Is this bad for the animals? The short answer is no. The long answer is, all shelter experiences are stressful for animals but colony environments allow adoptable animals to explore an entire room designed for animal enrichment, as opposed to being closed in a cage all day long. We're also working closely with our partner rescues to create rules for visiting the animal rooms, including age and supervision requirements. For example, children under the age of five will not be allowed to visit our bunnies, and children sixteen and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Each group including children under sixteen must have one adult for every two children. Each visit will be supervised by a trained member of our staff and visits will have a 15-minute "cool down" period between them. There will also always be spaces for our resident animals to have privacy whenever they want to. We will be limiting the number of visitors hourly and daily in order to minimize the stress on the resident animals. Serving coffee and other cafe items ensures that we'll always be able to prioritize the welfare of our animals over income from animal room visits while also paying our staff living wages and keeping the lights on! We're animal people first, coffee lovers second, and business people third.
What will the kitty and bunny rooms be like? When a new kitty resident is brought to The Hop Along Cafe, they will be placed into a large acclimation crate with a litter box, toys, and food until they’ve had enough time to adjust to being in the space and to the other cats! For some cats, they’ll have no issue adjusting and might only acclimate for a few hours or days, but the crates will be large and comfortable enough for cats to take all the time they need to fully acclimate. These crates will also allow us to separate anyone in case of spats or behavioral concerns. It also gives us space to confine kitties if we need to observe them more closely for any medical or behavioral reasons.
Once the kitties are settled in, they’ll have free-range access to our colony room. Our colony room will be designed with the specific needs of cats in mind, with plenty of perches, scratching posts, and toys! The cats will always have access to fresh water and dry food, which will be supplemented with wet food and snacks! We will have plenty of comfortable spaces for our visitors to sit and relax while socializing with the cats, with a focus on ensuring accessible and inclusive design for bodies of all sizes.
While rabbits can live communally under the right circumstances, our rabbits will be housed in bonded pairs or bonded groups of three. All groups of rabbits will be housed in the same room, split into roomy sections to ensure that unbonded rabbits do not have direct contact. The amount of space each rabbit grouping will have will be directly tied to how many rabbit groups we have, but will never be so small as to negatively impact the welfare and happiness of the resident rabbits. When we have fewer groups, the rabbits will be given even more space and if we ever have only one pair or group of rabbits they will be given the entire space.
Our rabbits will have constant access to fresh timothy hay and water, fresh greens throughout the day, and plenty of space to find privacy when they need it. Each space will also provide rabbit-safe seating for visitors, plenty of enrichment and comfort items, and more than enough space for our buns to binky to their heart’s content.
While rabbits and cats can live together under the right circumstances, we will never allow our bunnies and kitties to have contact with each other.
In order to ensure the cleanliness of our animal rooms, we have created hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning checklists and will be hiring a professional team to do a deep, sanitizing clean of the entire cafe once a month. We will also be enlisting the help of quality mechanical air-filtration methods and pet-safe plants to naturally clean the air.
In order to ensure the safety of our resident animals and visitors, each room will be staffed by at least one staff member during visiting hours. Our staggered visits will also allow staff to spot clean between each group and refresh food and water for our animals. We will also have cameras in all of the animal visitation spaces in order to ensure the safety of the animals overnight. While the animals will be attended to every day, cameras will also allow us to review footage if we suspect any behavioral or health issues are happening at night!
Our maximum capacity will be nine bunnies and approximately fifteen kitties. We will not be accepting surrenders on location but will have information readily available for anyone who might contact us regarding the need for rehoming or surrendering their animal, including a list of pet food pantries and shelters that allow residents to accept animals. We will have emergency plans in place in partnership with our partner rescues for what happens if someone dumps or attempts to dump animals on our doorsteps.
While we hope that all of our residents will find their furever homes, our goal isn’t to adopt out as many cats or bunnies as quickly as possible but to provide quality homes for as long as they need to find their furever spot. If any of our previous colony cats or buns are returned to the partner rescue, we’d happily take them back as soon as we have space for them. We’ve also told our partner rescues that if there is a semi-feral or extremely shy kitty who could benefit from being in a colony space like ours but who isn’t necessarily adoptable that we’d happily make space for them. This means that eventually, we may acquire permanent residents!
