How does the cat café work? It works like any other café. The cats are a human attractant! Their purpose is to bring in customers. This business model is built around the attitude that the majority of people like cats. Cats also provide an improved ambience. Clearly the cats will detract from the attractiveness of a café for the significant percentage of people who dislike cats but on balance cat café owners believe that the cats are a business asset (ten percent of people are allergic to cats).
There are other ways to get customers through the door: free wireless access to the internet is the classic method but now commonplace. Large wall-mounted televisions in public houses are the standard. Cats are an unusual way to attract custom. However, cat cafés are generally successful. Although I have recently read that one cat café has gone bust and another was closed by the authorities because of their inability to care for their cats adequately.
“The RSPCA shares similar concerns as other animal welfare organisations, such as the Cats Protection and Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue, about the growing trend in cat cafés.”
This is the obstacle to running a cat cafe. The owner and staff have to run what is effectively an extension of a cat rescue facility. The cats come from cat rescue organisations. They are adopted out sometimes. Perhaps a customer likes a cat and asks to adopt her.
There is genuine difficulties in caring for the cats.
“As an animal welfare charity we are concerned about the welfare implications of having a number of cats in a limited space with groups of people unknown to them coming and going throughout the day.” (RSPCA)
The cats have to be confident and able to deal with strangers. This is not the norm for domestic cats. There is also the problems of cats escaping into the street. How do they deal with that? And when the café is closed for the night there has to be a place where they can rest at the back of the café.
Are all the cats full-time indoor cats? I suppose so. There are some who would object to it. And the cats must be selected on the basis that they are sociable with any cat. That too is tricky. All the cats have to get along. There is an inherent difficulty in achieving this although it is obviously possible.
There have to be carefully drafted rules for customers to comply with otherwise the café owner will encounter chaos! Kids have to be corralled and controlled. There are complications. The costs of keeping the cats present a big overhead; not the kind of overhead that a cafe owner would normally face. I not about licensing. The local authorities would have to license the place under animals welfare laws.
I suppose if the concept of cat café was highly successful there would be far more of them. They are quite rare in the grand scheme of things. There must be tens of thousands of cafés in the UK. The number of cat cafés is probably under one hundred.
I think that makes the point. But how do they work? Simple: the cats improve the place’s ambience and bring in the paying customers.
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