Vancouver cat cafe slinks closer to reality with Catfé crowdfunding push

A cat café in Vancouver: this could actually happen, folks. Catfé's crowdfunding campaign answers some pressing questions about drinking coffee in a roomful of cats.

Michelle Furbacher & friend
Michelle Furbacher & associate. (Still from Catfé Indiegogo video)

Fluff piece

"Cats in shelters, they have to live in little cages. It’s sad to see them cooped up like that."

You can hear the cat-love in Michelle Furbacher's voice: she wants Vancouver's cats –– and cat lovers –– to have a better life. 

To that end, Furbacher wants to open Catfé, Vancouver's first cat café, a phenomenon already popular in countries like Japan.

Vancouver cat
Cat in East Vancouver (Photo: Jordan Matthew Yerman)

Finding a decent apartment can be tough in Vancouver, but it's even harder if you want to keep a pet. Those who live in pet-friendly buildings may be too busy for the added responsibility of cat servitude ownership. A cat café, then, becomes a sort of feline library: after your visit, you can return to your petless life.

バンクーバーの猫カフェ(Vancouver Cat Café)

At its core, Catfé will be a foster home to a colony of cats.

Catfé's roster of cats will come courtesy of Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA). The café will also serve as an adoption portal: you're not just hanging out with your favorite Scottish Fold, Egyptian Mau, or Cornish Rex... you're taking that cat for a test-drive.

VOKRA will monitor the health of the cats and oversee the adoption process once you inevitably fall in love with one of the Catfé residents.

Besides the cat-room and the café, Catfé will have a private human-free zone, for when cats don’t want to be around people.

"We want to make sure they’re happy in the space and that they don’t feel stressed at all,” says Furbacher.

Catfé is moving to the next phase: fundraising. Vancouver's first cat café is swinging for the fences with a $50,000 Indiegogo campaign.

How sanitary is a cat café?

The major sticking point for Vancouver Coastal Health is keeping food and food prep as far from the litterbox as humanly (and felinely) possible. To that end, Catfé's cat area will be in a separate room from its café.

Also, the café area and the cat area must be in separate rooms, each with their own entrance: Furbacher described it as more like two side-by-side businesses.

Catfé floorplan
Potential layout for Catfé (via Indiegogo video)

Furbacher says, "According to Vancouver Coastal Health, we can’t serve food on the cat side, but if you buy food and take it over of your own accord, that’s okay."

(This is similar to Falconer's Cafe in Mitaka-ku, Tokyo: the raptors are in a separate viewing area. If you're curious, it's down the main road from Kichijoji Station, past the Studio Ghibli Museum.)

Basically, VCH stipulates that a cat café cannot prepare or serve your coffee in a kitchen full of cats, but you can bring coffee with you into a separate room full of cats. BYOC2C (Bring Your Own Coffee to Cats).

Furbacher wants a window between the two rooms, with a ledge upon which the cats can perch. All the better to lure you over with the promise of petting. And purring. And cuddles.

Air quality will be key to a cat café's success: a roomful of cats must not smell like a roomful of cats.

For air filtration, Furbacher has reached out the the UC Davis shelter program. In the University of California system, the Aggies know animals, and Davis has guidelines for maintaining fresh air when dealing with animals.

So, where in Vancouver is this cat café going to be?

“I’m pretty open to different locations," says Furbacher. "I want it to be central and accessible by public transit.” Preferring a spot with SkyTrain or B-Line access, she's eyeing Main Street, Granville and Davie, or maybe Broadway.

“We’ve been looking at potential spaces but I wouldn’t really be able to make an offer on a space until i have the funding in place,” says Furbacher.

Montreal's Café Chat l'Heureux may well be the first Canadian cat café to open its doors, but come on: we can at least beat Toronto, right?

As ever, beware the Neko Punch.

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