Are Cat Cafes Profitable? (A Look at Start up and Running Costs)

Are Cat Cafes Profitable

Thinking about starting a cat cafe?

If you’re a cat lover and an aspiring cafe owner, starting a cat cafe sounds like the dream business, right?

It can be a very rewarding and profitable business –  if you pick the right location and have a good understanding of how to market your cat cafe and run the business.

Running a cat cafe comes with more challenges than running a regular cafe. In fact, it’s a very different business model in many ways.

Here’s a look at what it takes to operate a cat cafe, how it’s different from a regular cafe, and whether or not you can expect to be profitable:

Are Cat Cafes Profitable?

Let’s dive straight in with the most important question, and also the most difficult question to answer!

Are cat cafes profitable? Cat cafes can absolutely be profitable, yes. A lot of them are and have been in business for years.

Koneko cat cafe in New York is a great example. They’ve been open since 2016, and were “America’s first Japanese-inspired cat café.”

It’s more difficult to turn over a profit on a cat cafe over a regular cafe though. If you have experience operating cafes, you need to be aware of what you’re in for that from the start.

You have all the same costs as you would with a regular cafe, such as forming a legal entity, registering for taxes, buying inventory, marketing, etc.

In addition to these costs, you also have a bunch of extra costs that a regular cafe does not have, such as:

  • Obtaining special permits your local office requires for keeping cats in the business
  • Cat food, litter, and other maintenance costs
  • Additional staff and cover to care for the cats
  • Renting larger premises to give the cats more space

As well as these added expenses, you will also have to account for fewer customers.

Not only are fewer customers allowed in the premises at one time (subject to local regulations), but believe it or not – not everyone wants to dine in a cafe that has cats roaming around.

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How Much Does Opening a Cat Cafe Cost?

It’s almost impossible to put a number on starting any business. The main problem is that the location you choose for your business is going pivotal to your success, and also the largest cost.

With that in mind, I can give you a general idea of how much it will cost to open a cat cafe by listing the core expenses.

Retail Business Expenses

Brick and mortar businesses have much higher expenses upfront than online businesses.

Here are the main expenses behind getting your cafe located and opened, and these can vary by tens of thousands of dollars:

  • Renting premises
  • Fitting out your premises, remodeling, etc.
  • POS system for taking payments
  • Branding and logo designs
  • Machinery for making foods and drinks
  • Utility bills
  • Insurance
  • Permits and licenses as applicable for your location

Software, Marketing, and Online Expenses

You can’t operate a business in today’s digital age without a strong online presence and some smart systems in place.

Some of the key software and digital expenses are:

  • Website design and maintenance
  • Social media management
  • Accounting and payroll software
  • Email marketing tools

Inventory Expenses

Running a cafe requires the perfect balance of having enough fresh food and ingredients so that you don’t run out, while not having much – if any – waste.

Some of the inventory expenses for a cat cafe are:

  • Food and drinks
  • Other goods for sale

Cat-Related Expenses

The one expense that applies to a cat cafe that does not apply to a regular cafe are the expenses related to the kitty residents.

These are:

As you can see, there are a lot of expenses involved in starting and maintaining a cat cafe.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, there are various sundry expenses and some costs that will be unique to your business.

If you start putting a number next to each of the expenses above, you’ll soon get a better idea of how much it costs to open and run a cat cafe.

How Many Cats Should a Cat Cafe Have?

There is no right answer when it comes to how many cats a cat cafe should have – it’s entirely up to you (within reason).

You should always run your business plan past your local office or the governing body responsible for licensing your cafe.

There will be a restriction on how many cats you’re allowed. I’ve been to cafes with at least 8-10 cats before though, so I doubt it’s going to be a low number.

The best advice is to look at how much space you have and create the best possible environment for your cats.

Obviously, the cats are the main attraction, so you want a few. But you also want to make sure it’s easy to keep your cafe clean and there are plenty of posts for the cats to sleep peacefully.

How Expensive Is It to Own a Cat Cafe?

It can be expensive to own a cat cafe in a desirable location. As I laid out above, there are additional cat-related costs and challenges that come with running a cat cafe.

It’s definitely a business model that is working well all over the world though.

If you’re interested in operating a cat cafe and want to gain some detailed insights into the business, I recommend reaching out to a cat cafe owner.

Pick someone far away from where you would locate your cafe though, you don’t want them to feel like they’re talking to the competition!

But by visiting a cat cafe and speaking with an owner, you’ll gain some valuable insights into what’s working right now.

Good luck!

In Summary

Cat cafes are profitable all over the world, but this doesn’t mean it’s not a challenging business model.

If you love cats, it’s certainly a fun and rewarding business model though. With the right planning and a load of enthusiasm, I’m sure you can make it work!


Image credits – Photo by Shreeya Pradhananga on Unsplash

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