of your living room, except with a whole lot of cats!
Cat cafes are really popular in Japan, and there are quite a few scattered across Europe and the UK as well. The concept is fairly new to North America, with several cat cafes set to open this year in San Francisco, Oakland, Montreal, and more.
Inspired by its predecessors, Catfé will be a space where animal lovers looking for some feline socializing can go to get their kitty fix. And all of the cats will be available for adoption, so it's kind of like a glorified cat shelter as well.
What's in it for the community?
A high percentage of rentals in Vancouver prohibit pets. Maybe you live in one of these buildings. Maybe you love cats, but aren't able to take on the responsibility of full time pet ownership. Maybe you have a cat but want to hang out with even more!In any case, quality time with animals improves mental health and reduces stress. Socializing with animals can be therapeutic for children with special needs or developmental disabilities. And visiting with a cat has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve motivation, decrease anxiety, ease loneliness and ward off depression.
Catfé will bring life to the community — not just by bringing in a bunch of furballs with nine lives — but by adding a space where cat lovers can gather and feel at home away from home. You can surf the web, study, play boardgames, read a book from our library — all in the company of feline friends. We'll host movie nights, readings, drawing workshops, and more. And of course there will be plenty of kitties to play with!
What's in it for the cats?Every year animal shelters across BC bring in thousands of homeless cats and kittens. We’ll be working with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) to provide the cats for Catfé. All cats will be adoptable; the cafe will just act as a foster home for them. This is a major goal of the business — to get adoptable cats more exposure to the public, so that people can get to know them, and maybe decide they want to make them part of their family.
Living at Catfé will provide cats with a safe space where they can wander about at will, socialize with people and live normal lives, rather than being cooped up in a cage. There will be a separate and comfortable back room where they can retreat when they don’t feel like being around humans. We'll be drawing on pre-existing cat cafes for inspiration to make the space a playground wonderland for the cats — networks of shelving units to climb, scratching posts, and toys galore.
Will this be sanitary?
We can’t stress enough how major a concern cleanliness is, for the welfare of both cats and people. The food area and the cat area will be completely separate — no one handling the cats or cleaning a litter box will ever be involved in food prep or handling in any way.
Upon entering the cat area, there will be a sanitation station where all patrons must wash and disinfect their hands before coming into contact with kitties. As well, all cats will be screened for illness before coming to live at the cafe, to ensure the health and safety of the animals.
The litter box room will be separate from the visitors and will have a heavy-duty ventilation system installed. Litter boxes, floors and all surfaces will have a strict cleaning regimen. We have been consulting with other animal shelters to determine best practices for litter box ventilation, waste disposal, and cleaning methods.
Will the city of Vancouver really allow a space like this?
To comply with food safety regulations, the building will be split into two separate spaces: the cafe area, and the cat area. Vancouver Coastal Health has confirmed that as long as the cafe and the kitty lounge have separate entrances, and a wall completely separating the two spaces, we are good to go.
The Catfé business plan is being built with the aid of the Embers Ventures Build A Business program. We will ensure we have the proper permits, zoning and licences in place to follow through on providing a space that the city allows and that our customers will love.
Who is behind this project?
My name is Michelle Furbacher. I've been a cat lover my whole life, from the magical moment in the first grade when I first met my family's new kitten, through my fastidious collection of Garfield books and the "Punk Cats" poster that adorned my pre-teen bedroom wall. (FYI I would never condone dressing kittens in leather jackets and ripped jeans with guitars now, but my 9-year-old self thought it was the coolest thing ever.)
But only after volunteering for the West Vancouver SPCA and the North Vancouver Animal Welfare Shelter did I really start to understand the complexities of cat behaviour. After my own cat Peanut passed away two years ago, I started a live-in cat sitting business so that I could spend quality time with kitties again. Business was good — so good that I barely slept at my own home last year! Through cat sitting, I got to know a lot of different cats with different kinds of personalities, and learned even more about the feline mentality.
