They Did It: Featuring FelV Cats in a Shelter Cafe
Tree House Humane Society of Chicago, IL
Tree House Humane Society created the first cat café located within a shelter in the city of Chicago. What makes this cafe even more unique? It features FeLV positive cats only!
Director of Operations Darlene Duggan said the café was a vision of Tree House leaders as a way to interact with the community and better promote the cats available for adoption. FelV-positive cats typically have a longer length of stay, so giving them more exposure to potential adopters “will hopefully lead to more adoptions, further allowing us to help more FeLV positive cats,” she explained.
The café has been open for two months, but so far the shelter has seen an increase in new visitors and positive feedback from the community. In a post-visit survey, the shelter received encouraging responses:
- “In response to whether cats with FeLV+ are in the cat cafe or not, I agree with the mission to have whichever cat is least likely to be adopted in there. If FeLV+ are less adoptable than most definitely, yes! So patrons can see just how playful they are :)”
- “My husband and I had a wonderful experience at the THCatCafe! I’m so glad to see a positive representation for Felv+ cats as well! Thank you.”
- “While I might like to see a wider selection of cats, I believe highlighting the FeLV+ cats is even more important, so that's good.”
Now You Try It
Duggan said shelters interested in opening cat cafes should work closely with their municipalities to ensure the concept is in accordance with local laws. There will potentially be building codes, health inspections, and other various pieces to work through. “Having a strong advocate either on your board or planning team will be helpful,” she noted.
Finally, make sure your Cat Cafe is in a great location that gets a lot of foot traffic. “If not, consider opening it separately from your actual shelter; a business feasibility study is a must and will help you make this decision,” Duggan suggested.
Here are some more tips:
- Talk to visitors about FeLV. Remind them that there is no risk of transmission to humans and other pets. Although transmission to other cats is possible (mostly through saliva and direct contact between cats), the virus doesn’t survive very long in the environment and the risk of a visitor taking it home after being in the cafe is low.
- Work with your veterinarian and behavior team to ensure that cats are physically and behaviorally healthy enough for the cafe lifestyle and enjoy meeting lots of new people each day.
- Identify every cat with a collar, nametag and microchip to help potential adopters specify the cat they love the most – plus help animal care staff monitor things like appetite, changes in body weight, and any signs of illness.
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