A purrfect cafe to paws and recharge

Chantelle Gaudette, founder of Yay for Strays Cat Cafe, holding an orange and white feline friend

Local cat enthusiasts can rejoice. A cafe committed to helping their feline friends find a loving home is opening to much public anticipation. 

Yay for Strays Cat Cafe is slated to open its doors at 1326 Ottawa St. in Windsor on Feb. 24. 

The journey to Windsor’s first ever cat cafe began six years ago for owner Chantelle Gaudette. She found inspiration in the business concept after learning about cat cafes on an episode of the television show Dragon’s Den. “I found out the history behind them and what they were about. I was immediately in love,” she said. 

There are only a handful of cat cafes scattered throughout Ontario. Cat cafes are a relatively new concept that originated in Taiwan in 1998 and has since gained popularity for pet adoptees as well as people for whom pet ownership is not a possibility. Psychologists suggest that interacting with animals can be calming and offset depression and anxiety.

“We’ll be helping the cats and that’s what I want to be doing,” said Gaudette. 

Gaudette developed a love for cats at a young age, and even considered a career as a veterinarian. “They’ve been my passion since I was a little girl on my dad’s farm, playing with the kittens in little apple baskets,” she said. 

Yay for Strays Cat Cafe offers cafe staples as well as cat themed merchandise for sale. The cafe will also feature a vast library of 4,000 cat books as well as board games for patrons to enjoy. Gaudette has other plans for the cafe include hosting events such as movie nights and yoga.  

Yay For Strays Cat Cafe promises a clean, safe and fun environment for patrons and cats. “They’re in a space where you can hang out with the cats and play with them. It’s going to be an environment that is non-caged,” said Gaudette. 

When Gaudette began planning for the business, she was initially met with some pushback from the City of Windsor and Windsor Essex County Health Unit as a cat cafe was a new concept that posed concerns over serving food in an environment with animals.  

Gaudette says there are two distinct rooms, one for the cafe and the other for the cats, which ensure high standards of hygiene are met. Food and beverages served in the cafe space can be brought into the cat lounge, however. Patrons can also choose to pay an admission to just visit the cat lounge. 

The cats will be provided by the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, and all cats will be up for adoption with 100 per cent of the adoption fee going back to the shelter.  

Gaudette’s relationship with the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society began when the Windsor native moved back to the city four years ago and began volunteering. She built a relationship with their team, and they supported the idea of the cafe and its goal of connecting people with cats searching for their forever home. 

Yay For Strays Cat Cafe is a dream come true for Gaudette. “I just had to push for it, go for it.” She advises entrepreneurs to “… stick with your passion. My passion has always been animals.”

Yay for Strays Cat Cafe received advisory services from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre. Become a client and receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.

Interior of Yay for Stray Cat Cafe showcasing its vast collection of books
Interior of Yay for Stray Cat Cafe showcasing a seating area and interactive cat toys
Interior of Yay for Stray Cat Cafe showcasing some of their products for sale