Before I start, I must tell you the house rules of all cafes; no flash photography, no petting the cats whilst they are asleep and no chasing and running after them. Various other rules apply at each establishment, but these are the main ones to abide by, after all, you are here to enjoy the company of cats in their home, and it’s not nice or polite to make them feel uncomfortable.
I opted for Nottingham first, however after making it my mission to visit one… I couldn’t stop there so made it my mission to visit as many as I could.
So why have cat cafés started cropping up over the past couple of years in the UK, what is the fascination? Cats are therapeutic but also independent and from what I know of them having been a cat owner, if they don’t want to be stroked or be around people, they will walk away!
The Kitty Café, Nottingham
The Kitty Café opened in March 2015 and isn’t just a place to enjoy a sandwich and pot of tea with 30 cats running around – oh no, they also re-home the live-in puss-cats. So far, they have successfully found loving families for 60 of their feline friends and around 400 via their email list. The cats run freely in this café for at least 6 months before they are adopted.
As you walk in, you are greeted by staff dressed in cat-uniforms complete with ears and this is where you pay your £5 “welfare charge” entrance fee. The décor is very homely with pictures and cat quotes all over the walls, large comfortable sofas with cushions calling you to lounge around in. Upon first impressions, I liked it, I felt as though I could take a seat and a kitty would jump up and join me, this never happened by the way (although it is very possible!).
All was rather civilised… until the entrance of Heathcliffe… then the whole room practically stopped what they were doing and just watched him! He was massive, people nick-named him Aslan as he was more like a baby lion with his long mane of hair than a cat. His paws were gigantic so I decided to find out what breed he was, he was half main-coon which is the largest breed of cat there is – and he was lapping up the attention, seriously, he was more than happy to sit and pose on the table for the multitude of photos that were taken of him. Catwalk model career for this one when he’s done with entertaining at the Kitty Café.
Overall, I have to admit that I didn’t feel this was a relaxed environment and it all felt very rushed. Maybe it was because it was a Bank Holiday weekend and they were busy, but either way, I’m sorry I have to say this was my least favourite. I do, however, hope they continue to keep up their excellent re-homing work because at the end of the day, the cats’ welfare is the most important.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium was the first to open in the UK back in March 2014 and named after Alice in Wonderland’s small red cat before she climbed down the rabbit hole! Uh huh, full of information aren’t I!
Wookie’s favourite place to hangout was near the window or in the cat chaise lounge. He was a favourite of most people’s as he had a grumpy looking face but was so smooth to the touch, and he didn’t mind being petted at all.
The Cat Café, Manchester
The Cat Café in Manchester I will have to confess, was my favourite! Just putting it out there! If you were looking to visit just the one café, I would say go for this one. Recently opened in July 2016, it was a relaxed place, big, spacious and included in the one-hour time slot with the entrance fee including unlimited “free” drinks, bonus!
What a fabulous idea! Keep up the good work Manchester.
A cat pub – not a café!
The Bag O’ Nails pub in Hotwells, Bristol differs from cat café’s because not only is it a pub, but it’s an establishment where cats live with their owner, but choose to share their time hanging out in the bar with punters. It’s not a purpose built system where you pay an entrance fee to be with cats so if you feel uncomfortable about a cat café but want to hang out with cats, this will be the one for you.
The world’s first café was called Cat Flower Garden (now re-named Café & Cats 1998) and opened in Taiwan back in 1998. It was the Japanese, however, who took this idea to the next level when it opened its first café opening in Osaka, 2004 named Neko no Jikan" (lit. "Cat's Time”) and, over the next six years, 79 cat cafes were opened across the Country. Since then, they are popping up all around the globe at a very fast rate, however there is some controversy around them … are they good for the cat’s welfare?
In the UK, the RSPCA and Cats Protection both have their concerns with large numbers of cats living together. In truth, when we had a cat, we only had the one but on the other side of the coin, I personally know someone who lives with around 12 -15 cats in a house and the majority of them weren’t bought, they found her and chose to live with her and all the other cats.
In all the cafés we visited, there were “human-free” areas for the cats to hang out and if you know cats, you know that if they don’t want to be stroked or around people they will walk away.
I would say it is best to keep a clear and open mind, read reviews and judge for yourself because, like most animal establishments for human or tourist interaction, it can be a difficult, confusing and mis-leading subject.
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