Columbus cat café struggles to stay in business amid pandemic

Columbus cat café struggles to stay in business amid pandemic
Columbus cat café struggles to remain open amid pandemic (Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Anyone who is a fan of cats and coffee may have heard of a cat café. This niche business idea, where you can drink coffee in one room, and play with cats in another, has become more popular over the past decade.

One local veteran family decided to bring a cat café right here to Columbus, not realizing their grand opening would be just months before a global pandemic.

But when Alley Cat Café opened at The Landings on Whitesville Road and Airport Thruway last November, business could not have been better.

“We were the hot new spot in town, people loved come playing the cats, they loved come getting coffee,” says Rachel Taylor, an employee at the coffee shop. “We had so many regular customers.”

But, COVID, of course, had other plans.

“We had to shut down for two and a half months,” says Taylor.

Even when the café opened their doors again, business has never been the same.

“Some days we maybe just get two customers.”

Or, to put it more bluntly—

“It’s been a dumpster fire, to say the least!”

Taylor’s parents own the cat café: her stepdad is an air-force veteran, while her mom now juggles two jobs.

“She actually had to go back to her full-time job when COVID hit. So, she works from 2:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and then she comes here.”

But the humans aren’t the only ones struggling. The felines come from Pat’s Rescue Cats, an organization that pulls cats from kill shelters and off the streets for a chance at a better life. Though over 50 cats have been adopted since their grand opening, adoptions have slowed with the pandemic. And less customers means less time for socialization.

“There are several studies proven that just spending 10 minutes with a cat releases serotonin,” says Taylor. “And it just genuinely improves your mood.”

The café ensures all of their employees wear masks and follow COVID safety protocols.

“We prefer when people make reservations just because it makes it easier for us to time when people are coming in, and we can control how many people are coming in,” says Taylor. “We have a limit of 6 per hour in the room, and we wipe down after each group leaves, so nobody has to worry about that.”

But even if you can’t adopt a cat this holiday season—

“They can just come and boost their spirits, or just enjoy a cup of coffee. Maybe make some friends while they’re here,” says Taylor. “And help this little business stay afloat!”

The Alley Cat Café is not only veteran-owned, they serve Fort Benning-brewed ‘Black Rifle Coffee’ and have veteran-made, cat-themed merchandise in their gift shop.

If you would like to visit the Cat Café or make a donation, click here.

Copyright 2020 WTVM. All rights reserved.