Coffee, tea or ... cats?
Lisa Cleaveland is looking to open a cafe in historic Catlin Court that will serve up tea, coffee, lattes, smoothies and cats for adoption.
“Cat cafes are not like regular businesses like Walmart or Starbucks,” she said. “There are less than 20 in the United States. From my boots on the ground, talking to people and asking people I come into contact with and in everyday conversation, people seem very interested about it and excited about it.”
Ms. Cleaveland has partnered with Shelley’s Desserts for homemade desserts to sell on site and with the no-kill shelter Sun Cities 4 Paws Rescue with locations in Peoria and Youngtown for the cats.
Ms. Cleaveland said she will need $70,000 to $100,000 to bring the Mews and Brews cafe to fruition. She will attempt to raise some of the money through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo beginning Jan. 24.
“I’m hoping to raise $35,000 from crowd funding, just to get started,” the Peoria resident said. “And I’m hoping to secure some outside investors.”
Ms. Cleaveland said she is looking at two different locations that are for sale in downtown Glendale for the cafe. Sun Cities 4 Paws will train cafe staff on how to do the adoptions, such as interviewing potential owners and filling out the paperwork.
“We want to make sure that the cats being adopted to families fit and are just not on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Ms. Cleaveland said.
The cafe and cat area will be separated because of health restrictions but once patrons buy their food they can bring it into the cat area.
When Ms. Cleaveland approached Sun Cities 4 Paws about a partnership, it was met with great interest, said Angie Grams, manager of adoption/intake for the nonprofit.
Ms. Grams said they have already worked out many of the details for the venture such as volunteer cleaning and adoption training, general guideline in the case of sickness or injury and many other factors.
“All of us are looking forward to the cafe opening and coming to some of the events she has planned,” she said. “I absolutely think the cafe will help us adopt out more cats. Whether the cats are adopted from the cafe or the cafe directs people to either of our locations, the exposure is priceless. And showing the cats in a non-shelter-type setting can make all the difference as to whether the cat gets adopted or not. Some cats just do not show well in the shelter setting.”
According to Ms. Grams, the shelter in 2016 adopted out 776 cats and kittens. On average it adopts out 60 cats a month. Currently the average number of cats at its two locations and two PetSmarts is about 200 plus the 125 cats in its senior foster program.
“During the months of March and April through September and October our numbers swell to 400-plus at times,” she said.
Ms. Cleaveland anticipated anywhere from 10 to 20 cats to be on site at the cafe available for adoption. The cats will live in the cafe and be able to roam free.
Mews and Brews also will focus on educating people about homing cats with feline leukemia because they have a low-adoption rate. No cats with the disease will be housed in the cafe. Ms. Cleaveland owns two cats with feline leukemia, Savannah and Bagheera, which was adopted from Sun Cities 4 Paws.
Ms. Cleaveland said Mews and Brews will host different events, including Yoga with Cats, Mewvie Nights, Paint Nights, author readings/play readings, beer/wine tastings, chair massage events, crochet/knitting events with cats, student finals week and private events.
The first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998 and since then the concept has spread worldwide. Today, cat cafes can be found in U.S. cities such as San Jose, Boston and Atlanta, according to the North American Cat Cafe Embassy, which represents over 50 non-compete cat cafes.
Ms. Cleaveland said it may take two years to get her cafe opened but hopes to do it within a year.
The Valley’s first cat cafe is scheduled to open in February in Tempe.
Melissa Pruitt of La Gattara Cat Cafe and Wine Bar last week said she was not ready to reveal the location yet. The business also will offer events such as reading night with cats and training children on how to care for cats, the Tempe resident said.
“I’ve been working on this for a year and a half,” she said. “It could have gone faster if I had the money right away.”
Ms. Pruitt finally found the funding from investors and public fundraising, which raised $18,000.
She touted the positives of a cafe in helping find cats good homes.
“When you go to a shelter, you walk in there and all the cats are in cages and are not their true self,” she said. “They’re scared. You don’t know their true personality.”
Whereas in a cafe, the cats will be able to roam free, play with toys and be themselves, she added.
Because people can see which cat is more fitted to their personality, they are less likely to return a cat to a shelter after adoption, according to Ms. Pruitt, who has visited a cat cafe in Japan and about six others in the United States.
She said a cafe also allows people who are unable to have a cat at their home, to come in and play with them.
She hopes to average 10 cats a month for adoption.
“My goal is to adopt out 100 cats per year but obviously I would love to do more,” she said.