Chanel Lethbridge hopes to open Edmonton's first cat cafe

Cat-less Edmontonians may soon have a purr-fect place to catch a kitten cuddle and cup of joe.

Cat cafe would have divider between cat lounge and cafe space

NAIT student Chanel Lethbridge hopes to open what would be Edmonton's first cat cafe. (Chanel Lethbridge)

There are cat-lovers and there are coffee-lovers — and then there's Chanel Lethbridge.

Lethbridge, a first-year business student at NAIT, hopes to open a one-of-a-kind cat cafe that would give pet-less Edmontonians or anyone else who loves cats the chance to cuddle up with a feline friend, and then grab a coffee.

Due to Alberta Health regulations, the cafe will have a glass wall running down its centre; on one side, the cafe. On the other: a lounge full of cats.

"It's like an extension of your living room," Lethbridge said of the cat lounge. "There's comfy furniture in it and friendly cats live there, so you can go and spend time with the cats. And then the other side is a regular cafe."

That "regular" cafe will serve cat-themed snacks and drinks, along with pet merchandise.

But for the confused among you: "cat-themed" does not mean cat hair.

"It's going to be like a latte with the image of a cat in it, or a cookie that's shaped like a cat," Lethbridge said. "I assure you there won't be any hair anywhere. There's going to be no mixture of the food and the animals."

Similar cafes have already been opened in Europe, Japan and Montreal, and plans are in place to open cat cafes in Toronto and Vancouver.

Lethbridge says the cafes are a big draw for people who aren't able to have a pet of their own — something she has run into herself, as rules at her current apartment building don't allow her to have a cat. 

"Lots of people in Edmonton can't actually have pets — their rental space doesn't allow it or they don't have enough time or it's very costly actually to own a pet — so to have cats in this kind of space, it's an opportunity for them to spend time with animals without having the responsibility."

However, finding a commercial property that will allow her to bring in the cats is proving to be a bit of a challenge, Lethbridge said. Many leaseholders are not keen on either the animals or the structural work that needs to be done to accommodate the divided cat space.

Nevertheless, Lethbridge hopes to open the cafe's doors in about a year.

As for the main attractions, the cats themselves — Lethbridge says only the friendliest and most social of rescue cats will make the cut to live at the cafe.

For now, no dogs allowed — but don't lose hope, dog lovers.

"I'm just going to dot dot dot that one —  maybe a dog cafe is in the works after," she said with a laugh.


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