In many communities, animal lovers live in apartments or other dwellings where they are not allowed to have pets. In some cases, they are but due to extensive travel for work or other personal reasons, they have decided not to. As a result, they miss interacting with animals, such as dogs and cats. That is where dog cafes and cat cafes can come in and fill that void, providing opportunities for canine and feline interactions.
The first known animal cafe, Cat Flower Garden, opened in 1998 in Taipei, Taiwan. However, where the idea really took off was in Japan. Although it did take six years for that county to receive its first animal cafe, Osaka’s Cat’s Time, the island country is now home to many with dozens in Tokyo alone. It has since spread across East Asia, Europe and North America with the latter continent now housing more than 100.
How They Work
An animal cafe is one in which customers can drink or eat while being in the company of cats, dogs or other animals. The dietary focus is generally on coffee and related drinks. Ones that are usually busy will require interested people to make an advance reservation, but the vast majority of them will generally allow walk-ins.
Animal cafes are usually funded by either slightly higher-priced drinks or food or a cover charge, which often allow access for 30- or 60-minute periods at a time, in addition to or in lieu of the cost of drinks or food. In North America, the two costs are generally kept separate. These extra charges go towards the cost of housing the animals, such as paying for their food, shots and similar expenses.
Some places provide customers with the opportunity to purchase food to feed the animals on site.
Most of these cafes will display roughly 10 cats, dogs or other animals at any given time although the number that is best depends on the size of the facility. Some will house dozens while a number closer to five is recommended if the cafe is a particularly cozy – i.e. small – environment.
Customers are also usually informed that they should not bother sleeping animals, pick up animals, chase them or use any sort of flash photography on the premises.
Working With Animal Rescues
Something that a significant percentage of animal cafes do is partner with dog rescues or cat rescues to help get those animals adopted. For example, the animals that are being interacted with could ultimately be brought home by customers. This partnership with dog rescues and cat rescues also often attracts customers who want to support those places even if they cannot adopt any of the animals themselves.
Many who own animal cafes will have their animals be ones that are not as often viewed as adoptable, so to speak, in the shelters. For example, ones that have physical deformities that may turn off would-be adopters will have the chance to shine and show off their personalities for longer periods of time at an animal cafe. Also, kittens and puppies are generally not displayed at animal cafes as they are usually quickly adopted.
One significant benefit of note for working with animal rescues is that it often involves animals that are more social. This is usually for two main reasons. One is that they are generally eager to be adopted and taken to a forever home. The other is that with animals getting adopted, they are usually not in an animal cafe for all that long of a time period, ensuring that they will be less apt to become “over it,” so to speak, as far as interacting with people goes.
How to Start a Dog or Cat Cafe
Of course, many of the steps that must be followed to open an animal cafe are identical to the ones that apply to opening a different type of business, particularly a cafe not focused on animals. These include doing things such as procuring a business license, getting a bank account set up in its name, deciding on what that name should be and consulting the assistance of accountants and lawyers.
Where this plan separates some while opening an animal cafe is ensuring that the drink and food operations are legally and safely being done. For example, this area must be kept completely separate from the animals. Some places even decide to have this area at an off-site, nearby place. In many cases, the related laws and regulations that are in place are strict and should be thoroughly researched.
Note that some animal cafes partner with a nearby coffee shop or restaurant and have customers consume their food and drinks, which have been brought over.
Also keep in mind how many animals and people you may legally have on the premises at any given time.
It is also important and sometimes legally required to have all customers wash their hands or use some sort of antibacterial hand wash prior to entering the premises. Some places also require that all people who want to spend time with these animals remove their shoes, but that is not as common.
You should also offer an exit route for the animals, such as a cat- or dog-sized door that leads to a quiet area where they can relax away from people during times when they feel overwhelmed.
It is also recommended to research if there are any animal cafes, particularly ones featuring your chosen animal, in your area. This can be done by searching for terms such as “cat cafe” and “dog cafe” accompanied by your city name on Google or looking at listings that have been compiled, such as are available at The Neighbor’s Cat.
It is not necessarily a bad thing to be near a similar type of establishment, but being the first of this type in an area can provide you with the opportunity to promote yourself as a unique kind of place in your community.