Keyboards clack, mugs clink against their saucers and an espresso machine hums in the background. On any given day, patrons fill the tables lining the walls. But upon closer inspection, this downtown Omaha café is more than just your typical coffeeshop.
For one thing, most of its regulars have four paws and a tail.
Introducing Felius, Omaha’s first cat café and adoption center.
Founded in the fall of 2018 by Bre Phelan, Felius offers a space for cat lovers and coffee drinkers to converge. Just like the sign on the front window reads: “There are like a bunch of cats in here.”
At any given time as many as 10 cats may call the cozy coffeeshop home. Separated from the coffee bar by a wall of glass and small handwashing station, the café’s resident felines are all up for adoption.
The organization partners with the neighboring Omaha Wags to Riches, a nonprofit foundation that helps abandoned animals find a forever ho me.
“This is a really great way for them to showcase some of the cats that have that personality that is suited for a cat café and get them socialized,” Phelan says. “It’s been amazing to see how fast some of the cats go from being scared to two days later rubbing all over everybody.”
Felius partners with the nearby Muglife Coffee for all of the café’s caffeine needs, and Phelan says that in the small shop has already started to attract its own regulars.
“We have a few couples that pop in pretty regularly to get coffee,” she says. “This amazing older couple used to be regulars at Muglife but now they’re regulars of ours.”
While Phelan spends her nine-to-five time in the corporate world, she’s always been an animal lover and knew that someday she would find a way to work with animals.
“I started hearing more about the cat cafés that are happening in Japan and Asia,” she says. “I really fell in love with the idea and thought ‘Wow, Omaha could really use one of these.’ A lot of shelters aren’t innovating on the type of experience these animals are having when it comes to rescue.”
After connecting with a college friend who had started a pet business of her own, Phelan says the pieces quickly started to fall into place.
“I wondered what it was going to take to have a full-time job and start this business,” she says. “It took a lot of relying on people that are experts in areas I’m not.”
From ideation to the construction of the space, Phelan says that all was said and done in the span of about a year and a half.
Today customers who visit Felius have the option to grab a coffee—lid required—and spend some quality time with the cats who live there. Cat playtime can be reserved online in advance, but walk-ins are also welcome.
Ultimately the goal of the experience is to get the café’s feline residents adopted. In the time since the café opened, Felius has already helped facilitate more than 60 adoptions. In addition to its partnership with Wags to Riches, the no-kill shelter and advocacy group partners with the local humane society to ensure that every feline goes to a fitting home.
Phelan says she’s also extremely thankful for the group of more than 100 volunteers who have helped sustain and promote the mission behind Felius. Volunteers sign up to do everything from helping during events to monitoring the cat playroom during business hours.
After more than six months in business Phelan says Felius has found its rhythm.
“It’s a learning curve, but I’m lucky enough to have a staff of people passionate about what we do and who really care about the animals on top of being amazing baristas. That’s not always an easy combination to find.”
As the nonprofit continues to grow Phelan says she would love to expand operations and has considered plans for a second, larger location or even a mobile cat adoption unit that the café can use for pop-ups and events.
Her experience opening the city’s first cat café has also taught her not only about running a business but a bit more about herself.
“I think I’m learning to go with the flow a little more,” Phelan says. “I’m such a control freak and want everything perfect. But you have to let go of that when you work with animals.
“Cats are going to pee on stuff. They’re going to throw up. They’re not always going to behave how you want them to. You just can’t control that.”