LIFESTYLE

How to Start a Cat Café: A Work of Passion

cat on shelf in cafe
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

You may be interested in starting a business, but maybe you want to put a spin on it. If you love animals, why not open a cat cafe? Visitors to cat cafes not only get to spend quality time with rescue cats, but they also have the opportunity to adopt them right from the cafe. Of course, considering you will be putting foodstuff and animals in the same enclosed space, getting licenses and permits for your business will not be easy. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn more about how to start a cat café before you actually go for it.

While this isn’t the easiest business concept to go with, it’s certainly not impossible. If you want proof, just look at the way cat cafes are popping up all over the world in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. Cat cafes have established themselves in both pop-up and permanent locations in cities all over the world—having proven itself to be more than a fad by existing for more than 30 years. Now, people can’t get enough of them and will go to cat cafes over regular cafes. Better yet, this way, you can do business while helping animals.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can start a successful cat cafe of your own. Like any other businesses, opening a cafe isn’t as easy as it sounds. Thus, you’ll want to do further research—especially upon the matters of location. However, cat cafes typically do very well everywhere they open. So, let’s not waste any more time and get you started on how to open a cat cafe in the city you’re in.

9 Steps to Opening a Cat Cafe

Currently, animal businesses are one of the hottest trends of the decade. The first cat cafe was established in Taiwan in 1998, and soon, the concept spread like wildfire. While this may be something you start out of passion, you’ll have to think in a businesslike manner in order to materialize your cat café and turn it into a long-lasting business.

Here we have nine essential steps you’ll need to be taking to open a successful and well-organized cat cafe.

cat cafe

Step #1: Create a Business Plan

Your business plan is essentially how everything is going to happen. You won’t be able to start a business without a structured and well thought-out plan. So, in your plan, you’ll want to include everything that you’ll need to make happen—namely, any legal documents, licenses, bank accounts, tax ID numbers, website, etc.

Although, you don’t have to create a business plan on your own. There are many services online which will help you create a proper business plan for your new business venture. Make sure your business plan includes the people you’ll be working with as well as their responsibilities.

Step #2: Know the Rules

Opening a cat cafe means you’re going to have live animals roaming freely in your cafe since this is a relatively new concept, your local laws may not be updated on it yet. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t open one.

You need to research health regulations in the area that you’ll be opening it up in. Some jurisdictions will have specific laws and regulations about placing animals and food in the same perimeter. Make sure you contact the city hall and talk about licenses and zoning permits that you’ll be needing.

white cat in cat cafe

Step #3: Figure Out the System

For many cafes, they simply serve the customers beverages and food without putting down a time limit. However, with cat cafes, it’s a little different. Most cat cafes work on an hourly basis—charging customers for the amount of time they stay in the cafe. But then again, this depends on your business model.

You will also need to figure out if you’re going to charge for refreshments or if you will provide basic complimentary snacks and beverages. In addition, will visitors need to reserve a table? If so, how will you handle walk-ins? These questions need to be answered before you continue as this is the primary structure of how your business will be run on a daily basis.

cat cappuchino

Step #4: Choose a Location

Where are you going to open your cat cafe? It’s important to choose a location which is easily accessible for customers and highly visible to foot traffic. Plus, it has to come with sufficient parking space. Remember, it’s all about location.

Of course, once you’re established, moving to a different location will be fine since you will have had the clientele established. However, in the beginning, you need to be in a visible and popular area.

Make sure you talk to a designer about the space and how you can update it to suit the needs of the visitors and the cats. The cats will need a place where they can use the litter box and where they can eat and rest. The cats are the main attraction of your cafe, so you must make sure they’re well taken care of.

Step #5: Talk to Local Animal Rescue Organizations

If the cats are adoptable, this is a huge bonus both to your cafe and animal rescue services. If someone bonds well with a cat, they’ll be able to fill out adoption forms and take them home straight from the cafe. This means you’ll want to speak to local animal rescues and shelters—building relationships and seeing if they’re willing to work with you and your cafe. Most likely, your cat cafe will need anywhere from 10 to 15 cats. Although, of course, this depends on the size of your cafe.

cat in the bed

Step #6: Determine Pricing

How much are you going to charge people to sit and have a cup of coffee at your cat cafe? It may sound like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. You need to look at your costs first.

What you charge customers will depend on where your cafe is located, the variable costs needed to run the cafe, etc. For instance, if your cafe is in the heart of a downtown area, you’ll be able to charge much more than if your cafe was far away from the central hubbub. If a customer wishes to adopt a cat, though they pay a fee, that money usually goes to cover the costs of the cat itself.

cat on the cafe counter

Step #7: Create a Website

These days, no business should go without a website. Everything on your website needs to be clear and list the services and prices that your cafe offers and charges.

