David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on June 4, 2022 Updated on November 28, 2023
$22,500 - $88,600
$164,000 - $365,000 p.a.
Time to build
3 - 6 months
$57,000 - $91,000 p.a.
Cat cafes emerged in Japan in the late 1990’s and soon appeared in the US, starting in California in 2014. The craze quickly swept the country, and nowadays cat cafes provide a fun, comforting environment where customers enjoy the company of cuddly kitties.
With the global coffee shop market expecting steady growth through 2027, it’s a great time to start up a cat cafe. But before you start looking for furry felines, you’ll need to learn what it takes to launch a business.
Fortunately, this step-by-step guide provides all the entrepreneurial insight you need to get up and running.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Cat cafes often partner with local animal shelters and rescues. The cats in many cafes are available for adoption, giving patrons the opportunity to bring home a fur-ever friend.
Many cat cafes partner with nearby restaurants instead of preparing and serving food onsite. This helps them avoid the need for potentially costly renovations to stay in compliance with regulatory standards.
Challenges within the cat cafe industry include:
Health and food safety regulations for pet cafes are extremely detailed. Renovations to ensure your cat cafe is compliant with regulations can be very costly.
Some people view cat cafes as inhumane. While these businesses are often run by cat lovers who take great care of the animals, there are concerns about cats being exposed to loud children and constant touching.
How much does it cost to start a cat cafe?
Startup costs for a cat cafe range from $23,000 to $88,000. Costs include space rental, renovations, food and beverage inventory and equipment, cat supplies and staff wages. You can keep costs low by partnering with a nearby restaurant instead of making food onsite. You can also obtain cats for your cafe for free if you partner with a local animal shelter.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your cat cafe, including:
Cat food, litter boxes, other care items
Food and beverage inventory
Food and beverage equipment
Licenses and permits
Marketing and advertising
Food and beverage inventory
Food and beverage equipment
Cat care supplies
$22,500 - $88,600
How much can you earn from a cat cafe?
The average cost for admission to a cat cafe is $15 per hour. If you sell food and beverages, you could charge between $5 and $10 per item. After costs of rent, inventory, supplies, and staff wages, expect a profit margin of around 35%
In your first year or two, you could sell 20 $15 hourly admission tickets and $150 worth of food and beverages per day, bringing in $164,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $57,000 in profit, assuming that 35% margin. As your cafe becomes more popular, you could raise your hourly rate to $20, sell 35 tickets and $300 worth of food and beverages per day. At this stage, you’d hire additional staff, reducing your profit margin to around 25%. With annual revenue of $365,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $91,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry when it comes to starting a cat cafe. Your biggest hurdles will be:
Finding a viable location for your cafe
Adhering to strict health and safety regulations
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a cat cafe, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research cat cafes in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a cat cafe that partners with a local animal shelter.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as a cat cafe for kids or with an ice cream shop.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
You’ll be charging admission to your cat cafe, likely an hourly rate. Most cafes also offer coffee, pastries, snacks, and light fare for purchase.
How much should you charge for admission to your cat cafe?
The cost of admission to cat cafes ranges from $10 to $20 per hour. If you decide to offer food and beverages, you could charge anywhere from $5 to $10 per item. After the cost of rent, supplies, and staff wages, aim for a profit margin of around 35%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your customers will be people who love cats and enjoy a tasty snack or cup of coffee. Focus your marketing on popular social media sites like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.
Where? Choose your cat cafe location
Choosing the right location for your cat cafe is crucial for attracting customers and ensuring its success. Look for a spot in a high-traffic area with strong footfall, such as a popular shopping district or a bustling downtown area.
Consider accessibility and convenience, ensuring that the location is easily reachable by public transportation and has ample parking. By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a popular and thriving cat cafe that caters to cat lovers and stands out in the competitive cafe industry.
You’ll need to lease or purchase a viable cafe space to run your business. The space will need to accommodate any required renovations needed to ensure your cat cafe complies with regulatory standards. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Cat Cafe Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “kitty cafe” or “cat cafe”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Kitty Kafe” over “Persian Palace Cafe” or “Bengal Bliss Cafe”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Discover over 220 unique cat cafe name ideas here. If you want your business name to include specific keywords, you can also use our cat cafe business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Cat Cafe Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A concise summary highlighting the cat cafe’s key objectives, unique selling points, and financial projections.
Business Overview: An overview of the cat cafe business, including its mission, vision, location, and legal structure.
Product and Services: Description of the cat cafe’s offerings, emphasizing unique features such as cat interactions, themed decor, and food and beverage services.
Market Analysis: An examination of the target market, including demographics, trends, and potential demand for cat-related experiences.
Competitive Analysis: Assessment of competitors in the local market, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and differentiating factors.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting the cat cafe, including advertising, social media, and partnerships to attract customers.
Management Team: Brief profiles of key individuals involved in running the cat cafe, emphasizing relevant experience and skills.
Operations Plan: Details on day-to-day operations, covering staffing, cat care, hygiene, and customer service protocols.
Financial Plan: Projections for revenue, expenses, and profitability, including startup costs, monthly budgets, and a break-even analysis.
Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as detailed financial spreadsheets, permits, and any additional supporting documents for the business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to cat cafes.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your cat cafe will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a cat cafe. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Step 8: Apply for Cat Cafe Business Licenses and Permits
Starting a cat cafe requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments. Your cafe will likely need to comply with additional health and safety standards, due to food and beverages being served around animals.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your cat cafe as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Square, Toast, or Clover to accept payments, track inventory, and manage staff scheduling.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your cat cafe, the marketing strategy should emphasize the unique experience you offer – combining the love of cats with a cozy, enjoyable cafe environment. Highlight the relaxing ambiance, the joy of interacting with cats, and the quality of your cafe offerings. The goal is to establish your cat cafe as a delightful escape for cat enthusiasts and a unique social destination for everyone.
Professional Branding: Your branding should reflect the warmth, comfort, and whimsy of your cat cafe, from your logo to your interior decor.
Direct Outreach: Partner with local animal shelters, pet stores, and vet clinics to cross-promote your cafe and support local adoption efforts.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Create an inviting website that showcases the cafe’s atmosphere, menu, and resident cats. Use SEO best practices to optimize for keywords related to cat cafes, pet-friendly dining, and local cafe experiences.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to share adorable cat content, cafe updates, and special events. Engaging cat videos and photos can be particularly effective in attracting followers and visitors.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Cat Care and Cafe Lifestyle Blog: Share posts about cat care, adoption stories, and the benefits of spending time with cats. Include content about your unique cafe offerings, like special menu items or events.
Customer and Cat Stories: Feature heartwarming stories of your cafe’s cats and testimonials from customers about their experiences.
Interactive Online Content: Create quizzes, polls, and engaging social media content that allows followers to vote on new cat additions, menu items, or event ideas.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Cat Adoption Events and Workshops: Collaborate with local shelters to host adoption events and educational workshops about cat care and welfare.
Themed Cafe Events: Host themed days or evenings, such as ‘Yoga with Cats’, ‘Painting with Cats’, or ‘Cat Movie Nights’.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Businesses: Team up with local pet supply stores or cafes for joint promotions or events.
Community Engagement: Participate in community festivals and markets, offering a pop-up version of your cafe or promotional materials.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Loyalty Card Program: Offer a loyalty card that rewards customers with a free drink or discount after a certain number of visits.
Referral Bonuses: Encourage customers to bring friends by offering a discount or freebie for groups visiting for the first time.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Local Advertising: Use local advertising channels, community boards, and pet-related forums and websites to reach cat lovers and cafe-goers in your area.
Email Marketing: Send out a regular newsletter with updates about the cats, special menu items, upcoming events, and exclusive offers.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your cat cafe meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your cat cafe could be:
Coffee, cats, and cuddles
Have a cuppa with friendly felines at your local kitty cafe
Sip a coffee while you choose your fur-ever friend
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a cat cafe, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in the cafe industry for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in cat cafes. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a cat cafe include:
Baristas – Make coffee, serve food to customers
Accountant – Bookkeeping, prepare taxes, run payroll
Marketing Lead – Manage social media accounts, run advertising campaigns
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Starting a cat cafe takes a lot of up-front work, but it’s a business that’s rewarding and profitable. You’ll spend your days with furry friends and happy customers and make great money along the way!
Now that you’ve done your entrepreneurial homework, you’re ready to launch your town’s most popular cat cafe. You could even get started right MEOW!
Cat Cafe FAQs
How much does it cost to start a cat cafe?
You can start a cat cafe for around $23,000. Costs include leasing a cafe, renovations, food and beverage inventory, and care supplies for cats.
Is a cat cafe a profitable business?
Yes, cat cafes can be very profitable. Offering tasty food and beverages, along with excellent and friendly service, will help drive revenue.
How much should I charge at my cat cafe?
Cat cafes typically charge an hourly rate of $10 to $20. Cafes that serve food and beverages charge between $5 and $10 per item.
Do I need a license to run my cat cafe?
Cat cafes that serve food are highly regulated environments, due to animals being present. Check with your state and local government for specific licenses and permits needed or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.
What makes a good cat cafe?
A good cat cafe creates a comfortable environment, prioritizes the well-being of the cats, focuses on cat adoption, engages customers, and employs knowledgeable staff.
How do I ensure the well-being and welfare of the cats in the cafe?
Ensure cat well-being through proper environment design, regular veterinary care, socialization, proper nutrition, and hygiene.
Why is cat cafe unique?
Cat cafes are unique because they offer a relaxed space to enjoy the company of cats, promote cat adoption, and educate the public about responsible pet ownership.
How can I handle adoptions or foster programs for the cats in the cafe?
Handle adoptions or foster programs by partnering with animal shelters, following adoption protocols, educating potential adopters, and establishing a foster program in collaboration with rescue organizations.
How can I address any allergies or health concerns related to cats in the cafe?
Address allergies or health concerns by displaying clear signage, maintaining cleanliness, providing alternative seating areas, and offering information to customers about potential allergens.
How to Start a Cat Cafe
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Cat Cafe Name
Create a Cat Cafe Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Cat Cafe Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Cat Cafe - Start Making Money!
Cat Cafe FAQs
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