How do you take your coffee—with a dash of sugar? A dollop of cream? How about a side of furry friends to play with? Cattyshack Cafe, Lee County’s first cat cafe, offers classic coffeeshop fare and a space to interact with adoptable cats and kittens.
Andrew Townsend and his fiancée, Amber Redfern, opened Cattyshack Cafe in June to help rescue cats find homes.
“There are 250,000 homeless cats in Lee County alone,” Townsend says. “Shelters here are always swamped, so we saw a huge need.”
You don’t have to worry about cat hair in your cappuccino or lingering pet odor when visiting the Gulf Coast Town Center cafe. The cats live in a separate
lounge, so you can interact with them or watch them play through multiple windows as you sip your latte in the service area. Have allergies? The baristas and animal caretakers work separately, each room has its own HVAC system and there’s no fabric furniture, so you can still breathe easy while visiting.
Before opening, Townsend and Redfern visited 20 other cat cafes to get the concept just right for Southwest Florida. They based the shop off the 1980 golf film Caddyshack, and call the cat lounge the Mulligan Room.
“In golf terms, a ‘mulligan’ is a shot that didn’t really count—it’s a do-over—and we believe rescue cats deserve a second shot,” Redfern says.
The couple seems to be in good company. Cattyshack Cafe already has 3,900 followers on Facebook as of this writing. That’s partly because the owners built community interest beforehand, through vendor and pop-up events and market research. (Townsend also participated in Florida Gulf Coast University’s entrepreneurial Runway Program, which helped validate the business idea.) They even launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $20,000 from 230 people in 30 days. The contributors’ names are written on golf balls that hang on a pillar in the cafe.
Cattyshack Cafe adopted out 180 cats within its first month of opening. However, you don’t have to be ready to take a pet home to support the business, which donates adoption fees to its primary partner, the Gulf Coast Humane Society.
“It’s truly such a help to have the community sit with [the cats], read to them, cuddle with them and just be around them,” Redfern says. “A lot of these cats are strays or come from unhealthy human interactions, so just letting them be around humans and accept positive touch is such a huge benefit.”
If you do want to adopt a cat companion, you can get to know a few better before making your choice.
“In our environment, the cats are showing their true personalities,” Townsend says. “They’re not scared or skittish like they are in the shelters, so we’re finding the best matches possible.”