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Article: Owners of Vancouver's Cat-Only Store Happy Cat Share Tips on How to Get Cat People into Your Pet Store

Owners of Vancouver's Cat-Only Store Happy Cat Share Tips on How to Get Cat People into Your Pet Store

Meet Happy Cat Vancouver, an all-cat supply store in Canada dedicated to making all cats happy and healthy — through nutrition, enrichment, and understanding.
We've loved watching the launch and growth of Happy Cat — so far, through Instagram only — and are thrilled to have them as a retail partner.
We asked owners Nina and Rose to share what they know and have learned about getting cat people into your store!

What are your tips for getting cat people into your store?

I think the number one thing we would recommend for stores that cater to dogs and cats is - give cats more space! When working out our plan to open Happy Cat, we consistently noticed that in other stores it was 80% dog stuff to 20% cat stuff and there are reasons for that of course (dogs owners often spend more, dog stuff is 'bigger') but cat people don't want to feel like they are the second thought when stores choose what products to carry. Same as dog people, they want to be excited by what they see, and also see new products.
Finding smaller independent suppliers creating innovative products is a great way to keep cat products fresh and interesting for cat customers. Focus on ways that people can enrich their cats lives, from exciting toys to scratchers, beds and furniture. Offer more variety in the cat food you offer, with a balance of different proteins, focussing on high quality and grain-free! And train staff on basic nutrition for cats!

What are some of the methods and resources you've used to train your staff on all things cat?

Well, this is an easy one! Our staff is just two people! Rose is our resident nutrition nerd who went to nutrition school for humans but realized that she was more passionate about pet nutrition :) She has worked in the pet supply industry for a while and has gained tonnes of knowledge about cat nutrition from reading everything she can get her hands on. We would recommend that the first step in training staff on nutrition is to start with the actual brands and food that you currently sell and get to know those products.
Look at the ingredients and analyze what is in them! Look up company information. Look at where their products are manufactured and how they are manufactured. Get to know what products are high protein, what are low protein, which ones are best for older cats - what about cats with allergies? Are those foods pates, shreds, stews? Look at recommended serving amounts so you can advise customers on how many cans their cats require in a day to be nutritionally fulfilled.
Nina is our behavior and enrichment nerd. She has been the manager of Vancouver's cat cafe, Catfe for over two years and in that time over 450 cats have passed through her care. Much of her knowledge has been gained from those experiences of getting to know and caring for so many cats with their unique qualities and needs. She is also a huge Jackson Galaxy fan and would highly recommend his book Total Cat Mojo. But there are also many many cat behavior resources out in the world to absorb. Observe the cats in your life! Cats are our passion so it's really a joy to learn and keep learning. We will be creating our own guides to cat care soon!

What are your tips for engaging cat customers digitally?

Cat people are on the internet! Dogs have the dog park, the internet is the "cat park". Appeal to cat consumers online, and through social media, but with humor and fun (SO IMPORTANT, don't be boring, cos having a cat isn't ;) ).

What were some of the activities and things you did during your launch event?

We gave away a bunch of stuff! We had a prize wheel that everyone could spin to win some food, catnip or a toy! Vegan cupcakes for humans and sardines for cats.

What are your tips on selecting the best cat food options? Can you go more into that?

To keep it simple our tips are:
  • Grain-free!
  • Raw is best, but wet food is the next best!
  • Human grade ingredients 
  • A varied diet of different proteins
  • No dry kibble where possible
  • Single-ingredient treats

What's your biggest, specific Instagram marketing tip?

Photos of cats do way better than a picture of a can of food! Except it has to be real - no stock photos, no fancy branded photos, and don't just repost memes ;) Cultivate posts with purrsonality, humor and with a recognizable "voice" and original ideas.

According to your site, we see you have workshops and events coming soon -- what do you have planned?

So much! A big part of our vision is creating a community space for people to learn. We will host workshops from the basics of caring for cat, to crafting for your cats and more. One of our biggest passions is educating people in why cats should be kept indoors, and how you can enrich an indoor cats life so they are fulfilled and content. I've heard too many stories of cats meeting terrible ends on the street and it breaks my heart every time.
Encourage adventurous cats to come into the store (but only if you can guarantee a safe and secure space, careful when mixing dogs and cats together!) and give them free rein. Offer a good range of harnesses and adventure gear like backpacks. People are more and more likely to take their cats out supervised on a leash which we absolutely encourage, especially if the alternative is giving cats outdoor access unsupervised.

What have been some of your best-selling items and categories so far?

One of our biggest sellers so far is the fantastic NVR Miss litterbox! It's simple and practical and pretty genius.
Next is harnesses! We are thrilled to help people harness train their cats, especially young cats, as we know that if people can take their cats out on harnesses it is safe and life-enriching!
We have also sold a lot of pins of a cat holding a knife in its mouth 🤔

We love that you have like a coin-operated cat toy thing outside your store -- like a gumball machine but with cat toys! What sort of toys are in there? And do you have any other fun stuff like that inside the store that we can't see from your 'gram?

The gumball machine was the first thing we purchased for the store! It's got mice, springs and balls in it and has provoked many children into having meltdowns on our sidewalk as their parents yell "ITS FOR CATS, NOT KIDS" haha. But we think it really sets the tone for our store - it is a fun space! Colour is important to us, no boring beiges/browns and lots of plants (but only cat-safe ones!) The toy wall has a shelf at the perfect height for cats to reach up and browse at. Our cat themed gift boutique is growing steadily and we are also growing our book selection! Pretty often you can find a cat climbing around the shelving and although we currently don't have a store cat, we are open to the idea... :)

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