With London’s first cat cafe fully booked up for 2 months, it appears that there has been the release of a pent up desire to visit a cat cafe in one of the world’s greatest cities. I am referring to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium which opened recently in Bethnal Green in the east of London.
It is interesting to note that the cafe was funded through a crowd funding campaign which resulted in £100,000 being raised. As I understand it, crowd funding is when an entrepreneur requests funding on the Internet through one of these specialist websites.
The crowd funding exercise and lots of pre-opening exposure resulted in high demand. Another interesting aspect of this cafe is that you have to book in advance and that is not because it is oversubscribed. It would seem to be the routine method to get into the cafe and enjoy its delights.
In fact, demand was so high that the online booking system crashed. The owner of the cafe, Lauren Pears, appears to have been a bit perturbed by this. She says that the cafe is calm on the inside but it is crazy outside. I quite like that because it does somehow reflect the world in that a room with a cat in it should be a calm place but the world, as we know, can be rather crazy.
In fact, I suspect that visitors to this cat cafe should be on their best behaviour. The concern that some people have is that the place will be unsuitable for cats. Incidentally, there are 12 cats at this cafe and they were donated by people who were moving abroad and could not take their animals with them, so we are told. I have to confess that this does not appear to be the best way to select a cat for a cat cafe. I had thought that they were carefully selected from a cat shelter, but apparently not.
I can imagine that the management might be gently providing instructions to visitors to the cafe on how to behave. I wonder if the online booking system includes a questionnaire about the proposed visitor to check whether they are suitable or not (I couldn’t see one)?
What about children and screaming kids? Cats don’t like screaming kids. They frighten cats in my experience. Perhaps I’m generalising. Not all cats are frightened of screaming kids and babies. I can imagine that this cat cafe will have less than the usual number of visitors at any one time. Some cafes are very full and busy. There is plenty of activity, which would be unsuitable for 12 cats sharing the same space.
The question of behaviour primarily falls upon people and not the cat. This is correct. We know that when people create a calm and proper environment the cat is content and behaves accordingly. The opposite is true.
We are also told that an independent veterinarian and behaviourist will visit the cafe on a routine basis to make sure that the animals are content and not showing any signs of distress.
Lauren Pears, the owner, indicates a slight concern about whether the cat cafe will work or not when she says,
“We want to keep an eye on them, as we need to take a long time to make sure this is working”.
I can fully understand that. The cat cafes in Japan are working, as I understand it. They’ve been there for a long time. But do Londoners behave in a similar way to the Japanese when they’re in a cafe? I would not expect a great difference but there might be a difference, which makes it difficult for the cats to accept what is going on.
Maggie Roberts a director of Veterinary Services at Cats Protection says that she is concerned by the number of cats (as mentioned, there are 12) in a limited space with groups of people coming and going who are strangers to these cats. The concerns about cats being solitary animals is probably overstated because the modern domestic cat is sociable but the potential difficulty is ensuring they get along with each other. There is no guarantee.
She makes a good point. Once again the focus is on the people and how they behave and once again I have to propose that there should be some instructions given to the people to make sure that they behave in accordance with what is suitable when around domestic cats.
If the number of people in the cafe at any one time is limited and if you have to book in advance as appears to be the case, these factors may put a dampener on the ability of this enterprise to turn a profit. We will have to wait and see. It would be a shame if it was forced to close because I feel that at a fundamental level this is a good idea. It is just building a formula which works from the standpoint of the domestic cat and making a financial profit. Those two elements are normally poor bedfellows.