SCBAS created an ideal atmosphere to encourage visitors to bond with adult cats by opening up a café right in the shelter. Volunteer Cindy Flaherty, chair of the Catfé Committee, explains how they did it, and offers advice on how others might give something similar a try.
ASPCApro: Tell us about the catfé experience for people and cats.
Cindy Flaherty: We encourage people to linger with their computers—yes, there is WiFi!— or just pet the cats and relax. Beverages are dispensed entirely on a self-serve basis in the foyer with a suggested donation of $2 per drink. There are three tables in the catfé with seating for eight, the maximum number of people allowed at a time.
The cats thrive on the attention and showcase better in the catfé, where they can lounge by the window, in the catio or high on a shelf. The goal is to get these wonderful adult cats adopted to their loving homes faster.
ASPCApro: As a municipal, what was required to get the catfé authorized?
CF: I checked with the appropriate regulatory agency and was given approval as long as the drinks were self-serve, in a separate room from the cats and for donation only.
ASPCApro: Can you describe the layout of the catfé?
CF: The catfé is near the entrance to the shelter. The first door opens into a foyer where there are two Keurig coffee makers—one dedicated for coffee and hot chocolate and the other for tea. Cups are available on a wall-mounted cup dispenser. We usually have fresh roses and bite-sized candies available. A bit of chocolate is always a nice draw.
The second door leads to the catfé where there are two round tables, four chairs and a window seat for two. There is a fabulous cat climbing structure to the left of the door, four white Cat Cloud shelves installed on the wall, and a striking orange cat structure that reminds us of ribbon candy.
ASPCApro: What kind of staff/volunteer support is needed to run the catfé?
CF: Volunteers stock and clean the catfé. For planning and organization, we created a Catfé Committee of five persons, chaired by me, along with the manager of kennel operations, administrative manager and two cat volunteers.
We allow up to four cats at a time, and staff selects the kitties for the catfé. If a volunteer thinks a cat would be a good candidate for the catfé, the cat's name, location and ID number are written on the white board in the Volunteer Room. Once the cat is vetted, staff checks the white board and moves catfé nominees to a designated cat habitat called the Catfé Queue. When a spot opens up in the catfé, a cat is moved from the queue to the catfé.
CF: We have a suggestion box and have received many fun notes, such as "I want to LIVE here!" When one gentleman’s beloved 15-year-old cat passed away, he was ready to adopt another cat—until his job changed, requiring him to spend weekdays out of town. Instead, he comes in on weekends, reads the newspaper and enjoys a cup of coffee along with the company of the four-legged catfé residents.
Now You Try It:
Ready to give the idea a go and wondering what you can expect to spend? SCBAS reports that the overall initial cost for the project was approximately $5,500 to paint the walls and get furniture and a neon sign.
It’s also a good idea to set your expectations with your visitors. SCBAS has posted the following guidelines:
Please don't let the cats escape
Please respect the cats as they may want to sleep
Please clean up after yourself
Please limit your time in the catfé to 30 minutes if others are waiting
Children ages 8 and up are allowed as long as they are accompanied by a parent.