Lovers of north Edmonton’s only cat café will have to find a new place to curl up with a coffee and a cat.
After two years of business, Paws the Cat Café will close its doors for good Sunday evening.
“My regulars, a lot of them are devastated that we’re closing,” said owner Nicole Niska.
“We’re a community. I’ve seen friendships start here, I’ve seen relationships start here. The number of first dates I’ve seen, we even had a marriage proposal.”
Despite her faithful regulars, Niska said the café has been struggling for months.
Business has been slow and it’s become increasingly difficult to pay the rent on their 109th Street storefront, she said.
It’s been difficult to compete with the other coffee houses, including Edmonton’s first cat café, the Cat Cafe on Whyte, Niska said.
“We really didn’t see the community support we needed,” she said.
“Edmontonians are very stuck in their ways. They get into habits,” Niska said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“Trying to attract them to something else, especially when you’re the second kid on the block, it’s tremendously difficult.”
Since Paws opened in December 2017, many of the anchor businesses on the block have closed as the number of cafés in the area crept up, Niska said.
“When we moved in there were more businesses open along our block and since then, there are so many empty lots, there is nothing drawing people north.”
A cat crossroads
Opening the business with her husband Mike Niska was a dream, she said. Niska had been working as a personal trainer for years but wanted to be her own boss.
After a trip to Seattle, they visited the city’s first cat café, Seattle Meowtropolitan and decided to open up their own feline-friendly coffee house.
“In my personal career, I was at a bit of a crossroads, I was ready to stop working long hours for everybody else and start working long hours for myself.
“And cats have always been a really important part of my life.”
The café helped more than 240 rescue cats find new homes. Their remaining feline residents will return to the Edmonton Humane Society’s adoption gallery, with the exception of Mason, the café’s mascot and “manager.”
“He’s going to retire,” Niska said.
“Mason is going to be relocating to a beautiful home out in the Hamptons where he will have a team of three human beings to wait on his every whim.”
As for Niska, she will be staying in the cat business. She will continue selling the café’s cat-themed merchandise online, at local markets and special events.
And having secured a diploma in cat psychology and feline behaviour, she plans to put her skills as a professional cat wrangler to good use.
“I would like to figure out how I can continue to help people develop better relationships with their cats.”