“Drink coffee, save cats”: The Feline Cafe celebrates one year

The Feline Cafe, Ottawa’s first and only coffee shop dedicated to cat lovers, will be celebrating its one-year anniversary this month.

The idea for the shop began when owner Josée Cyr realized she could create a career from her three passions: business, rescue, and coffee. A Kickstarter campaign generated plenty of local interest and support, and following a lengthy permitting process and numerous building renovations, Cyr was able to open her business in May 2017. Since then, the cafe has facilitated more than 140 cat adoptions. “We’re going to hit 150 before our first year,” Cyr exclaims. “It was so great to see just the sheer number of people that were willing to support a rescue.”

Based in Hintonburg, the cafe essentially operates as a foster space in which rescue cats can be temporarily housed until they find their forever home. “Partnering with a rescue is something that’s really important to me because the rescue is so important in the community," Cyr says. "There’s such a huge problem with stray cats and pets in general that need homes, so I wanted the business to be a part of that solution – to be able to support an existing rescue in what they already do with my business.”

The cafe currently works with Furry Tales Cat Rescue, a not-for-profit agency based in Smith Falls. The rescue fosters out cats that are adoption-ready and the Feline Cafe provides the cats with a safe socializing space and experience. “I think it really helps too that we’re separate organizations,” Cyr points out, speaking about her partnership with Furry Tales, “and I think that also helps with the environment. . . . We don’t get anything from people adopting, so there’s never any pressure from us to adopt. We’re here to provide a really cool experience for the customer and a service to the rescue.”

At any time, the cafe will typically house between six and twelve cats. Customers have the choice of enjoying a drink or menu item in the main area and watching the felines through the windows or entering the cat lounge to interact with them directly. Before entering, customers must read and follow a set of “cat-tiquette” rules, which ensures their own safety as well as the cats’, and pay a $3-5 fee. This admission fee helps cover the costs of running the cafe and allows customers to actively partner with and contribute to the rescue initiative.

In addition to coffee and drinks, customers can also enjoy various baked goods and lunch items at the counter, including fresh scones, bagels, hand pies, and rice bowls. The entire menu is plant-based, a decision which came naturally for Cyr, who is vegan herself. “Our mission, obviously, is to provide animals with a safe space, and so [the food is] an extension of that value.”

Another priority for the cafe is food sourcing – whenever possible, items and ingredients are obtained locally. This allows the cafe to support other Ottawa-based companies, such as Happy Goat and Strawberry Blonde, while also having the community support both themselves and the rescue agency.

For individuals wanting to support the Feline Cafe, consider visiting during their opening hours, signing up as a cat zone volunteer, or donating any of the items listed on their Support page. You can also register for special events and workshops, including journaling sessions and monthly date nights, all of which are advertised on their blog and social media pages. “Anytime we sell a ticket to any event,” Cyr says, “we include a donation to the rescue. So the events that we do, naturally they’re always a partial fundraiser for the rescue that we work with.”

For more information on the cafe, their initiatives, and the adoption process, please visit the Feline Cafe website.