By Matthew Horwood
Feline Café Foundation on Wellington Street West has continued operating throughout the pandemic thanks to the “generosity” of the Ottawa community.
Local business Feline Café offers patrons the opportunity to hang out with rescue cats while enjoying beverages. The café’s business model is designed to provide cats with a temporary residence while staff find them their “purrfect” home. With the café’s income and additional fundraising, they are able to pay for housing, vet care, food and supplies for them.
Katherine Clements said at any given time there are approximately ten cats in the lounge for customers to interact with.
“We want to make sure they’re happy, they’re thriving and this is a good temporary home for them,” she said.
Clements was initially hired as a manager of the café in the spring of 2018. She now runs the café’s Feline Café Foundation which has operated for over a year. The non-profit foundation houses and cares for rescue cats in hopes of finding them forever homes.
She said when the first COVID-19 lockdowns happened, the café “basically just lost everything overnight.”
“We had the option to either reinvent ourselves and take the opportunity to go for what we really wanted, or to give up. So we chose the first one,” Clements said.
The café had to close down their dining space, so they pivoted, instead becoming a “mini-grocery.” Feline Café sustained itself through the spring by selling food, art, supplies, toys and accessories online and using curbside pickup. They also continued to fundraise through virtual meet-and-greet events and trivia nights.
By the summertime, the café was able to reopen their dining space. Things are different now, with customers booking slots in the cat lounge for $10.
Clements said the rescue, the Feline Café Foundation, has a “very unique opportunity” of being in partnership with a business, but it’s still difficult to stay afloat, especially with restrictions on how many people can visit each hour.
Clements said the most considerable expenses the café faces are vet bills: the foundation will typically spend between $600 and $1,000 to get a cat’s vet work done, which includes several vaccines, dental care and treating for any illnesses or injuries.
One can never know when unexpected vet bills will arrive, according to Clements. She said that in late 2020 a pregnant cat arrived at the café. The feline, appropriately named “Dash,” got spooked and decided to hide in the dashboard of a truck. It took her 12 hours to coax her out.
The cat went on to give birth via a C-section to several premature kittens that required special care from several volunteers. Clements said it was “amazing” to take care of kittens so tiny they could fit into the palm of her hand, but the overall expenses numbered $4,000.
In the last few months, the Feline Café Foundation took in three pregnant cats that gave birth to 14 kittens, which used up most of their financial resources. Unable to fundraise as normal and with several vet visits booked for the kittens, the café was in trouble. In early July, the Feline Café Foundation put out a call for help on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
“That was a hard post to write,” Clements said. “It’s really hard to admit when you need help and to say, ‘we are struggling right now.’”
Thankfully, Clements said, the help the café received from the community was greater than anticipated.
“I cried, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude by their generosity. And it was nice too because it wasn’t only monetary support, it was people giving donations and trying to get the word out,” she said.
Clements says financial donations are always much appreciated, and the café is always in need of items like cat litter, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, cat food and pet carriers.
“The community got us through a really rocky time, and to know how much our community supports us and wants us to keep doing our work is very inspirational.”
The Feline Café is open Thursday and Friday 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Donations can be made through their website, or e-transfers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more, visit felinecafeottawa.com