What about your beverage and food options? It is our mission to bring together our commitment to sustainable and equitable food systems with a menu that highlights the quality and ethically sourced beverages and snacks. We also hope to partner with local mobile food trucks to bring a variety to the cafe (if you’re a local restaurant or food truck interested in partnering, please email us at email@example.com!). We plan to apply for the Sustainable Pittsburgh evaluation process and are committed to reducing our carbon, emissions, and waste whenever possible. We plan to accept EBT, cash, and cards and will also provide options for those who would like to pay it forward on a future coffee or snack for someone in need.
Our cafe will be a full-service coffee and beverage bar, featuring a selection of quality non-alcoholic options. We will be serving locally-roasted De Fer coffee beans; Man Eating Tiger Matcha, Turmeric, and Elderberry teas; and specialty crafted seasonal drinks. We hope to curate a menu that offers quality for everyone’s taste and budget. Feeling classic? Try our hot roast. Feeling adventurous? Check out the strawberry egg cream. And if you’re looking to impress your date, might we recommend a non-alcoholic tea-mosa with a fruit garnish or a Ritual non-alcoholic whiskey on the rocks?
We hope to open a small bodega-style grocery section in the cafe and really want to offer locally-sourced produce from independent farms. This is likely something that won’t happen right when we open but is in the plans to coincide with the next spring growing season,
With the help of this Kickstarter, we plan to have every staff member certified in allergy awareness and cross-contamination prevention and plan to offer delicious and quality certified gluten-free, vegan, and kosher options.
While beverages that are not in glass containers will be welcome in the animal visitation room, food may only be consumed in the beverage bar portion of the cafe.
Why non-alcoholic beverages? There's nothing wrong with enjoying a cold brew on a hot day, but for those of us who don't drink, whether for cultural, medical, or whatever reasons, there are very few spaces to spend time, kick back, and recharge that don't center alcohol. Traditional mocktail experiences simply replace the booze in recipes with a non-alcoholic substitute, but we seek to go above and beyond with our drink menu, building non-pretentious drinks that stand on their own, whether they're botanical, tea-based, or just a good, simple mug of joe.
Will you provide any educational resources? We plan to provide educational resources, online guides, and workshops for potential adopters, members of the public, youth organizations, and really anyone else who would want to lend us their ears. We want to provide a realistic and whole expectation for what pet ownership should look like. We aim to provide digestible, straightforward information about what caring for cats, rabbits, small animals, and anything in between looks like; the standards, the do's and don'ts, the stuff that "seems obvious" to some and was never considered for others.
There is a need for small animal care and welfare to not only be talked about explicitly but also demonstrated, which can be through how we function as a business and how we provide comfortable, welcoming environments for the animals in our care. Just by being open and having visitors, we offer an opportunity for those who aren’t ready to fully commit, don't want to, or can't currently accommodate a pet, to hang out with animals commitment-free, while also learning about them in the process.
That all sounds great, but how are you making this happen? When it comes to money, we've secured a private loan of $20,000 with a generous repayment deferment, emptied our minimal personal savings accounts, and profited $200 in merchandise sales in our first month of fundraising t-shirt pre-orders. We had a successful pop-up event with Trash Cat Rescue at the Alternate Histories Gallery in Greenfield in early August where we averaged $13 per transaction in sales with a limited cafe menu. We just put a deposit on our physical retail location and are moving into our construction and permitting phases. We’ve also been collecting resumes from interested parties and have secured relationships with many of our wholesale partners, including De Fer Coffee, Chez Lapin Candles, Fat Cat Chocolates, Man Eating Tiger Tea, and have a few other partnerships in the works. This Kickstarter is going to allow us to invest in quality equipment, extra training for our staff, and extend our rescue and foster capacities significantly.
We are currently not able to accept surrenders but can provide help with rehoming buns. Please email photos, a bio, and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will uplift your adoptable bun on our social media. We hope to be able to accept surrenders by January 2023.