Feline Café - Josée
What inspired you to open Feline Café?
I have been an animal lover all my life and volunteered for rescue organizations. I had also been to other cat cafés in Canada and in Asia, and I was a fan right away. I saw there was an opportunity in Ottawa when I was looking for work and didn't find anything appealing, and figured I could put my business studies to use and make my own dream job. Creating something that aligns with my passion for animal rescue and love for local businesses was the goal, and it became so much bigger than that. It's a community space where customers can come and enjoy the company of the cats, where we created volunteering opportunities for people to support the cats, and where we can do a ton of fundraising for our affiliated cat rescue.
How many cats are in the café at a time, is there a maximum feline capacity?
Our average is between 6 and 12 cats at a time, although it fluctuates based on the speed of adoptions and on the amount of cats that are coming in from the rescue. We don't typically go above 15 cats, for their health and safety, but we are here to support the rescue if they are in need.
Was it difficult to bring the cat-café concept to Ottawa?
Yes. When you open a business, there are many departments that are involved in approving your opening. Since we have a unique concept, not all departments were in agreement and it delayed our progress by months at a time. We based our model on what we saw elsewhere in Ontario and proposed solutions to their concerns. We finally did get the approval and got overwhelming support from the community when we did open. It is still a new concept for Ottawa locals but we are so happy with our community, and we also get travelers who come out of their way to visit us.
What have been the biggest challenges with Feline Café?
The biggest challenges were before we even opened. Getting all the different departments on board with the business application for zoning, health and others to get the permission to open. It took a lot of time, negotiation and persistence to get the ok from the city. For me it was important to be transparent and above board with the authorities right from the beginning.
To date, how many cats have you helped find new homes?
Since we opening in May 2017, we have found homes for over 180 cats.
What shelters do you work with?
We foster cats for Furry Tales Cat Rescue. We are separate organizations but we continuously support each other. Our goal is to provide them with a safe space to house their cats, to care for them and socialize them until they get adopted.
How many people visit the cats on average everyday?
This varies so much! Our traffic patterns are very unpredictable. It can be anywhere from 20 to 100 people daily.
Working with rescue animals, there must be a story that has touched you. Is there a cat or an adoption story that sticks with you?
There are so many stories, but there are a few that I remember fondly. There was a cat named Angel who had lost an eye to an infection. He was a beautiful and playful young cat who arrived at Feline Café. I posted photos and information about his personality on our social media accounts, and Furry Tales immediately got a handful of applications from people interested in adopting him. He was picked up the next day! It was great to see the following that I had built online had helped Angel find a home in real life.
When you aren’t busy making great coffee and looking after cats what do you do for fun?
Going out to eat with my partner is always something I look forward to. We have tons of restaurant hidden gems in the city and supporting local is so important. I often stop by Wabi Sabi, just next door to Feline Café, to pick up some yarn and get creative with a knitting project, that helps me unwind from the hectic business life. And of course, I have three of my own fur babies at home that I love to snuggle up with.
How has Ottawa played a part in the first year of the Feline Café?
We were the first to bring a cat café to Ottawa, and not all cat cafés operate in the same way. There was a lot (and still is) a lot of education on what we do and most importantly - why. For us and especially in Ottawa, cat rescue work is so important and needed. The core of our business is to support the work that they do. Ottawa's market had an influence in how we were shaped, from sourcing our menu to local partnerships.
Has there been any local businesses or people who have been an influence or helped along the way?
It continues to astound me to see so many amazing people come together and business relationships develop since before we've opened. We've received donations from local partners who have helped our café come to life, such as the hand-crafted cat tree, furnishings and other supplies. We source our menu items locally as much as possible, from the coffee roasters to the baked goods.