By Tara September
Tokyo, New York City and now Southwest Florida.
Located in Gulf Coast Town Center, Cattyshack Café brings the popular cat café trend here to Lee County while saving thousands of local feline lives in the process — 1,271 to be exact since it opened its doors in June 2020.
What is a Cat Café?
It’s a traditional coffee shop and lounge on one side with a separate area (the Mulligan Room) dedicated to interacting with adoptable rescue cats and kittens in a modern and fun setting with lots of cat furniture and toys.
Lee County is home to over 250,000 feral cats!
Founders Andrew Townsend and Amber Redfern saw an opportunity to solve a big problem within the pet industry.
“We wanted to have a business that had a strong social mission,” said Townsend, a Florida Gulf Coast University alum. “And I knew I wanted to combine it with animals, because you’ve got to love what you do, and cats are absolutely the best. I love all animals, but cats are the ones that have had the biggest impact on me.”
According to Townsend, feral cat colonies have been on the rise with up to 250,000 cats in Lee County alone.
Their solution? Cattyshack Café, a “social enterprise” that provides a home for adoptable cats, which would have been otherwise overlooked at an animal shelter. This allows cats to roam free, socialize and show their true personalities to those interested in adopting. The cafe takes in about 15 to 25 cats at a time from the overcrowded Gulf Coast Humane Society.
“They are 100 percent rescue cats that were found on the streets or on kill lists at other shelters,” said Townsend. “We are saving a ton of lives, and by getting the cats off of the streets, they can’t be reproducing like crazy as they normally would be.”
A cat café not only benefits local animal shelters, but people who could use a “kitty fix” like college kids and renters who can’t have pets or tourists missing their pets at home. Families looking to adopt can see how their children interact with the cats before committing. Bonus— hanging out at the cat cafe can relive stress!
“I love that Cattyshack Café lets you have some interaction with the cat you want to adopt before being able to do so. It’s important to feel some type of connection when adopting, and this is the perfect place to get quality cat time,” said Cattyshack volunteer Grace Labbe, a resident of Estero’s Rookery Pointe. “My favorite part about volunteering is getting to spend time with the cats who are scared and unsure of their environment. I love just sitting there petting them to let them know they are in a safe place. Cats are such amazing animals, and being there makes my week! I always say it’s better than Disney World.”
FGCU Comes to the Rescue
Townsend credits FGCU’s Runway Program with helping him validate his give-back business idea and for making his dream a reality.
“I knew I wanted to start a business, and I knew I was going to need some help,” said Townsend, who graduated with a degree in business management in 2018. “After I graduated, I went right back and would hang out at the Institute for Entrepreneurship almost every day, and they were the ones that introduced me to people in the community, were my mentors—essentially they gave me the confidence to go forward with this.”
Two years later, the university is now honoring Townsend with a 2022 FGCU Lutgert College of Business Soaring Eagle alumni award for his outstanding business and volunteer achievements.
Feline Fine and Sippin’ Wine
Not looking to adopt but cat café curious? No problem. You can still come in for some kitty snuggles, playtime and emotional therapy. Online reservations are recommended for the interactive Mulligan Room, but you can still spy on the feline residents anytime while sipping on a cat-themed drink from the barista, munching on a “catified” treat from their bakery or kicking back with a wine or craft beer from their menu of curated and unique brews.
“We have people who come in everyday for breakfast sandwiches in the morning or coffee who are not necessarily here for the cats,” Townsend said. “I also spend an absurd amount of time looking for beers with fun labels that look really cool or hard–to–find cans, and I think people really appreciate that.”
“My favorite part about the cafe is the atmosphere,” Labbe adds. “The staff is very knowledgeable on the menu as well as the cats and adoption process. It’s always fun to see what clever and creative menu item names and seasonal options that they come up with. It’s one of the only non-corporate coffee shops you can go to in the area, and we love supporting local.”
Monthly Cattyshack Events
Caturday Play Time for all ages at 9 a.m. on select Saturdays for families visiting with children under the age of 7
Trivia Tuesdays – Starting at 6 p.m. once a month, $20 per person includes Mulligan Room entry and three rounds of trivia with the cats, plus prizes and drink specials
Cats and Mats — What’s better than enjoying some yoga in a room filled with cats? The session is suitable for all levels, and after the session, all participants will have additional time to mingle with the adoptable cats. Guests only need to BYOM (Bring Your Own Mat).
Cattyshack After Dark – 18+ only. Experience the Mulligan Room with the lights dimmed and the cats ready to play during their last hour on Friday and Saturday nights.
Plus, look for special seasonal events each month. Check their online event listings at or follow along on their Instagram @CattyshackCafe
Come out to Miromar Outlets the first Thursday of every month for Mall Mutts — a partnership between the outlet mall, Gulf Coast Humane Society and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Humane Society volunteers walk adoptable dogs around the mall, hand out informational flyers and invite shoppers to join them for coffee, donuts and an up-close-and-personal visit with the dogs at the sheriff’s Community Outreach Center at Miromar Outlets. Since the program started in February 2021, all of the Mall Mutts have found forever homes!