The much-anticipated Melbourne cat café may have fallen from grace before it has even opened its doors—but it appears to have landed on its feet.
The café came under fire from some of its 19,000 Facebook fans and several commenters on social network Reddit for asking for volunteers, rather than paid staff, to “care for the kitties at Cat Café”.
“If you would like to volunteer there are several tasks you will need to perform,” read the post of the café’s website.
“These include: cleaning litter trays, ensuring correct medicine and treatment given at correct times, daily behavioural and physical checks, feeding, grooming, walking around cat area and ensuring cats are being treated well, educating customers on cat care/animal shelters, and ensuring customers follow hygiene rules.”
Fans were quick to react when the café then posted the request on Facebook.
“Hang on, you are a for-profit business not a shelter or charity. You should be paying staff to do that job,” said one commenter. “Not cool, not cool at all.”
“SOOO disappointed to hear you want free labour!” said another commenter. “It’s not like you’re operating a shelter which relay [sic] on donations from kind strangers to survive. You’re a BUSINESS! You’re just wanting unpaid people to do your dirty work so you have reap [sic] a higher pay yourself. Disgusting!”
The company responded to fans, saying “there seems to be a lot of confused (and angry) people regarding us looking for some volunteers.”
“These are people who want to be a part of this experience, and our friends and family volunteering their time can only go so far. Volunteers may only be able to spend two hours a week with the cats and cannot dedicate themselves to a paid position. That is hardly exploitative.”
Café founder Anita Loughran told SmartCompany the business advertised for volunteers after the café was inundated with offers of help.
“We had hundreds of emails asking us if they could help out,” says Loughran.
Loughran says the volunteers will spend time with the cats, helping them get used to being around lots of people, while the cafe is being refurbished downstairs.
“We didn’t want to bring people in to do the horrible stuff like refurbishing. If they want to spend time with the cats it will help them get used to people.”
And Loughran says the café will be seeking paid staff when the refurbishments are complete.
“It’s about two or three people on Facebook who seem to be very upset about volunteering for businesses… You can’t please everyone,” she says.