For cat cafés to work you need the right customers and the right cats.
A cat cafe customer writes the following on asiaone.com:
“the cats were all opting for high resting spots, out of reach of humans. After waiting for a long time, a cat finally came down, allowing me to give it a few pats and head scratches……But suddenly, a group of children surrounded the poor kitty….I suspect that people feel they NEED to get a shot or have some interaction to get their money’s worth.”
Although the concept of cat cafes is sound in principle it is fragile in practice because you need the right cats and the right customers to ensure that they both enjoy the experience and interact harmoniously. The cat cafe is an unusual environment for the domestic cat. It is colony of cats living in a commercial environment which is not to say that is doesn’t work. There is just potential for failure.
The customers need to be respectful of cats which means no kids screaming around the place scaring the cats. It also means that adults need to have some awareness of cat behavior and emotions so that they are able to respect the cat.
If cat cafe customers impose themselves on the cats the cats will retire to high and safe points where they no longer interact with customers thereby undermining the purpose of their presence in the cafe. Adult cats do a lot of sleeping in the day. They should be left alone. Perhaps the best time to go into a cat cafe is in the morning and evening when the cats are more active.
As for the cats, they have to be special cats; they need to be extremely well socialised to be able to feel comfortable around an endless stream of strangers and noise etc.. To be honest I don’t know of many cats who’d do well in a cat cafe. Perhaps they get used to it but that is not good business. Perhaps they are fed by the customers which helps the interaction between customer and cat.
Another nuisance from the cat’s perspective would be cameras. I am sure almost all the customers will want to photograph the cats. In my experience, in general, cats don’t like to be photographed. It is a bit in-your-face for a cat and they can back off.
A cat cafe customer in Singapore had a rather poor experience. The cats remained on high perches and when one of them came down to say hello a bunch of kids messed around with the cat whereupon he promptly went back to his high and safe vantage point.
The Singapore customer felt that the cats were stressed.
“If I were a cat, I would get pretty stressed out..”
He was charged a fee for the pleasure of being in the cafe in addition to the usual price of the coffee he bought. He felt that he’d not received value for money and came away deciding that paid-for interaction with cats is a bad idea.
I don’t know whether you can generalise like that. There are upsides such as the obvious one: formerly unwanted rescue cats have a home, of sorts.
I suspect, however, that entrepreneurs who start a cat cafe are not always sufficiently au fait with the demands of keeping cats in a multi-cat environment and neither are they knowledgeable enough about cat behavior and emotions.
The cat cafe is still an experiment in the West and I am not sure it has been proved to be successful. The first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998 and so is still a newish concept. It would be nice to know how the cats get on and how well they are cared for behind the scenes. There is nothing on the internet at present about the out of opening hours cat welfare issues.