‘Cat’astrophe avoided: Vancouver’s cat cafes claw back business amid COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Vancouver cat cafe adapts to survive COVID-19 pandemic' Vancouver cat cafe adapts to survive COVID-19 pandemic
For cats and cat lovers, they were the 'purr-fect' comfort spots before the lockdown. Now one of Vancouver's two cat cafes is open again with new measures after closing in mid-March – Jul 13, 2020

In what may be the most fur-midable challenge they’ve ever faced, Vancouver’s cat cafes have managed to pounce on paw-sibility during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

After opening in July 2019, Catoro Cafe on the Broadway corridor was forced to close its cat lounge in March and lay off 80 per cent of its approximately 25 staff members.

“When the pandemic hit, we actually saw about 95 per cent or more of our revenue just being cut almost immediately,” said owner Nathan Chan.

Catoro launched an online fundraiser to help cover costs and care for its felines before government subsidies kicked in. Chan said community support was strong.

All of the cats were adopted out or placed in foster homes and the cafe pivoted to sell pet supplies online. Chan and his co-owners began delivering cat food and litter in a business model shift that has seen online sales increase tenfold to make up about 90 per cent of net profits.

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Read more: ‘They’re an attraction’: Vancouver’s cat cafe runs out of cats, pivots to bunnies

Catoro plans to reopen its Cat Forest playroom on July 27 with reduced hours and capacity and less staff – hoping to claw a break as it marks its one year anniversary.

“We really wouldn’t be able to do it without our loyal customers,” Chan told Global News.

Inside International Village Mall, Catfe’s feline tenants have also been purring with satisfaction since the city’s first cat cafe reopened in late June after shutting down March 17.

“We basically lost an entire season of business,” said Michelle Furbacher, the aptly-named owner.

Catfe is operating at 50 per cent capacity with plexiglass and physical distancing measures in place. Masks are mandatory in the cat lounge and reservations are required. Only nine people can visit at at time but there are still 24 cats available for comfort time.

“It’s almost better that way because there’s more cats per people,” Furbacher told Global News.

Read more: ‘We’re running out of kitties’: Vancouver’s first cat cafe is very popular

During a visit Sunday, Catfe regulars told Global News the best time to catch the feline frenzy is late morning or midday, as some of the cats tend to remain catatonic after their afternoon naps.

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“A lot of people are just feeling kind of lonely and just looking for some quality kitty time, someone to snuggle with,” said Furbacher.

“We have had a lot of interest in adoptions, especially with so many people working from home right now.”

Catfe, which has adopted out more than 850 cats over five years, continued adoptions online during its COVID-19 closure.

The time is not ‘right meow’ for the city’s first bunny cafe, which Furbacher had planned to open this past spring.

Due to the pandemic, it will now launch as a bunny lounge and retail shop this fall.

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