Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Down at the Cat Café - coffee, cats and cuddles

A chilled out Pablo at the Hobart Cat Café


Cat cafés are all the rage, so on Sunday, at the insistence of my daughter and granddaughters, I  visited the one in North Hobart to see what they were all about.

Taiwan is officially credited with starting the first Cat Café in 1998, but the idea was so popular with Japanese tourists that they soon started their own. Since then they have flourished around the world, particularly in regions where pet ownership is becoming more problematic.  Even in little old Hobart getting a rental property which allows animals – no, not so much as a goldfish, is almost impossible, as my daughter recently found out. At last count some 30 countries from Latvia to India, from Russia to Canada, from New Zealand to Denmark had Cat Cafés with more being added every day. 

A more aloof Tiger Lily reposes on a stool

Not all of them are the same. Some have cats which can be adopted offering new hope to abandoned cats; others only allow you to pet them. The “Bag of Nails” in Scotland is a cat pub. The Brooklyn Cat Café shows movies. Feline Yoga is offered at “Crumbs and Whiskers” in Los Angeles and Washington.  Some offer Train and Groom Your Cat sessions; “Morgan’s” in New York teaches you how to paint cats, and so on.
The Cat Café I visit is more like a petting zoo with a permanent cast of ten characters who mostly entertain by being themselves. “Pearl” aged 15 and the oldest member of the team – the correct term is a clowder of cats -lounges luxuriously in one of the baskets attached to a veritable cat’s play gym in the front window. “Pablo” is more lively, but still pretty laid back. It hard to feel stressed when there’s so much purrfect schmoozing going on.

I think this might be Oreo who seems more interested in the goings on in the street than in the cafe

Hanging out in the Cat Café - the cats radiate calm

 Indeed, research has shown that cats* are good for humans. With their 50 -60 Hertz purr, they have been shown to reduce blood pressure, depression  and risk of stroke and heart attacks as well as reducing stress and anxiety.   Sarah, co -owner of the Hobart Cat Café says her cats help to reduce the isolation of those in group homes and elder care facilities, especially in cases of dementia, where cats can help to bring back memories. Children with autism also seem to benefit from association with cats.

The food doesn't look half bad either


That’s all well and good, but is it also good for the cats? Some Cat Cafés have come under fire for not paying enough attention to hygiene and the health and welfare of their cats, but in places where animal welfare and cafés generally are of a high standard – in Japan for example, cat cafés must be registered and are regularly inspected, there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.

This is certainly the case with respect to the local café. Their cats were especially chosen for their temperament. The animal hospital is across the road (I actually thought the café was part of it) and they are regularly checked by vets. The whole area is very clean and food production is separated from the cat area by a small vestibule where visitors are asked to wash their hands before and after playing with the cats. The cats themselves may not be picked up, though they may be stroked and patted. If the cats have had enough attention, or feel uncomfortable at any time they can retreat  through the cat doors into their own human -free space. None of these cats look as if they ever want to leave.

Guests pass through a special entryway

In the case of rescue cats being petted and pampered and having the chance to find a new home, it surely beats being confined to a small wire cage and possibly being euthanized, which is often the fate of older cats, when they have passed the cute kitten stage. Though the Hobart Cat Café doesn’t do adoptions itself, there’s a sign in the window on behalf of the Hobart Cat Centre, which does. The café also accepts donations on their behalf.


Cat related pictures and paraphernalia  adorn the café

 For the best Cat Cafés in Europe click here
and the best in the USA here.

P.S. If you would like more cat company but aren’t quite ready for the long term commitment of cat ownership, the Cat Centre also has opportunities for foster carers and casual cuddlers.

Want more cat pats but don't want to adopt one? It is also possible to foster, though not via the Cat Cafe
*Dogs confer similar health benefits on their owners. Both have co -evolved with humans but the same does not necessarily hold for non -domestic animals - such as owls or even hedgehogs, which have now started being pressed into the same kind of service, much as we might enjoy their company.

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