Carla Forrest has combined her passion for rescuing cats with her entrepreneurial spirit to create The Frisky Cat Café, a place where coffee-lovers can meet cats and kittens available for adoption. The business is located at 1092 S. Ponce De Leon Blvd., St. Augustine.
The Frisky Cat Café is a unique idea. Tell me about it.
I have always wanted to do rescue work and have my own kitten rescue. I am not good at fundraising, and I was trying to figure out a way to create a cause-focused business. People are always bringing their kids or themselves to cat adoption events, not because they want a kitty, but just to visit. So, why not capitalize on the visitors? They do not have to adopt and are still welcome to visit.
When did you open?
We opened the second week of March and then had to close two weeks later. We reopened in the middle of May.
What will people find in your cat lounge?
My café vibe is a relaxing minimalistic space that feels oh so luxe with our furry friends, Nordic styles, comfy velvet furniture, furry pillows, floor futons and coffee tables. Our café cats are skilled furry therapists. Our customers meet, play and cuddle with highly social, pawsome cat residents and adoptable rescue cats by purchasing a cat experience.
What do you serve in your café?
We serve Bold Bean Coffee Roasters espresso drinks, teas, smoothies, frappes and flavored lemonade. We will be serving beer and wine in the next two weeks. We also serve macarons and other pastries. We hope to bring in more breakfast and lunch fare, but we do not have enough customers to sell our full menu.
How many adoptions have you been able to do?
I am so proud of our adoptions — we are averaging 10 to 12 per week. Our kitties grow up in foster care and then come to the café where they learn to socialize with people and other cats.
How many cats have you had spayed or neutered, and what did it cost?
The rescue has spayed and neutered over 300 cats and kittens, costing me over $20,000 in surgery alone.
How does the café help you meet those expenses?
A cat café is where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises. The coffee café is a separate space from the cat lounge and all food is prepared and packaged off-site. Customers will pay a $10 donation per hour to spend time in our cat lounge or watch our cats from the café window. Our cat experience allows us to provide a cozy environment and a unique therapeutic experience for cat lovers while sustaining a stimulating and comfortable home for lovable homeless cats until they are adopted. Proceeds from adoptions go to Small Lives Matter Kitten Rescue, opened in May of 2019 to help save underage kittens and unwanted adult cats whose lives are ending at our local shelter.
How did you become interested in this line of work?
During the 2018 kitten season, I fostered kittens for Animal Control and Protectives Services, the Jacksonville Humane Society and kittens coming to me by friends. I nursed over 80 kittens back to life. Some came to me sick and weak. I spent nights keeping them warm and alive. In that year I had one litter that was fading from life. I tried to get them help, and I took two very sick kittens to an emergency veterinary clinic to get fluids and medicine to stop their diarrhea, and the clinic said I was involved in a hopeless journey and kittens so young without mother die 50% of the time. They gave up on them. I didn’t. I saved all but one tiny life. In the following year, I fostered two fat and happy 2½-week-old babies who suddenly got diarrhea. They desperately needed lifesaving medication. When brought back to the shelter for veterinary care, they were euthanized. That was my last day as a foster. It became my mission to save as many as I could while working as a senior vice president at a worldwide bank. These three tiny deaths changed my life. It reminded me of my truth I had forgotten in corporate world. I love, love, love animals and believe that my purpose in life is to care for tiny lives that matter to me. I placed 68 kittens in permanent homes using Rehome, an online service offered by Adopt-a-Pet.com and The Petco Foundation. I knew I could save more kittens if I expanded my operation to a nonprofit rescue and a team of fosters who cared as much as I did. Small Lives Matter Kitten Rescue began operations in August 2019 and we have saved 96 cats and kittens in just four short months. We are highly experienced in providing clinical care for neonate nursing kittens and litters under eight weeks of age in our in-home nursery. We syringe feed, bottle feed, administer lifesaving medical care to kitten orphans. And I love it. This is my dream.