I want to provide others with the same experience I was looking for through cat sitting — a space that offers feline companionship for those who don’t have a cat of their own, or just really like hanging out with kitties. At the same time, I have a good understanding of what cats need, and their welfare is of utmost importance to me. I will work hard to create a safe, happy space that will feel like home to the cats until they find their forever home.
Where is the money going?
Your contribution will go towards the start-up costs of the business, as well as the first month's operations budget. But the money you spend will also buy you exclusive perks (check them out over on the right)!
Start-up costs include: construction (installation of extra walls and doors within the space, a wall with a window perch separating the cafe and cat area, impermeable flooring and finishing, sectioning off foyers for added cat security); plumbing (installation of sanitation station, cafe sinks and kitty fountain); a heavy-duty ventilation system for the litter box room; a washer and dryer; furnishings (desks, tables, kitty-proof chairs and couches, scratching posts, kitty climbing shelves and concourses); other cat-related things (litter boxes, cat beds, grooming supplies, toys); wifi installation; a POS system; permits and licenses.
Monthly operations include: rent; heating and electricity; insurance; staff wages; cat care; food and merchandise costs; cleaning and sanitation supplies.
Perks for you include: depending on the amount you spend, you can get free visits, exclusive Catfé buttons and stickers, calendars and T-shirts, cat sitting and photography deals from Smitten Kitten Cat Sitting, advertising and sponsorship deals, a private party for you and your friends... you can even buy a lifetime membership with unlimited free entry!
What happens to the money if you don't reach your goal?
All funds raised through this campaign will go towards the start-up costs of Catfé, regardless of whether or not we meet our funding goal.
Press about Catfé
- Metro — “Cat café coming to Vancouver in fall 2014”
- Huffington Post — “Vancouver Cat Cafe Coming Soon”
- VanCity Buzz — “Cat Cafe Vancouver Opening This Year”
- Vancouver Observer — “A cat café in Vancouver: The fuzzy face of economic diversity”
- Global News — “Vancouver resident wants to open city’s first cat cafe”
- Bored in Vancouver — “We Want a Cat Cafe in Vancouver Right Meow”
- Inside Vancouver — “Would You Visit a Cat Cafe in Vancouver?”
- 604 Now — “Cat Café Coming To Vancouver”
- Korea-Canada Blog — “Vancouver to Get Its First Cat Café”
- BCIT Broadcast News — “Vancouver Coastal Health clears ‘Catfé’ proposal”
- The Cascade — “The purrfect café”
- Digital Journal — “North America set to welcome cat cafes”
- CBC — “Cat café will be a first for Vancouver”
- Eater— “Vancouver's First Cat Cafe is Asking for $50K on Indiegogo”
- 604 Now — “Cat Café Launches Crowd-Funding Campaign”
- Kelowna Now — “First Cat Café in Vancouver Seeks Crowdfunding”
- Metro — “Proposed Vancouver cat café launches crowd-funding campaign”
- The Province — “Cat lover launches online appeal for funds to create feline friendly Vancouver café”
- Global News — “Vancouver’s first cat cafe closer to becoming a reality”
- Vancouver Observer — Vancouver cat cafe slinks closer to reality with Catfé crowdfunding push”
- Global Post — “Mentors play important role in keeping entrepreneurs focused and accountable”
- 102.7 The Peak — “Peak Flavours”
- BCIT Broadcast News — “For The Record – Vancouver’s First Cat Cafe”
- Pet360 — “Woman Plans to Launch Cat Cafe in Vancouver”
- Guidebook — “A café for cat lovers”
- YAHOO! JAPAN — バンクーバーに初の猫カフェを－猫好きの女性が起業目指して準備中
- Vancouver Sun — “Cat Cafe, trending around world and in Vancouver”
How else can I help?
Please share the campaign with your friends and anyone you think might be interested. A little sharing goes a long way!
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Special thanks to Aaron Cumming for his sweet video editing maneuvers.