Future of Boston's first cat cafe uncertain
Purr Cat Cafe's Facebook has been the scene of "drama" between the business, partners and employees and now owner Diane Kelly isn't sure what's next.
Update Oct. 8, 10:30 a.m.: Purr held an open house this past weekend to invite those interested in the cat cafe and to quell concerns about the establishment, though there is still no planned opening date. Watch the video here.
All eyes have been on Boston’s first cat cafe lately, but unfortunately, not because of any cute kittens.
Purr Cat Cafe, which sparked intense interest when first announced, was supposed to open in September, but doesn’t yet have any cats or an opening date in sight.
The partnerships between the business and its employees, local animal organizations and others have frayed — unfolding publically in a series of Facebook posts that, even though they’ve been deleted, live on in an Imgur album and within Reddit threads.
After disputes over the animal’s welfare that divulged into attacking Boston’s Forgotten Felines (BFF) for not being a “dependable” business partner, Purr owner Diane Kelly said things got out of hand, and now she’s worried about the future of her business.
“I considered selling the business because I’m so disheartened, but I don’t want to give up,” Kelly told Metro. At the time, Purr’s Facebook page was taken down, possibly because of the negative comments and rating it received, Kelly said. It is now back up.
Kelly said things started to unwind when BFF, previously a Purr partner to provide cats that would be available for adoption through the cafe, brought three cats to the location in August.
Purr’s basement is meant to be a refuge for the cats to get away from the crowds and have solitude, Kelly said, but animal experts said that it wasn’t ready for the felines; Purr’s former general manager, Kat Grace, shared an image of a nearly empty basement online. Kelly said she had enough things, like toys, crates and food. Grace said she herself spent $300 of her own money on cat trees, pillows and more to try to get Purr ready.
Ultimately, BFF took the cats back, both Grace and Kelly confirmed. When contacted, BFF said that it is not involved with the Purr Cat Cafe and has no other comment.
The end of that partnership led to the end of another with a company that was going to supply cat furniture. After “everything started to go south” on Purr’s Facebook, they said they would no longer work with her, Kelly said.
“I take full responsibility, I didn’t handle [Facebook] comments very well,” Kelly said. “I took them personally, and said some things that were not very nice … which is not a good thing to do when you own a business, but I’m learning.”
Grace, who resigned, said that “it’s tough to say” what happened with Purr, because “the situation has been kind of grim for a long time, and only recently has it gone public.”
To her — a feline training and behavioral specialist — it’s less about the personal attacks or “unprofessional” PR from Kelly, and more about the care of the animals.
“I think Boston is a generally tough area to get [a cat cafe] to work in the first place. I do think it’s a viable idea, but I don’t think it was executed properly,” she told Metro. “To go into animal centric business with minimal animal welfare background is, I think, a mistake.”
Kelly admitted that she’s not an animal welfare expert — she worked in the medical field for 28 years — but said that she spent a lot of time and effort researching, visiting cat cafes in other states and speaking with their owners, and making connections in that world.
“I do love animals,” Kelly said. “I’ve spent my entire life savings and sold three houses to do this, I spent two years to do it, why would I open a cat cafe if I didn't love animals and wanted to help them?”
Kelly couldn't say exactly what Purr's next steps are.
“Everything just fell apart so quickly," she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to pull it together.”