Combining Cats and Capitalism

Is it possible to combine capitalism and cats while benefiting the cat as opposed to the usual exploitation? The answer is yes but with some difficulties.

The cat café is coming to London town. Great. I’ll get the chance to try it out. I may even support it financially as it would give me a long term membership of some sort.

Cat Cafe
Cat Cafe. Collage by Michael and original photo by Ari Helminen.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment written by visitors. It is a way visitors can contribute to animal welfare without much effort and no financial cost. Please comment. It helps this website too which at heart is about cat welfare.

There are a lot of really good things about the cat café, both for the cat and the human. Although, as far as I am concerned, the major benefits go to the cat, which is how it should be because the cat needs more help than the human. So say I.

I thought I would dwell upon the subject of the cat café for a while and jot down the plus points. Are there any negatives? Well, yes, perhaps. I’ll think up one or two.

The cat café is a Japanese invention (someone will no doubt correct me on that point). A wise Japanese person thought that adding the presence of a cat or cats to a café would make the ambiance in the café more pleasant and homely. I believe that the business concept is based on the well known saying: “a house is not a home without a cat”. “A café is not homely without a cat”.

And these days a really good cafe should have a nice homely, family feel about it. That is why some books shops have cafés integrated into them. Books, coffee, food, and a cat go together like apple pie and custard or fish and chips. The smell of coffee and the sight of a plush cat lounging on a sofa, smells and looks like home.

What is so neat about this cat-centric business concept, is that it not only improves business, it improves the lives of cats and the lives of people all at the same time. It can’t get better than that in a brutally capitalist world. To me, it seems to be the first (and only?) instance of combining capitalism and cats with the cat gaining and not losing. It is the absolute opposite to the usual scenario of hunting wild cats for their skins.

Londoners have to thank an Australian for bringing cat cafés to London. Typical. Why couldn’t a Brit have done this? Her name, by the way, is Lauren Pears.

Lauren Pear’s cat café concept includes membership of the café and the chance of sponsoring a cat. The café, which incidentally is called Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, will provide a home from home experience with snacks, drinks, books, Wi Fi internet connection, armchairs, sofas, a dozen cats and you can stay as long as you like.

Now for the cat bit. Lauren is working on a deal with a local cat rescue center, Mayhew Animal Home, to provide the cats and audit the cat caretaking.

Cats in a café do present added responsibilities well beyond the usual. Here are some:

  • maintaining the cats’ health – a dedicated vet is proposed or I suppose a single vet on a retainer of some sort;
  • making sure they are safe – I presume they will be full-time indoor cats;
  • considering the adoption of the cats. Their presence in a café opens up the fantastic prospect of customers adopting the cats for their own homes. There should be a continual throughput of cats. The cafe becomes and adoption center at as well. This is probably the single most important aspect for cat lovers. I wonder if this aspect of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will work.
  • there will be some Health and Safety matters to deal with I am sure and
  • insurance issues  – a person behaves incorrectly with a cat and gets scratched?

For me it’s all positive. Three potential negatives come to mind:

  1. The dreaded cat allergen. About 10% of people are allergic or potentially allergic to the cat allergen. They may not know it. They will start to itch in the cafe. Then what?
  2. Café cats are full-time indoor cats. However, this is going to be a really nice indoors. Will there be a little outside enclosure? This is not really a negative because for the cat life is dramatically improved over being in a shelter.
  3. Putting twelve cats together in a confined space is going to take some skill from the cat rescue people. The cats have to get along really well. You can’t assume that that will happen. This is the biggest hurdle as far as I can see. Cat fights or growls will achieve the opposite to the intended goal.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will be in the East End of London, miles from me but I’ll be there to check it out. Lauren is looking for more sponsors to help fund the project. I wish her and the cats the very best of luck.

8 thoughts on “Combining Cats and Capitalism”

  1. I can’t wait for your interview. Now we need one in our area.. will have to do some work on that! I think that teaming up adoption with the cafes is a great idea, being sure of course that the adoptors are suitable to adopt these kitties.

  2. News: £109,510 ($140,000) through crowd funding has been raised as at 10th March 2013, according to her blog. Nice. Excellent. There is clearly a desire for a cat cafe in London. We await with some excitement and when it opens I’ll report back. I’ll try and get an interview with her.

  3. I agree that this is a win-win for cat and man both. As long as they population is kept healthy and the people aren’t hurting them. I worry about cats being overfed and such. This really could be a viable solution for cities around the world to help empty a few shelter cages. They could use the revenue to do TNR work and to provide medical treatment for poor cats/strays. I may be a bit high minded here, but: What if we required the Parliament and Congress’s of the world to include at least one cat for every 3 people in the session. Cats are bringers of peace and contentment.

