Australia’s first cat café will soon open its doors after the owners announced they have found the “perfect location” nearby the popular Queen Victoria Market.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Anita Loughran says the idea of a cat café in Melbourne came after her husband suggested it after visiting Japan for their honeymoon.
“He just kind of threw the idea out there and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she says.
Cat cafés are popular in Asia, where customers can pat a friendly feline while enjoying brunch or a cup of coffee.
Loughran says one of the biggest difficulties the business venture faced was complying with local council regulations.
“It did take three months for us to get permission from them and with the permission there was a list of regulations we’re going to have to comply to,” she says. “We need to have airlocks between any food areas and the cat areas and just a lot to do with the health and hygiene side of things.”
Loughran says this includes cleaning stations for customers to wash their hands with soap and hot water before and after touching the cats.
One of the business’s other obstacles, said Loughran, came from property owners turning them down because they didn’t want cats to be on the premises. However, her advice to those with a quirky business idea is not to give up.
“It can be hard, even in a city like Melbourne where there’s generally quite different things around and you’d think people would be more open minded,” says Loughran. “It’s just persistence and if one way of doing something doesn’t work, do it a different away.”
Loughran says the business owes a lot to the popularity of cats on the internet.
“I can’t tell you why cats have taken over the internet,” she says. “But it’s definitely helped us. We have got a lot of followers on social media.”
According to Loughran, Twitter and Facebook were integral in raising awareness of the business idea. The business has more than 7000 likes on Facebook.
The couple has also launched their last crowdfunding campaign on website Indiegogo in order to help cover refurbishment costs of the shopfront—a space which was a lot larger and older than they originally anticipated.
“Reaching out on social media you never know who’s going to come back with some advice or help,” says Loughran. “It completely changes the way business is done.”
Loughran says because the cat café is effectively going to be two businesses in one, they are going to start with a traditional café menu before trying anything adventurous with the food.
“As the business grows we will be able to develop the menu and meals,” she says.
Cat Café Melbourne will be located at 375 Queen Street, adjacent to the iconic Queen Victoria Market. Loughran says an online booking system will be set up on the business’s website in order to prepare for an influx of customers.
The café hopes to be open by July and will be working with the Geelong Animal Welfare Society.