Hintonburg’s Feline Café is open

By Jacob Hoytema – 

Perhaps the most effective way to make an afternoon coffee even more relaxing is to pair it with a visit with a friendly animal companion. And that’s exactly the allure of Feline Café, a new Hintonburg coffee shop where patrons can take their drink while scratching the ears of one of the in-house cats. In the few weeks since the café first launched, the new establishment has gone from an eagerly awaited curiosity spot to a hit local business.

“People just came here with new expectations trying to figure out what it was,” says Josée Cyr, the Feline Café’s owner and founder. “People are starting to get the experience.”

The collective hype amongst Ottawa’s cat lovers has translated into high traffic for the café and a boost for some local cat-centred NGOs.

Before founding the business, Josée researched similar establishments in other cities. Some, she found, chose to keep a few cats as full-time residents who could interact with customers but never leave the shop. Others used the business to showcase a rotation of stray or shelter cats up for adoption. Josée chose the latter — and it’s making a big difference for some local cat shelters.

A purr-fect spot to enjoy a coffee? Feline Café owner and founder Josée Cyr plays with one of the Café’s cats on furniture produced by local designer Heather Jeffery of Re4m. Photos by Jacob Hoytema

Since opening on May 10, Feline Café has already found homes for 11 cats. This not only cleaned out the Café’s roster of available cats, but also that of their supplier Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue, with whom Josée used to volunteer. As a result, she has had to approach a second rescue organization, Cherish Cat Rescue, to find more cats for the coffee shop. (But don’t worry, there are still cats available for cuddling!)

“I was expecting to definitely get some adoptions within the first week, but it was a little bit more than I anticipated,” Josée says.

The café has been so popular at times that the staff has had to develop a waitlist system in order to accommodate all the customers who want to visit the cats. There is a limit of ten people allowed in the cat area at a time so that the furry fellows don’t get overwhelmed.

She admits that this success may simply be due to a post-opening boom, and that she expects things to slow down in the next few weeks.

Josée explains that working with these local charities fits into her desired ethics-centred business model.

This approach stretches from the menu, which is all vegan, to the decor, much of which is made from reclaimed wood by Josée’s friend and local artist, Heather Jeffery of the design firm, Re4m. Josée says it also means being selective about which cat rescue organizations the café works with, choosing shelters that give cats proper veterinary care before they are adopted out.

Josée says this is also part of why she chose Hintonburg for her new business. “I’ve worked in this neighbourhood for a few different companies, and it just feels right to me,” she explains. “There’s a lot of businesses around here that are based on ethical consumerism.”

The Feline Café is located at 1076 Wellington St. W. Check the website at felinecafeottawa.com for more information, including volunteer opportunities.

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