The concept of combining cats and dogs with delicious warm beverages, might sound like a snuggly dream to some people. Others may immediately imagine the pet hair getting in the drinks, the loud meowing or woofing, potential cat fights, urine-smelling floors, and dogs spilling coffee everywhere. It might sound like mayhem! However, with dedicated staff look to monitor the behavior of cats and dogs, and the proper institution of boundaries, the right balance could certainly be found. Here are some of the pros and cons of dog and cat cafes:
They promote pet adoption: The amount of homeless dogs and cats is astounding. Any way that rescue homes and shelters can promote pet adoption is a decided step in the right direction. By visiting the dogs and cats regularly, people are more likely to develop a bond with one of them, which increases the chances of finding a home.
Pet cafes reinvent the way people connect with shelter pets: Instead of sitting in play pens where dozens of animals romp around vying for attention, the café element allows guests to stay for a length of time where they can observe the other creatures in action. They can take time to connect with the dog in a way that visiting a pen does not.
Pets benefits the humans: People who live far from family, or may have limited networks and communities and find emotional support and physical affection from the eager cats and dogs at these cafes. Playing with animals has proven to boost the morale, mental and emotional health of lonely individuals. Connecting with animals (and potentially meeting other dog or cat lovers with similar interests!) may prove as effective as spending time with animals in pet therapy. Plus, playing with dogs at a café is a cheaper option than paying for a therapy session!
The pets become well-socialized: Pet-rearing books and trainers are always advising people to ensure that their animals are properly socialized with other pets and with people. What better way is there for cats and dogs to be socialized than to regularly meet and play with strangers in a safe environment, while being surrounded with other pets? Though there may be the occasional scuffle, most animals will learn to adapt well to the changing environment, and will be better socialized in the long run.
More humans, more love: Animals that are constantly the center of attention for humans who literally pay for the privilege of playing with them, will have many of their emotional needs met. Well-loved animals are happy animals, and having hours of quality time with new friends will help the dog or cat feel loved.
Health Code Violations: When animals and humans meet in the same place food is available for purchase, there is no doubt that such an endeavor might prove to be risky. Restaurants must adhere to strict health regulations, and can run the risk of citation or even being put out of business if anything they do is not up to code. There will need to be separate areas where the employees can prepare food and beverages on site, without mingling with their animal friends at all. The pets will need areas to move about freely, and (in the case of dogs) would require their own recreation areas disconnected from the café entirely. Not only does this make the entire café a bit impractical, but it would feel nearly the same as a coffee shop next to a rescue home or puppy play center.
Expensive: While cat cafes are easier to manage, dog cafes require a large area where the animals can have sufficient running and playing space away from those enjoying a beverage. Finding a big enough venue mid-city will almost certainly be expensive, covering the wages for baristas and coffee shop workers, as well as hosts who man the wait lists and cover charges, and the staff workers who keep the play area clean (at a staff-to-dog ration of 1:3)- these could be quite expensive to run. While the consumer may not be concerned with how much it costs to run the dog or cat café, expenses may likely result in higher cover charges.
Liability and accidents: What happens if a visitor gets too rowdy, or incites a pet in some way? Granted, though the cafes require the signing of a waiver in case of an emergency, what if one dog bites, or a human steps out of line and retaliates or hurts the dog. How are these instances to be regulated and handled? If one dog should be overwhelmed and get snappy or even bite someone, not only would this taint the reputation of the café, but it would potentially also discourage others from coming.
Hygiene: Finally, how is the animal’s waste to be dealt with? How can cat-cafes keep the air fresh and urine-smell-free? Fortunately, this problem seems to have a simple remedy, including more staff on hand to help clean, air freshener and well-ventilated rooms; but it still ought to be addressed as a concern.
What does experience tell us?
Though dog and cat cafes are still being somewhat pioneered in the states, countries like Japan and Korea have been in the game for quite a while. What is the verdict on dog cafes that have been opened for over a decade? One individual in Korea visited Bau House, open since 2001, and wrote that the environment seemed little better than a dog shelter. He described the room as smelling strongly of disinfectant and urine, and there being evidence of excrement on the floor. Additionally, the dogs who have been there longest seem disinterested in engaging with the humans who paid to visit the pups, unless they had a bag of treats.
While this is one testimony, and may do nothing but reflect the negative aspects of ONE café, it is still worth considering what pros & cons might exist from an established dog café. Certainly, it is possible to have staff maintaining the hygiene of the petting area, and keeping to rooms properly ventilated. Possibly changing out the dogs might also help avoid disinterested behavior, and promote adoption.
We believe that successfully running a positive and hygienic Dog Café or Cat Café can be accomplished with proper staff, planning, boundaries and a team of motivated people who will do anything to help dogs find homes!