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How to Start a Cat Café in 2024: Step-By-Step Guide

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By Nicole Cosgrove

black persian cat and iced drinks

Cat cafes have become popular businesses around the world. If your dream is to open one of these cafes to combine your love of kitties and your dream of running a business, then learning the proper protocols to follow is crucial. That’s where we come in. In this article, we’ll go over the first 16 steps you should follow to get you to the opening day of your very own cat café. This will help you get off on the right foot and open a successful business that caters to everyone who loves cats.

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The 16 Steps on How to Start a Cat Café

1. Gain an Overview of the Legal Requirements

While you may be excited to get started on your new business adventure, it is important to learn as much as possible about the rules and regulations you are expected to follow in your city or county. When it comes to having animals and food on the same premises, you may experience health regulations that require you to keep food access and the kitties inside your café separated from one another. Licenses and zoning permits can also be an issue.

Before you choose a location or write up your business plan, you must speak with the proper local agencies so you fully understand what is expected of you, including the space you’ll need to operate your new business properly.

cat cafe signage
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

2. Name Your Business

A business such as a cat café should have a catchy name. You want to entice cat lovers in your area to venture inside. To help you find the best name possible, jot down a few ideas and run them by partners or others on your team. If you’re going into this business solo, reach out to family and friends for their opinions. Once you’ve settled on the right name for this exciting project, you can start getting your ideas on paper.

3. Create a Solid Business Plan

Once you have a full understanding of all the state and local regulations involved in starting a cat café, you can sit down and devise a well-thought-out business plan. This is where you determine your potential earnings from your cat café and the initial start-up money that may be required. You’ll also lay out important details regarding your business idea, target market, possible partners, your team, business, and operating strategies, and even your mid to long-term goals.

Your business plan should be done in writing. This is the document you’ll be presenting to banks and other potential investors in hopes of amassing any financial backing you are lacking.

cat latte art
Image Credit: sharonang, Pixabay

4. Become a Legal Business

To become a legal business you must have a business license. You’ll find there are several types of licenses available in most cities or counties. The most common include sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies or LLCs. Speaking with your local agencies will give you a better understanding of these potential business types so you can choose the best one for your venture.

5. Register for Taxes

As you know, taxes are everywhere. When you start your business, you must establish your IRS Tax ID, also known as EIN. An EIN can be acquired for free through the IRS website. Once you have your EIN you can officially register for taxes and be considered a legal business.

6. Set Up Your Business Accounts

Once everything is legal and you have your business name and license, your next step is to choose a bank you wish to work with and set up your business accounts. Having this ready early in the process will make things easier for your accountant. It also looks great when banks or other lenders consider your business for loans in the future.

cat cafe interior
Image Credit: Alexnewworld, Pixabay

7. Choose the Right Location

The right location can be key to a business’s success. When looking at potential places, keep accessibility in mind. A business needs to be easily accessible to the patrons who stop by. A centralized location with easy-to-access free parking in a high-visibility area is a great way to go. Make sure the area you choose applies to the regulations you reviewed in step one.

Another important thing to keep in mind when securing a location is size. You will need enough space for cats and customers to interact while ensuring the kitties also have an area where they can retreat and unwind. You may even be required, according to your state and local regulations, to have your food and animals separate. If that’s the case, an additional dining area would be ideal.

With your business plan in mind, make sure your location has room, bathroom access, a reasonably sized cooking area that can accommodate your menu, and room for customers and cats. If you find a location that meets all these needs, it’s time to secure it.

8. Make a Model of Operation

When it comes to cat cafes there are a few different models of operation you can choose from. Most of these businesses charge an hourly cover rate to come inside and spend time with the cats. You will need to decide whether you want to offer free snacks and drinks to those that pay this cover or charge separately for drinks and food. Other cat cafes have adopted the pay-to-play model. With this model of operation, any patron that buys food or drinks has the chance to spend time with kitties for no cover charge. You may even find that you need people to make reservations to visit your café due to high demand.

When deciding your model of operation, you should keep the economics of the surrounding area in mind and choose the one you feel will make you the best profit while being accessible to the community.

9. Work with Local Rescues or Shelters

Having a profitable business comes with the responsibility to give back to the community. One of the best ways to do this is by working closely with a local cat rescue or animal shelter. By allowing adoptable kitties to be accessible in your café, visitors have the opportunity to spend time with cats they may potentially take home.

cats in animal shelter
Image Credit: Yulia Grigoryeva, Shutterstock

10. Get All the Proper Insurance

When running a business, you need insurance. Your building and investment must be protected. When it comes to a cat café, however, you also need to protect the kitties inside and your customers. By having insurance to cover your cats, if a customer is injured, your business will not suffer. These types of liabilities should always be considered when running a business.

11. Find a Trusted Veterinarian

The cats inside your café will need to be medically healthy and receive treatment while they’re in your care. Finding a trusted veterinarian is a must when it comes to this. Your veterinarian needs to be aware of your business, how often your cats are exposed to the public, and any issues you may notice them suffering from. This will help you keep everyone involved healthier and happier.

12. Determine Pricing and What’s On the Menu

Before you open your doors, the menu must be decided. In most cat cafes, light menus and drinks are offered. It’s your discretion when it comes to the menu. Coffee, teas, sandwiches, or even alcoholic beverages can be offered. Make sure to keep the prices you ask competitive. If you offer free food and drinks once a cover charge is paid, keep costs in mind when you set the cover rate.

barista at work
Image By: Pexels, Pixabay

13. Create a Business Website

A business website should be professional and to the point. When it comes to your cat café, however, a bit of creativity will make it even more noticeable to cat lovers. This is where reservations can be made, menus will be advertised, and profiles of cats will be shared. You or a member of your team should keep the website and blog up to date so the community is aware of your business and what’s happening there.

14. Advertise

Before your opening, devise your advertising game plan. Radio ads, spots in newspapers, and even billboards can be utilized to garner attention for your approaching opening. Drop off business cards everywhere you go and especially advertise in pet stores, shelters, and rescues. This will get cat lovers’ attention and that’s who you’ll be expecting in your café more than anyone.

A quick tip: When reaching out to other websites and online newspapers a tool like Hunter.io can be very helpful as it allows you to insert a website name, and then it tells you some email addresses of that website. This is a big time saver, and can really optimize your outreach efforts.

15. Hire Staff

Every business needs staffing. Before opening day, hire staff to help tend to the cats, make food, and serve customers. You want to do this before the day of your opening so training can be done. For a successful launch, staff should be ready to function and understand what the big day may require of them.

16. Plan a Grand Opening

The last step in opening your cat café is having everything ready for your big opening. Have the cats happy and ready to mingle with your customers. Make sure the food, staff, and furnishings are on point. This is yours and the kitty’s big day. Make sure it’s great and try to enjoy it.

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In Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of steps involved in starting your own cat café. While this list may seem daunting, if you have a dream and work hard, it is achievable. To help the cats in your city and offer people a cozy place to eat, drink, and socialize with beautiful animals, preparing a business plan and sticking to it is the goal. If you do this, you’ll find the success you seek and help cats find the home they deserve.

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