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Kelowna's first cat cafe a whisker away

One of Kelowna woman Ashley Karnes' foster cats.
One of Kelowna woman Ashley Karnes' foster cats.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ashley Karnes

A Kelowna woman who has been working hard to open the city’s first cat café, finally has the keys to her new building.

Ashley Karnes, an experienced cook with a passion for helping animals, has secured a building for the café and obtained the required city and Interior Health approvals.

“I already started laying the floor,” she said. “I’m determined to build this using salvaged material I’ve been scraping together for the last two months. I’ll be making cat runs and bridges out of reclaimed materials.”

It has been a big job getting the Catelowna cat cafe going, between securing financing, finding an appropriate building, and meeting city and Interior Health requirements. Karnes said she is confident and excited to be moving forward at the location on Ellis Street, across from the downtown bus terminal.  

“I have a lot of help and support from others in the community,” she said. “My new landlord is wonderful and Interior Health has been supportive.”

Cat cafes were originally made popular in Taiwan in the late 1990s and have spread to 37 countries. Customers have snacks and tea while interacting with adoptable cats.

READ MORE: Enjoy a purr-fect brew at Vernon's cat cafe

In Canada, cats are separated from food service and prep areas, so the cat cafe will have separate rooms for the animals apart from the coffee shop. Walls and doors will separate the space and will also include places for the cats to climb and hide. Staff will also be on hand to clean up after the kitties and keep the space clean.

“I had to find a location that would be safe for the cats yet accessible to humans,” Karnes said. “It needs to be bright with lots of windows and access at the front and the back.”

The adoptable cats will come from local shelters and most of the proceeds from the cafe’s entrance fee and food and beverages will go towards the non-profits.

“I’ve had interest from animal rescues in the Shuswap and the Okanagan and they are willing to work with me,” she said. “I have so much space, 700 square feet more space than I was looking for, and they are so overrun. I’ll have 20 or 25 cats once the cat room is constructed and get them in and used to things before the public comes in.”

Kelowna woman Ashley Karnes
Kelowna woman Ashley Karnes' cat.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ashley Karnes

Karnes is using her experience as a cook to set up a small, simple kitchen and café offering coffee, teas and healthy treats.

“I’m keeping it simple, it is more about the cats than the food,” she said. “I will be offering mostly vegan treats like raw food treats that are naturally sweetened. I think a lot of people like to stay away from processed sugar.”

Karnes launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall but cancelled it soon afterward, just as she was finding a building to lease that was far cheaper than what she planned for.

“It felt like I was begging people for money and was no longer sure if I would need it,” she said. “It was causing too much stress. I was trying to keep things simple and focus on the cats and found I was worrying about money and keeping up with the campaign which requires I send gifts to everyone who pledges to donate.”

The initial goal of $15,000 was set but was not met before Karnes cancelled the Kickstarter so no one’s pledges were pulled from their accounts. The process helped Karnes in other ways.

“It was also a marketing tool to get the word out and see what community support there was,” she said. “Seeing the people who pledged was encouraging even though their money wasn’t accepted. They will all get a pass to the pre-launch party.”

READ MORE: How to protect your dogs and cats during winter cold snaps

Karnes is working on finalizing the floor plan with a building contractor and cannot confirm a specific opening date.

“I feel good doing something that feels right,” she said. “I just want to do something with a purpose that gives back to the community.”

Go here for more information on Catelowna cat cafe. 

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