This Bookstore In Nova Scotia Has All The Books — And Kittens — You’ll Ever Need

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Bookstores are sadly becoming more of a rarity these days. While smaller shops used to fight to compete against the big stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, even the book giants are struggling to stay open.

That’s why some shops try hard to enhance the book-buying experience. That may be why Otis & Clementine’s Books and Coffee also sells both caffeinated drinks and cats.

Yes — cats. Adoptable kittens roam throughout the bookstore, eager to play. The cats are brought in by South Paw Conservation Nova Scotia, and book fans can watch and interact with the kittens while they decide what books to buy.

The plan works out pretty well. According to owner Ellen Helmke, the kittens move in and out pretty quickly.

That means that if you happen to spot a kitten who’s meant to be your “furever” pal? You’ll want to act very fast.

Of course, to ensure that every cat goes to a good home, the shop has an adoption plan in place. Applicants must provide a reference, and there’s a $255 adoption fee.

The owner reportedly started taking in kittens back in May. So far, approximately 20 kittens have found homes through charming guests at the bookstore. “Our goal as fosters is to socialize the animals so they make good pets, keep them safe and healthy and fed, and [make] sure they get all of their vet appointments, as they should, and then make sure we find the right home for them,” Ellen told the Atlantic.

You may not expect it, but the bookstore is actually the perfect place for the kittens to roam. “The kittens love the bookstore,” Ellen continued. “It gives them lots of room to run around. It has nooks and crannies to hide in.” The cats have also helped with bookstore traffic. (Since last I checked, Barnes & Noble is kitten-free.)

“Lots of people to play with them and to snuggle them, so I like it because it’s something fun to come to work to,” Ellen said. It’s the perfect way to make sure the kittens are accustomed to both humans and other kittens. The cats are all brought in from South Paw Conservation in Nova Scotia. The rescue is a great place for kittens to find new homes.

While the bookstore allows only cats, South Paw helps other animals find great homes. It even has some animals who are rescued from afar but need to rest up to travel before they officially make their way to Nova Scotia. Animals are definitely its top priority. This past year, the rescue even let its dogs meet Santa.

Having the cats in the bookstore is therapeutic to some. For those who like cats but aren’t in the position to adopt one or take one home, simply spending time with them while browsing the books can be a rewarding experience. According to Mental Floss, petting a cat can keep you calm — and being around cats can actually help your heart.

It may make you wonder whether or not more bookstores will take note. This wasn’t the initial goal for Otis & Clementine’s, which opened its doors in 2011. The bookstore is also home to plenty of fun events, like open mic nights. Curious about the coffee it sells? The shop’s Facebook page states that it offers Laughing Whale Coffee, which is locally roasted.

You might be wondering how the shop got its name. No, Otis and Clementine aren’t cats. In the shop’s “About the Business” section on Yelp, Ellen explained: “My husband wanted to name our kids Otis and Clementine, but as that didn’t happen we decided to use those names for our next biggest passion…this bookstore.”

She also said that her shop, which is open every day of the week, is a great place to ask about event planning. As part of the community, she wants to try her hardest to make her bookstore a welcoming place for all. “I’d like to continue to build a sense of local community in the Bay by hosting and supporting other groups of all kinds,” she wrote. “If you need a space for a meeting or special event, please contact me, I would be happy to help.”

Speaking of Yelp, the shop has an average rating of 4.5 stars. Fans seem to love how friendly and knowledgeable Ellen is, and having kittens walking around doesn’t hurt. “Where else can you go for coffee, books and adoptable kittens?” Dennis W. reviewed. “Literally nowhere else in the world.”

The bookstore also offers Spanish lessons and other programs for children. In general, it’s very kid-friendly. Cats aside, it has a nice selection of children’s literature, so that kids who accompany their parents for a visit will also have something fun to look at.

It’s fantastic that bookstores like this are still thriving. And it should be encouraging to anyone else who might be thinking about opening their own used bookstore. While books are wonderful by themselves, it’s always great to offer up other ways to drive in traffic.

Ellen has gained a lot of success by offering something different. Sure, cat cafés often exist — but having a venue that’s able to offer stocked up bookshelves for the kittens to hide in is a bit rarer. Ellen also made sure to be a key part of the community. If you want to have a successful local business, you need to love the area you’re in.

She’s also pushing the message that cat adoption is incredibly important. While people do breed cats, there are so many kittens that call a shelter their home based on failure to spay and neuter. You might be lucky enough to snag a bookstore cat if you act quickly, but if not? Checking out the shelter should be a top priority.

Many thanks to Ellen, Otis & Clementine’s Books and Coffee, and South Paw Conservation in Nova Scotia for making these opportunities happen. So many cats have found warm, loving homes due to this partnership. And so many people have been able to seek free therapy by visiting the shop, petting a cat, and finding a great read.