Nine Lives Cat Café: A Family Endeavor
By Eric Baugh, Rayder Hobbs, Amritpal Ahluwalia
When Selena Hubbard was fourteen, she and her father, Eric, decided that they ought to spend more time together. For most families, that would revolve around shared meals, weekend getaways or perhaps a common hobby. The Hubbards, on the other hand, embarked on a mission to transform the Indianapolis community. What began as a simple father-daughter venture has blossomed into a social endeavor diligently working to address the feral cat population dilemma that has plagued the city for years.
Nine Lives Cat Cafe is a for-profit social enterprise chiefly concerned with assisting the Humane Society of Indianapolis in finding homes for feral cats. While one side of the cafe resembles a traditional coffee shop, a partition divides out a separate play-area bustling with rescued felines available for adoption.
According to the Human Society of the United States, feral cats account for more than half of the feline population in the United States. Of the over 80 million stray cats in the U.S., roughly 3% are neutered. Furthermore, feral cats are not the only source of feline overpopulation. The Humane Society provides refuge for surrenders, strays, and even abused or neglected cats. The lack of education surrounding the lifelong commitment that comes with adopting a cat results in widespread overpopulation. These factors combine to cause extreme crowding in shelters.
The Indianapolis community has seen the worst of the epidemic firsthand; the zip code in which Nine Lives Cat Cafe operates is amongst the most heavily impacted areas in Indiana. The Humane Society has had to operate well above capacity as the population of strays has consistently risen year after year. Despite the stress that falls to the Humane Society, the shelter has been incredibly successful with a life-saving rate of 96% which is consistently well above the national average of 60%. For that reason, Nine Lives has established a mutually beneficial partnership with the Humane Society.
Nine Lives Cat Cafe
Nine Lives Cat Cafe approaches the problem on two fronts: education and direct assistance. Eric Hubbard postulates that part of the feral cat epidemic can be attributed to lack of awareness; that is, feline owners are simply uninformed regarding the necessity for spay and neuter programs. Even the most loving cat owners are unlikely to house an entire litter of unintended offspring, which in turn creates another generation of feral cats that will eventually reproduce in the same manner. The cyclical population growth can be addressed by the propagation of basic knowledge about the lifelong commitment that comes with cat adoption, and a critical part of that education revolves around the duty of fixing felines.
In terms of direct assistance, Nine Lives has partnered with the Humane Society to house several cats available for adoption directly within its café. This relieves pressure on the Humane Society by freeing up space in its shelters. By providing a temporary home for and assisting in the adoption of cats rescued by the Humane Society, Nine Lives is able to reduce the stray cat population in Indianapolis while also helping educate the public.
Nine Lives Cat Cafe operates as a for-profit social enterprise. One side of the business is structured as and functions just like a traditional cafe. Revenue generated from the sale of ethically and locally sourced coffee, tea and sweets is largely reinvested to support the other side of the business, the cat room. Each week, Nine Lives receives several cats from its partner, the Humane Society, to be kept in the cat room, separated entirely from the cafe segment to avoid contamination. Customers pay a small fee to spend time in the cat room, in order to somewhat offset the cost of upkeep and employee wages necessary for the feline section. All cats are available for adoption directly from Nine Lives. In this way, revenue is derived mainly from the cafe segment, while the social impact stems from the cat room where customers are educated about the feral cat problem in Indianapolis and offered the opportunity to interact with, learn more about, and potentially adopt their own feline companions.
Eric Hubbard says he is proud of the way his father-daughter enterprise has grown from its humble beginnings to truly make a traceable impact on the feral cat population problem in Indy. The cafe has been able to find homes for approximately three to four cats each week over the last two years, which, in turn, clears up space in the Humane Society shelter so that more cats can be safely rescued from the streets. In its first two years of operation, Nine Lives has orchestrated the adoption of over 325 cats, surpassing the Humane Society’s targeted figure of fifty per year more than three times over.
In addition, the cafe has been instrumental with regard to changing the culture surrounding the feral cat population in Indianapolis. Countless customers have left the shop with the knowledge that spaying and neutering is vital to controlling the feral cat population. Incredibly, there is still such a high demand for spending time in the cat room that the shop has a full reservation list nearly every day, even after two years of operation. Each customer that walks in the Nine Lives Cat Cafe leaves with a satisfied stomach, a healthy dose of feline care information, and perhaps even a furry, loving lifelong companion.
Feral Cat Statistics. FACE Animal Clinic. https://facespayneuter.org/spay-neuter/fees/ Retrieved Feb. 26, 2019.
Humane Society of Indianapolis. HSI. https://indyhumane.org/adoptable-cats/ Retrieved Feb. 26, 2019.
Nine Lives Cat Cafe. Nine Lives Cat Cafe. http://www.ninelivesindy.com Retrieved Feb. 26, 2019.