Kitten season has only just begun, so what’s a shelter or rescue organization to do?
Well, you could try a cat pop-up or cat café! We attended the session Commerce for kitties: Using for-profit approaches to help more cats at HSUS Animal Care Expo in April, and we learned a lot of great stuff!
Pop-ups are temporary retail spaces that open for a few hours, days, weeks or even a few months. It provides more exposure without the investment of a full-time space.
BJ Andersen, Executive Director of Willamette Humane Society (WHS) spoke about her experience with a kitten pop-up in Oregon. Hosting a pop-up is an opportunity to bring in a whole new crowd. She says that people want to adopt, but shelters can feel like jail to some people. Pop-ups are an opportunity to connect with new adopters, volunteers and donors that may never end up visiting a shelter.
WHS’s “Kitten Kaboodle” pop-up is open from July through October, at the Salem Center Mall. Andersen says malls are where it’s at because malls have many empty storefronts and management wants to fill those spaces. They worked out a deal where they just pay utilities. They are open on the weekends.
Benefits of pop-ups, she says, include less illness since kittens go from intake and into foster homes. Adult cats at the shelter don’t have to compete with the kittens.
The first year the pop-up was open, it was run mainly by volunteers. They eventually hired part-time staff to run the store, which they found a lot of success with.
And if you’re worried about impulse adoptions, she says their return rate is less than 1%.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Kitten Kaboodle pop-up, you can read the document that Andersen put together.
After you’ve had success with a pop-up, or just want something permanent, a cat café may be what you’re looking for.
Tanya Hilgendorf, President and CEO of Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) spoke about Tiny Lions Cat Café, which is about 16 miles away from HSHV.
Their café (which isn’t so much a café, but they do provide free coffee), offers friendlier and humane housing. Anyone from students, volunteers, non-cat owners, cat owners to children visit the adoptable cats for a small fee. The café has tables and free wi-fi, which makes it a perfect space for people to work. They host events with cats, like knitting (can you imagine?), yoga, coloring, trivia and movie nights. Their facility is also available to rent for events like birthdays, wedding showers and work parties.
There is always one paid employee in the retail area, and 350 volunteers staff the café. All the cats get seen weekly by a veterinarian. It’s vital that the cats are given a place to acclimate, hide, a soft place to rest and places to jump. And since not every cat is cut out for the café lifestyle, they choose cats that are people friendly, tolerate cats and that they feel can adjust to the environment.
We hope these ideas give you something to ponder as you take on kitten season!
Earlier this year, we rounded up some of our most relevant kitten resources.