Great news for London’s cat lovers: plans are afoot to open the country’s first cat cafe right here in the capital! Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will be situated somewhere in the East of the city (the precise location has yet to be decided), and will be a cosy refuge from busy urban life, where you can enjoy tea and cake, and, of course, cat cuddles! The cafe’s interior will have a sumptous Victorian feel, and indeed the cafe’s name has been chosen to combine the cat theme with a feeling of British tradition and Victoriana – Dinah is the name of Alice in Wonderland’s cat.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a ‘Cat Cafe’ is basically just like a regular cafe, but with added cats! The idea originated in East Asia around 5 or 6 years ago, and has become hugely popular – there are over 100 cat cafes in Tokyo alone. Cities such as Tokyo are densely-populated, with many residents living in small, rented apartments, and working long hours, which often makes keeping a pet impossible. Cat-loving urbanites who are unable to share their homes with a kitty are able to get their feline fix (along with drinks and snacks!) by visiting a cat cafe.
Lauren Pears, the ‘Chief Crazy Cat Lady’ behind Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, has noticed the similarity between the London lifestyle and that of East Asian cities: an ever increasing number of Londoners are living in very small, often rented, apartments, which prohibit the keeping of pets – and so the capital is in dire need of its own cat cafe!
However, there is to be one very significant difference between Lauren’s cat cafe and her East Asian counterparts: Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will be ‘staffed’ entirely by rescue cats. In my opinion this is a major plus point, and is why I support Lauren’s proposed business venture – this is a wonderful opportunity to provide multiple cats in need with a new home.
Lauren’s cats will be coming from The Mayhew Animal Home, and each cat will be carefully selected by charity staff on the basis of their personality, as only very confident, people-friendly cats will be suitable for the cafe environment. Lauren is also working with the charity to estabish an on-going care plan for the cats she plans to adopt. I’ve been in touch with Lauren to ask her a few questions regarding her welfare policy for the cats, and while I’m 100% convinced that Lauren has prioritised cat welfare above all other aspects of her cafe, it’s also good to know that she’s taking the belt-and-braces approach by giving The Mayhew regular involvement too.
The cafe won’t open immediately the cats arrive – they’ll be given a couple of weeks to settle into their new environment, and then be introduced to the idea of sharing their new home with customers during a series of small tea parties with limited numbers of guests.
Lauren plans to have an initial ratio of 1 cat for every 3 cafe customers, but she has budgeted to be able to adopt more cats if it seems that this number is too low and the cats are becoming over-stimulated by human attention. The cafe’s interior will be designed to provide the cats with a low-stress environment: in addition to all the toys, towers and scratching posts at their disposal the cats will be provided with sleeping perches which are beyond the reach of customers, and will also have the freedom to exit the cafe into a people-free area whenever they feel the need. The cats will have access to any outside space the cafe may have – which will be secured with cat-proof fencing if roads are likely to pose a threat.
We all know what adept escape artists our feline friends can be, and I was a bit worried about the possibility of cats running out through the cafe door as customers came and went. But, of course, this has been factored into the cafe design: customers will access the cat cafe via a ‘normal’ cat-free cafe which fronts onto the street, and so the cat cafe itself will not have a street-facing door.
Customers will pay an entrance fee, but won’t have any time restrictions on their visits (unlike the East Asian cat cafes who tend to have a pay-per-hour approach), and it’s hoped that this will encourage a more relaxed attitiude when dealing with the cats – no one will feel like they have to squeeze as many cat cuddles as possible into an allotted amount of time. The cafe will also have other sources of diversion available, such as books and boardgames. Customers will be discouraged from picking the cats up and asked not to approach sleeping cats. There will be at least one host present in the cat cafe at all times to supervise interaction between cats and customers, and anyone thought to be making the cats unhappy will be asked to leave.
Right, now you’ve had the low-down, here’s how you can get involved: in order for Lauren’s proposed cat cafe to become a reality, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium needs people to visit their Indiegogo page and make a pledge. This basically means they are selling visits to the cafe in advance in order to raise enough money to get the project off the ground. (Don’t worry – if the target amount isn’t met your money will be refunded in full.) Possible pledges range from £5 for a visit to the cafe, to £20,000 to adopt one of the cats as your own, which will then be cared for by the cafe, plus VIP membership for life. Other pledge options available include £20 for tea and cake (and cats!) for two – which is the one I’m going for!
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium Indiegogo page, and make a pledge today!
And now here’s a video of the lovely Lauren telling us about her proposed cat cafe (please click on the post title to view via email or rss subscriptions):