Business

Pet cafes a growing trend in Metro Vancouver

The cafe concept has since evolved to accommodate owners who wish to bring their pets inside for a treat.

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A new business concept is gaining popularity across Metro Vancouver to accommodate the growing numbers of dog, cat and rabbit owners who treat their furry pets as family members — pet cafés.

The latest popped up Tuesday morning in Richmond. Milk and Honey offers people a place to work and dine beside their animals for a fee.

“We saw a need for a business like this in Vancouver, especially since fall and winter come with a lot of rain, and indoors is the place to be,” said Annie Lo, who manages the café.

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To comply with provincial regulations that don’t permit live animals at food establishments, Milk and Honey split its 3,200 square feet of commercial space into two separate areas. The lounge, Mother’s House, is where customers can purchase food or beverages as well as pre-made pet-friendly cakes and muffins. Next door, Father’s House is where patrons can bring their orders, sit down to eat and work beside their pets.

Pets of all kinds are welcome at Father’s House if they are attached to a leash. Use of the lounge costs $25.

“Customers have all-day access to the space and can come and go as they please,” said Lo, who noted that the membership includes printing, copying and scanning services.

pet cafe
Last year, Shannon O’Reilly opened Cloverdale’s The Dawg Café, responding to a growing demand for indoor spaces where dog owners could commune with their pets outside of home, pictured here with Japmeet Kathuria and Goku. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10105226A

Additionally, Father’s House has five private rooms — with capacity ranging from three to 15 people — that can be rented out by the hour for co-working with prices starting at $50.

Metro Vancouver’s burgeoning pet café scene did not start as a for-profit venture.

In December 2015, Michelle Furbacher opened the region’s first pet café on the second floor of Vancouver’s International Village mall to showcase adoptable rescue cats to prospective owners.

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“Running an animal café like mine is a labour of love and not a lucrative business,” Furbacher said. “If you really love animals, you can make your life taking care of them and helping them find homes.”

A portion of the café’s profit goes to the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which provides the rescue felines through its Drive For Lives program.

Other proceeds go toward taking care of the 20 cats it provides shelter for, which includes veterinary costs.

Adhering to provincial health regulations, the café’s food preparation area is in a different space from its lounge where cats can be visited.

“We just make sure that the space where the food or drink gets prepared is completely separate from where the cats are free-roaming,” Furbacher said.

In 2021 Furbacher opened the region’s first Bunny Cafe in East Vancouver, using the same concept.

The pet café concept has since evolved to accommodate pet owners who can bring their pets inside for a treat.

pets
Chelsea Refuse with Tootsie inside The Bunny Cafe in Vancouver. The Bunny Cafe is one of many pet-friendly businesses around Metro Vancouver that have built pets into their business model. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Last year, Shannon O’Reilly opened Cloverdale’s The Dawg Cafe, responding to a growing demand for indoor spaces where dog owners could commune with their pets outside of home.

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“The pet business has exploded in the last several years,” said O’Reilly, who has operated a dog grooming, daycare and retail business — Uptown Dawgs — for the past two decades in Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.

“Pets are viewed differently with fewer being kept outside and fewer families deciding to have kids, pets have become more like four-legged children.”

The dog café allows people to sit in chairs next to their canines while they enjoy dog-friendly refreshments, including smoothies, sundaes, lattes and frappes.

“The location has been getting busier as more people find out about it,” O’Reilly said. Prices for food and drink start at $3.95.

“To keep the food preparation space for canine products, our food and drink options are mainly for dogs and come with topping choices from sardines to beef liver,” O’Reilly said.

Tea or coffee, from an automated machine, is served to pet owners at no cost.

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