Mad Cat­ter in the Bird House

Mad Cat­ter Cafe, the prov­ince’s first cat café, opens this Au­gust in St. John’s

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KENN OLIVER

Josh Eddy wasn’t al­ways a cat per­son — he grew up around dogs — but he’s be­come a kitty con­vert since get­ting to­gether with Colin Wil­liams and, by ex­ten­sion, his cat, Henry.

That’s prob­a­bly a good thing con­sid­er­ing that the cou­ple are launch­ing Mad Cat­ter Cafe next month, New­found­land’s first cat café, on Duck­worth Street in down­town St. John’s.

“We first started vis­it­ing a lot of cat cafes while we were trav­el­ling last year and we al­ways talked about how we thought one could do well here,” says Wil­liams, who was work­ing in Prague last year as a cus­tomer sup­port man­ager for a travel com­pany.

“We started re­search­ing it and the more we re­searched it the more we liked it.”

Look­ing into the busi­ness model — which started in Tai­wan in the 1990s and quickly spread to Europe and then to North Amer­ica — they found that sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions in on this side of the At­lantic Ocean in­volved a part­ner­ship with a lo­cal an­i­mal res­cue agency where the café would serve as a satel­lite adop­tion fa­cil­ity.

“That re­ally made us cling on to the idea,” says Wil­liams, 26. “There’s a lot of cats in St. John’s that need homes, so we liked be­ing able to help out with that.”

Adds 28-year-old Eddy, “They’re re­ally pop­u­lar. Ev­ery one that we’ve looked at has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions in dif­fer­ent mar­kets in the U.S. and in Canada.”

The 124 Duck­worth home of the Mad Cat­ter was pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied, iron­i­cally enough, by the Bird House.

It’s a small space, and most of the square footage will be ded­i­cated to the cat lounge.

“You’ll walk into a hall­way where there’s an en­trance to the cat lounge, which takes up the ma­jor­ity of the floor plan, and then an en­trance into the small take­out cof­fee bar where you can grab a cup of cof­fee or snack,” Wil­liams ex­plains. “There’ll be win­dows where you can see into the lounge if you’re just run­ning in for a cof­fee, or peo­ple can pay ad­mis­sion to get in to the lounge.”

Ad­mis­sion for a 45-minute stint will run cus­tomers $6, and Eddy and Wil­liams sug­gest that any­one plan­ning on mak­ing a trip down should make a reser­va­tion be­fore­hand.

Fi­nal ca­pac­ity is still be­ing de­ter­mined, but they an­tic­i­pate it will be able to ac­com­mo­date any­where from 10 to 14 peo­ple at a time.

“We want it to be a good ex­pe­ri­ence for the cats and for the peo­ple,” says Eddy. “You don’t want to go into a room full of peo­ple — you’re there to see the cats.”

Cats in­side the lounge will be free-roam­ing.

Wil­liams says the goal is to of­fer them a com­fort­able home­like en­vi­ron­ment while they wait to be adopted.

Giv­ing the cats a com­fort­able and static en­vi­ron­ment, Wil­liams says, elim­i­nates any stress they might ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing back and forth be­tween lo­ca­tions, and will give po­ten­tial adopters a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with and get to know the cats.

The goal is to keep cats on site un­til they find a home.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­duce the amount of stress that’s on the an­i­mal,” says Wil­liams. “We’ve got a lot of as­pects of the busi­ness and of the de­sign of the space that have been thought of specif­i­cally to re­duce the stress.”

Since an­nounc­ing the project through so­cial me­dia, one of the most com­mon ques­tions from prospec­tive cus­tomers is whether they can bring their own cats to the café.

“They can­not,” says Wil­liams. “As much as we would love to meet every­body’s cats, it’s for the safety of their cats and our cats. But we’ll be happy to look at pic­tures of them if they want to show us, and they can come in and hang out with ours.”

They’re also plan­ning reg­u­lar events such as cat yoga, trivia nights and workshops on ev­ery­thing from lit­ter train­ing to ba­sic an­i­mal first aid. They’re also work­ing on a plan to make the café avail­able to rent for pri­vate events.

The Mad Cat­ter pro­po­nents say they’re not at lib­erty to dis­close which lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion they’ve teamed up with to ser­vice the cat sup­ply, as the for­mal agree­ment is still be­ing ham­mered out.

On the café side of things, Mad Cat­ter will of­fer a se­lec­tion of cof­fee, tea and hot choco­lates and a va­ri­ety of pas­tries and cook­ies. Again, Wil­liams and Eddy are fi­nal­iz­ing an agree­ment with sup­pli­ers.

“You won’t be able to come in for a sand­wich, says Wil­liams. “We do hope to maybe ex­pand on that and maybe in­tro­duce some of that stuff in the fu­ture, but for the be­gin­ning it’s go­ing to be pretty lim­ited in terms of the food.”

Both Eddy and Wil­liams bring a de­gree of busi­ness acu­men to the ta­ble. Eddy, an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness grad­u­ate from Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity, ran Out­port, an on­line magazine geared to­ward the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity be­fore head­ing to Prague last year. Wil­liams, mean­while, is cur­rently com­plet­ing a busi­ness de­gree at MUN and has worked in var­i­ous man­age­ment po­si­tions in the cus­tomer ser­vice en­vi­ron­ment.

Fund­ing for the ven­ture comes by way of Fu­turepreneur Canada, which also comes with a men­tor they can call on over the first cou­ple of years in busi­ness.

“If you have any­thing you’re not fa­mil­iar with or need to work through, we have some­one avail­able to us through that pro­gram,” says Wil­liams.

That likely came in handy when nav­i­gat­ing the red tape and bu­reau­cracy that comes with es­tab­lish­ing a new busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly in St. John’s. The right in­for­ma­tion, they say, was of­ten hard to find.

“We’ve done quite a bit of home­work and read as much as we could, but I do think there’s a lit­tle bit of is­sue with in­for­ma­tion not be­ing su­per read­ily avail­able,” Wil­liams says.

“How­ever, I will say all the in­di­vid­u­als we’ve dealt with at the city have been in­cred­i­bly help­ful. There’s al­ways peo­ple avail­able to call and speak to, which is the ben­e­fit.”

KENN OLIVER/THE TELEGRAM

Josh Eddy (left) and Colin Wil­liams (right), shown here with their eight-year-old cat, Henry, are the own­ers of the Mad Cat­ter Café, New­found­land’s first cat café set to open this Au­gust in down­town St. John’s. For a small fee, cus­tomers can ac­cess the cat lounge for 45 min­utes at a time and spend time with cats, all of which are up for adop­tion through a lo­cal an­i­mal res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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