As announced at the press conference on November 20th, the Vanderburgh Humane Society and the owners of River Kitty Cat Café have entered into a purchase agreement. The VHS has assumed all ownership and operations of River Kitty effective November 18, 2019!
River Kitty Cat Café at 226 Main Street opened in July of 2017 under the ownership of Annette Gries and Nancy Drake, two local cat lovers. They brought an international trend to Evansville shortly before it even reached major nearby cities like Chicago and Nashville. Cat cafes as an industry have pioneered the unique concept where patrons can interact with cats and enjoy refreshments. Sweets & savories are prepared in an area separated from the cats. Cat cafes are now popping up all over the U.S. The specifics of each café’s menu, preparation, feline residents, and layout are different. But the spirit of kitty comradery is the same.
Prior to opening, Gries and Drake approached the Vanderburgh Humane Society in 2016 about becoming the cat adoption partner. VHS team members were thrilled at the opportunity for the shelter’s cats to have an additional place they could go that would showcase them to the community, spread awareness of the VHS’ mission, and free up space in the shelter. That adoption partnership has flourished for the 2 ½ years the café has been open. As of Tuesday, November 19th, 387 cats have been adopted and 17 more currently reside there, bringing the total number of cats housed at RK up to more than 400.
Up until now, River Kitty was its own for-profit business. Gries and Drake exclusively managed all other areas of the company unrelated to the cats, including food & beverage, employees, finances, licensing, and operational procedures, as the owners. The Vanderburgh Humane Society leadership team will now manage all of those aspects, along with the care and adoption of the cats.
Life changes prompted the owners to begin considering the future of River Kitty. They say, “The sale to the Humane Society was the perfect outcome.” Gries and Drake appreciate all the support they have received from the community and fellow feline friends. They expect to continue volunteering at the café, where patrons can expect very few changes.
All current River Kitty employees and volunteers are remaining in place and are being on-boarded as VHS team members. The café will be operating as normal with the same team, hours, menu, merchandise, events, and social media presence. Beer & wine licensing has also been obtained so that those sales can continue. Cat adoptions will continue exactly the way they always have without interruption.
The business was sold with all interior contents also included, which means the community can expect the same warm and tranquil environment that River Kitty has always had. The cats’ care and routine (originally designed to mimic the care that VHS shelter cats receive) will stay the same so that they experience no disruption whatsoever. Their well-being is everyone’s top priority.
The VHS is only aware of one other cat café in the U.S. that was begun as a for-profit business and then taken over by its nonprofit animal welfare partner. (Most others are still separate entities, or began as nonprofit shelter programs to start with.) That café is Eat Purr Love Cat Café in Columbus, Ohio.
Vanderburgh Humane Society Development Coordinator Amanda Coburn says, “The VHS team is excited for this new chapter. There has been plenty of paperwork to do and it will take some time for us to get assimilated to running an offsite business alongside all of the other programs that we operate. But ultimately, River Kitty’s ‘new home’ under the VHS roof is going to benefit the organization and the animals for years to come, moving forward.”
The VHS would like to encourage the community to continue supporting River Kitty. Its success for the past 2 ½ years would not have been possible without their loyal paying customers and visitors. The public can support River Kitty in a number of ways by making paid reservations to visit with the cats in the RK Lounge at www.riverkittycatcafe.com, and purchasing a beverage & snack while you’re there. A wide variety of smoothies, coffees, teas, beer, and wine are available along with locally-made pastries & macarons.
River Kitty is also the perfect place to get your Christmas shopping done. Several varieties of shirts are available along with tree ornaments, holiday cat items, and more. The VHS team invites the community to Shop Small on Saturday, November 30th and also attend “A Downtown Christmas” on Saturday, December 7th.
River Kitty is open 11 am – 7 pm Tuesday, 11 am – 9 am Friday, 9 am – 9 pm Saturday, and 11 am – 4 pm Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Get details and make reservations at www.riverkittycatcafe.com or find them on Facebook & Instagram @riverkittycatcafe.
Please contact Amanda or Kendall at the information above to arrange photo opportunities or interviews.