    BTW: Great news. Our older nephews dog Pedro had to go live with one of the boys dads due to allergies. Now he’s back! He and their teenage-tuxie Panda are already buddies. My nephew said they are both too lazy to put up much of a fuss. 🙂 I missed the little guy. Pedro used to bite the toes on my than numb right foot (It’s better now) sending electrical shocks up my leg. It tickled so much! They finally had to pour some terrible tasting solution on my feet and he never did it again. I miss the little guy.

  4. Hi Michael,

    I like the adoption potential side of things. If that’s what it’s all about then I am 100% in favor.

    Dead opposed otherwise.

    If it’s not about the adoption potential then:

    It’s just another version of making money from “show cats”.

    Another phrase that comes to mind is animal exploitation.

    I’m not an animal rights purist for the sake of being a purist. Usually purists piss me off but this is something I’ve thought very hard about. I’m entirely against all forms of animal exploitation.

    It might seem like a good idea at first blush but if you give it some more thought, you might find that you are offended by the concept.

    Under the guise of providing a service for cat lovers, these folks are exploiting the cats just to make money. It’s not a labor of love for the cats.

    In fact, it’s not about the cats at all. Again, this is if it isn’t about adoption potential.

    All kinds of problems can happen to the cats in this situation – too many to list. But I will say that cats get freaked out easily and they could become neurotic over time if people keep coming in, creating noise and movement, then leaving. That goes double or more if children are allowed in.

    I hope the main motive isn’t for the humans.

    If it is about adoption and over time the adoption rate proves to be a success, then it may just be the best idea to come along in a long time. At least then it would benefit the cats more than anything else. Cats need a forever home.

    Does anyone know what the main motive is? I’d hate to pass judgement without knowing the number one reason for opening a cat cafe.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • I understand your view totally actually. Some part of me thinks it might still be good for the cat in general since having such places might make people take cats more seriously than before. It would, as you say, be awful to cause issues and problems for the cats who are there. At one point I was thinking no kids should be allowed. I am tempted to stick to that idea. If kids can make me nervous then I cant imagine how they are for a cat. As much as some would really love to spend time in there I think it’s better they not be allowed.

      If what the article says about adoption – which is that there should be a high turnover and cats being adopted – is true, then I thinks it’s actually a pretty darn good way of getting them adopted because people get to spend quality time with potential adoptees. Basically I can see enough plus points that I wouldn’t end it before it started but I am very aware of the point you make and I think at first sign of unhappy exploited cats it should be over with.

  5. Great – finally in London. You’d of thought they’d cotton on sooner in the worlds largest city but hey, there’s always a suprise. I’m sure more will come if it works out. East end? ‘Where’ in London is a big factor but I guess people like cats everywhere. I could see one in Covent Garden I suppose.

    There should be 2 or 3 doors to get in so nobody can escape into the awful outdoor streets of London. I can’t imagine a cat doing well out there. They really will have to match them up so no cat fights ensue but if they can do it in Japan and Austria and Australia then why not London. I’m sure there will be small issues with cats getting annoyed with each other but nothing beyond the norm. If it was a cafe with an anclosed outdoor space out back with tables and chairs and branches for cats to climb then people could even hang out in the summer. How nice! Also, I strongly hope the cats have plenty of safe quiet spots to go to and that they have an entire network up above everyone if they want to sit up in the rafters and watch. Then they will be happy no doubt. Lets hope there are adoptions.

    About insurance – surely once a person comes in through the first door into the cat decompression chamber they should be forced to sign a form saying they will be good and if they get hurt for any reason they have no possibility to sue the premises or whatever because there are some real nut jobs out there who would let their kid get scratched and then put the place out of business. A nice big legal doc protecting the cats and business before being let in with the cats I say!

    I will definitely visit this place next time I am in London – possibly at the very end of April or beginning of May. Michael, if you’d like to meet for a coffee there I’d be delighted.

    • You have covered the points nicely. I do hope they have an outdoor enclosure out the back. That is what I expect but I don’t know. Since the Olympic and even before that there is quite a lot of activity in the East End these days. “Regenerated” and “trendy” comes to mind 😉

      “Decompression chamber” (good term) – yes an absolute must for cat safety. Maybe they’ll put in a selection of cat teases and toys in the chamber so people can select one and move along. It will be interesting to see how it develops and we will see if people take to it.

      London is not England in its people. It is largely made up of “foreigners”. That may have an impact on the success of the cat cafe.

  6. I love the sound of this, it would make me want to move to London if I was younger.
    It will be interesting to read your thoughts about this cafe and how it’s doing, when you’ve checked it out Michael.
    I’d think only cat lovers would visit it and if anyone did find out they were allergic to cats then that’s good in that they wouldn’t then ever take home a cat only to have to take him back.


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