East Vancouver's lovingly built Bunny Cafe a North American first for orphaned rabbits and the people who love them
The Georgia Straight recently took a trip to the new Bunny Cafe in East Vancouver and spoke to owner Michelle Furbacher. It is located at 1696 Venables Street on the southwest corner of Commercial Drive. Reservations are recommended, and be sure to read the safety protocols before you visit.
When did you first come up with the idea to open the Bunny Cafe?
On a whim, I drove out to UBC one night when I saw that Rabbitats Rescue was hosting a "meet 'n treat" pop-up at the school.... I had never spent much time around rabbits previously, and when I walked in and saw a room full of bunnies gently hopping about and climbing all over peoples' laps, I just felt so delighted. They were so gentle and sweet (and yet some of them were adorably insistent about snagging the lettuce treats that visitors were feeding them).... It just felt like a magical experience being surrounded by bunnies.
I had opened Catfe—Western Canada's first cat cafe—in the International Village mall in Chinatown almost three years previously, and I remember returning to the cafe that evening and remarking how short all the cats' ears seemed! Already at this time I was thinking, imagine opening a bunny cafe too, how cool would that be! I'd introduced myself to Sorelle, the president of Rabbitats, that evening, and suggested that maybe we could try arranging some kind of bunny pop-up event at Catfe for Easter.
As fate would have it, about a month later, the rescue we were partnered with at the time was suddenly unable to provide us with any cats. I contacted Sorelle to see if they wanted to try doing the pop-up a bit sooner, and we ended up hosting the Rabbitats bunnies at Catfe for about three weeks. It was a great experience working with the staff and volunteers of Rabbitats, and we both agreed that we'd love to work together to create a permanent location for the bunnies. That was December, 2018, and two and a half years (plus one pandemic) later, he we are!
Why a bunny cafe?
I started Catfe and have been astonished by the number of cats we've been able to find homes for... as an adoption model, the animal cafe has worked exceptionally well, and I felt that with the overwhelming overpopulation crisis of abandoned domestic rabbits in the Lower Mainland, it would be lovely if we could make the concept work for all the bunnies in need. When I first opened Catfe, there were only a handful of cat cafes across North America; now there's a cat cafe in almost every major city. I would love it if this idea catches on for bunnies as well.
Where do the bunnies come from?
We are partnered with Rabbitats Rescue to supply adoptable domestic rabbits that have been abandoned or surrendered to them.
Why do bunnies make good pets?
Animal companionship has so many emotional and stress-relieving benefits, and rabbits are very sweet, smart creatures with unique individual personalities. They are also very quiet, which makes them ideal for apartment living. You don't need to take them for walks, and as crepuscular creatures, they generally sleep most of the day while you're at work, and are up for socializing later in the evening when you're home.
Can people adopt a bunny if they have other pets?
Some bunnies can cohabitate well with cats or dogs—it depends on the personalities of the animals. Just like with people—not all people would enjoy cohabitating with certain other people!
How much does it cost to adopt a bunny?
The adoption fee is about $100, and the adoptions for the bunnies go through our rescue partner, Rabbitats. If someone is interested in adopting a bunny, they can submit an application through their website at rabbitats.org/adopt.
Tell me about the ideas behind the design of the cafe.
Almost everything in the space is the result of a design team of two—myself and my partner Del Hillier. I previously worked as an art director for a book publisher, and Del has done a lot of building and set design in the arts. When the previous contractor I hired abandoned the project, Del and I decided to take on the challenge of building the Bunny Cafe ourselves, and we had a lot of fun with it. I would say "Wouldn't it be cool if we could have...the ceiling looks like a sky with bunny-shaped clouds/a bunny-shaped archway at the entrance/bunny-themed stained glass windows/etc.", and he would make it so! A lot of love went into the design, and well, we just kind of went overboard making things as bunny-themed as possible.
Who gets to name the bunnies?
Some of the bunnies came with names already, and then Del and I had fun naming the rest of the bunch after different "pivotal pandemic moments" for us. Adrian and Clubber, for example, are named after characters from the Rocky film series, which unexpectedly turned out to be a major source of inspiration for pushing ourselves to get up and work non-stop each and every day through the pandemic, to accomplish our goals in spite of all the hard hits we took along the way.
Most important things to know before you come visit?
Reservations are highly recommended, as we have very limited walk-in space available. You can book a visit online through our website at bunnycafe.ca. The price of admission is $15.95 plus GST per person for about an hour visit, which includes a snack cup of greens to feed the buns. We do have an age limit: visitors must be 5 years or older to visit with the bunnies.
Is there anything else Vancouver needs to know about the cafe?
The Bunny Cafe is technically not quite a "cafe" yet! (Although it's like a cafe for the bunnies, who get to have snacks all day long!) Due to COVID, we were forced to put our cafe plans on hold and delay the food service, so that we could just get things up and running as quickly as possible. We are aiming to transform the retail section into a cafe with an espresso bar and vegan and vegetarian snacks for people to enjoy by the end of 2021.