Your website needs to have everything a potential client needs to know about—for example, why they shouldn’t miss out on what your cafe has to offer or how they can make reservations. You can also create an online reservation program to limit the number of calls you get. It’s much easier to organize as well.

Step #8: Merchandising

To bring in extra income to your cat cafe, you can display merchandise for customers to purchase. Though this most likely will not cover a large portion of your revenue, establishing a source of side revenue this way never hurts. Having books, packaged tea, and coffee cups that are themed with the café’s logo will encourage people to purchase them as a souvenir. Try to think of creative and memorable merchandise that’s not overpriced.

cats watching from the window

Step #9: The Advertising Campaign

People need to know about your cat cafe. You’re going to need to employ the help of social media and invest in spreading the word about your local community. Host events, go on local television, and make the community aware of your new cat cafe. By being involved with a local community event, you make yourself more visible, and of course, that generates curiosity which generates business.

Some Extra Tips

When starting a business, you need all the helpful tips and tricks of the trade you can get. Though we’ve covered the basics of opening a cat cafe, there are a couple of extra tips that may help you along the way. Though starting a business isn’t easy, and you’re most probably going to make some mistakes along the way, by paying attention to these tips, you will be able to minimize potential errors.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Scared to Ask For Community Support

While applying for business loans, don’t be afraid to look at alternative ways to raise money for your business. All these crowdfunding programs were started for a reason: to help fresh business owners and entrepreneurs make their ideas come to life with the help of the community. If you need financial support, start a crowdfunding campaign and let the community in on our amazing idea. If enough people like it, they’ll support you and help make your business plan come to life.

Tip #2: Have Experience with Cats

sitting with cats

If you’re opening a cat cafe, don’t just do it because it’s a trend. You need to have experience dealing with animals since you’re going to be the one socializing them, playing with them, keeping them healthy, and monitoring their interactions with the customers.

This means you need to get to know the cats in your cafe and become familiar with them. If you’ve never had a pet before, we suggest you get your own cat first, in order to understand what it’s like to take care of one. You’re going to need 10 to 15 of them, and that’s a lot of litter to clean, so you should get involved only because you’re genuinely interested in this.

Tip #3: You May Struggle Getting Through the Red Tape

The thing with cat cafes is that they fall into a grey category for many cities when it comes to zoning laws. This means you may have a hard time being approved. Thus, do expect a delay when acquiring permits.

This doesn’t mean you won’t get them, but it does mean that you may have to pay additional fees or get rejected a couple of times before you’re granted approval. But the point is, don’t give up. If there are cat cafes all over the world, there’s no reason why one can’t be opened up in your city.

Tip #4: Make Rules and Stick to Them

white cat on the table

You need to stick to your rules. Remember, you have to make sure that your cats are not placed in an area with too many people, or they could get stressed out. So, make sure your cat cafe has a limit and that you stick to it.

If you also host events, make sure that there’s an age limit and that the event is limited to a reasonable number of guests. You don’t want your cats to suffer, causing you to have issues with animal rights groups.

Tip #5: Focus on Dense Populations

Niche concepts such as cat cafes usually do best in bigger and more densely-populated areas. Plus, in denser areas, there’s more foot traffic, which is great for bringing in customers. If you research cat cafes, you’ll notice that most of them are in downtown areas rather than in smaller cities. Usually, people who live in city centers are more into niche concepts like cat cafes. In other words, go to where the people are; don’t wait for them to come to you.

Wrap Up

Cat cafes are a lot of fun for many people who love cats but cannot necessarily have one in their home or are debating if they’d like to adopt one. The best thing about cat cafes is that they’re giving rescue cats the opportunity to find a warm and loving home. As you know, there are so many animals that need a home and are stuck in rescue shelters. Cat cafes show people that breeders aren’t necessarily the only way to obtain a cat and that you can find a perfectly lovely and sweet cat from a shelter.

cat in the cat cafe

By working with local shelters and running a business, you’re able to make money while also helping the community. Of course, starting a business isn’t easy. In fact, you’re most probably going to go through some obstacles since this is a niche concept and you may need to educate both the authorities and the customers about it first. However, with the sudden popularity of them all around the world, there’s no reason why a cat cafe can’t open up in your city. Just be persistent, and you’ll eventually push through those obstacles.

Now that you’ve been given the basics on how to start a cat cafe as well as some helpful tips, it’s time you organize your business plan. Are you the owner of a cat cafe? Please write in the comment section below about what you think of cat cafes and if you have any advice about starting a new business. We look forward to hearing from you!

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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