Bre Phelan’s journey to creating Felius Cat Café began with a visit to a cat café during a trip to New York with her husband.
Intrigued by the concept, she fell in love with the idea of combining a café with an open-concept cat shelter. Upon returning to Omaha, Nebraska, Phelan noticed a gap in her community—there was no dedicated space for people to come together, connect, and help rescue cats.
Inspired by the need to address the issue of feral cat overpopulation in Omaha, Phelan decided to bring the cat café concept to her hometown. She saw an opportunity to create a space where people could connect with rescue animals in a more relaxed and engaging environment than traditional shelters. The goal was not only to facilitate adoptions but also to educate the community about the importance of spaying, neutering, and humanely managing feral cat populations.
With an estimated 60,000 feral cats in Omaha alone, Phelan recognizes the urgency of the problem. Felius Cat Café aims to bridge the gap by providing a platform for hands-on volunteers to contribute to trapping, rescuing, fostering, and finding permanent homes for these cats. Their mission is to serve the underserved cats in the community, offering a unique experience for both potential adopters and cat enthusiasts.
Felius Cat Café operates as a non-profit, relying on the proceeds from the café to support their rescue operations and shelter. The café serves as a hub for the community, offering coffee, tea, and a chance to interact with rescue cats in a relaxed setting. Visitors can also pay to enter the cat playroom, where the cats roam freely.
“These cats feel at home—they’re relaxed, they’re able to bond and play with other cats,” Phelan explains. “This allows people to see their personalities more clearly in this type of environment as opposed to a cage where they may be isolated.”
Beyond being a place for potential adopters, Felius Cat Café became a sanctuary for individuals seeking animal therapy, stress relief, and relaxation. Groups like senior citizens, teenagers, and people looking for cost-effective therapy sessions frequent the café. Phelan and her team even venture into the community, offering trapped-neuter-return (TNR) services to address the feral cat population issue.
“If a community member reaches out to us and they have a colony of cats roaming around their property or a business, we’ll take some volunteers out there go trap the cats, and then with our vetting partner at Lone Tree Animal Clinic we’ll actually get them spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and then re-release them,” says Phelan.
The goal is to reduce populations of feral cats so that they no longer pose a threat to our community’s ecosystem. Feral cats are not a native species to the United States and are responsible for the deaths of around three million native birds each year, categorizing feral cats an invasive species.
“Feral cats are responsible for wiping out several species native to the ecosystems they live in, so as cat and animal lovers, we want to reach the responsible way of mitigating these consequences,” Phelan states.
As a volunteer-driven organization, Felius Cat Café faces challenges, particularly in recruiting and retaining volunteers. The need for foster homes is ever-present, and managing the various aspects of a small business, from finances to marketing, adds complexity. Still, Phelan finds fulfillment in the ever-changing nature of her work, embracing each day’s unique challenges.
Over time, Felius Cat Café has evolved and expanded, transitioning from being just an ordinary shelter to running its rescue operations and TNR services independently. The organization’s success has led to plans for relocating to a larger space in Dundee, one of the most collaborative and supportive neighborhoods in Omaha. This move marked a significant step in their journey, allowing them to increase their impact on rescue efforts and offer temporary housing for cats in urgent situations.
“I think the move is going to help us grow our impact and create a bigger sense of community ownership around cats that are living alongside everyone in our city,” beams Phelan.
Despite the challenges, Phelan finds immense satisfaction in helping cats in need, seeing them recover, and witnessing the positive impact her café has on the community. Her ultimate goal was to raise awareness of the overwhelming rescue needs in Omaha and encourage more people to donate, volunteer, and support local rescue organizations.
Felius Cat Café’s customer base spans a wide spectrum, from active adopters to animal advocates and tourists seeking an experiential visit. Their unique blend of coffee, cats, and community engagement attracts people from all walks of life.
“We have flight attendants that will come in when they’re laid over in Omaha, and we have people that travel from all over the state and country to come see us too which is really exciting to me,” Phelan boasts.
In the face of an overwhelmed rescue system in Omaha, Phelan’s vision for Felius Cat Café extends beyond its café walls. She seeks to build a supportive community, urging people to get involved and make a real difference in the lives of rescue cats. By fostering collaboration and education, Felius Cat Café aims to create a brighter future for cats in Omaha and inspire similar initiatives elsewhere.
“Seeing the joy that the cat room can bring to people is a wonderful side effect that I didn’t really expect, but watching people develop friendships with like-minded individuals there and really bond with cats in a way that they haven’t been able to otherwise has so been rewarding.”