Learn how to open a cat cafe that gets adoptable cats into loving homes in 5 steps.
1. Build a business plan
You’ll need a solid business plan and business model in order to open a successful cat cafe. Opening any small business, but especially a complex entity like a cat cafe, takes a lot of time and resources, so staying organized and focused from the beginning is essential. Here’s a template to help you build your business plan, including prompts on your sales and marketing plan, competition, location, operations, and financing strategy.
In terms of business model, some cat cafes charge an hourly fee for visitors to play with cats in addition to coffee and pastry sales. Others just charge for food and drinks, as well as adoption fees. It’s not a bad idea to talk to other business owners about how they built out their projections.
2. Find a location
Cat cafes are rising in popularity. Do research on the area to make sure that your target demographic is nearby. Working professionals probably won’t be stopping by on their lunch breaks, but young people, students, and families may want to visit in their free time. Therefore, a cat cafe in a financial center won’t make as much sense as a downtown street with many shops and restaurants. Because you’re serving humans and caring for cats, you’ll need a location that’s larger than an average cafe.
3. Securing permits
The length of time it takes to complete this step will depend on where you are looking to open your cafe. Local regulations will likely require separate areas for dining and pets, and you may need multiple permits to operate each aspect of your business. Pay close attention to the rules and regulations of running both a cafe, which should be up to health code, and to caring for the cats. It’s a good idea to engage animal welfare groups and partner with local shelters to ensure good conditions for both cats and humans. The health department will likely provide extensive guidance here.
4. Building out the cafe
In general, to open a cafe you’ll need basic equipment, cleaning equipment, a restroom, and a few tables. If you’re on the simpler end of the spectrum, a basic espresso machine and a few drip machines may do the trick, as well as pre-packaged food and tea. However, if you’re looking to open more of an artisan shop, you’ll want to do research on the best espresso machines, ensure counter space for prepping drinks, and work with multiple suppliers. Make sure you have enough room behind the cash register to make drinks in a timely matter, and display any food hygienically. Of course, keep multiple cleaning stations available. Some cafes are quite small, designed to move people right into the cat cafe or back out onto the street with to-go cups, but you may choose to create a more open environment where people sit with friends or a laptop.
5. Caring for the cats
Pet adoption increased steadily throughout 2020, so while there are tons of cats in need of homes, depending on where you live, finding them pose a challenge. Get in touch with multiple local shelters who may have too many cats and kittens and need new homes for them. While many people assume that cats are easy to care for, they still require extensive attention and care. You should partner with animal welfare groups to ensure that your cat cafe is actually cat-friendly. Remember, cats aren’t particularly social, so forcing them to be around humans and other cats all day won’t be as fun for them as it is to you. Here are some tips:
Make sure each individual cat is well-fed and has plenty of access to water.
Each cat should have their own space, which they should be able to access at all times.
Set out clear rules for visitors, such as no picking up cats, waking up sleeping cats, or chasing shy cats.
Ensure all cats are neutered.
Have plenty of space for litter boxes and clean them multiple times per day.
Make sure cats are up to date on vaccinations and keep a close relationship with a local vet for any illnesses or accidents that occur.
Once you’ve created a solid business plan, have a layout that makes sense for both cats and humans, and found financing, you can start the process of opening your cat cafe! Because people are excited about the novelty of cat cafes, you can market in many different ways including building an email list, engaging with local press, social media marketing, and advertising. Hire trustworthy staff with knowledge of animals. It’s ok if you separate out your staff from the cat side of the business to the cafe side of the business. Go get some cats into loving homes!
Written by Lauren Murdock
Lauren is Mainvest's Content Marketing Manager. She is an expert in marketing strategy and leads content generation for Mainvest.