When I still lived in France, we didn't have any cat cafe in my area. My first attempt at going to one was in Scotland, when I sponsored such a place. Alas, the owners never got to raise enough money to actually open it, and so it didn't come to pass.
It did come to pass, though, in London. So, here are my impressions about the one I went to, namely Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium in Bethnal Green (closest Tube stations: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street, and Bethnal Green).
Image credits: Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium by Naotalba
What's a Cat Cafe?
Exactly as it says on the tin: it's a cafe with cats, and not only patrons.
Why is it good?
The most obvious point is that, if you like cats, you get to be around cats. (Don't go to a cat cafe if you hate these pets, or are allergic to them... That's obvious, I guess?)
Having pets, or being around pets for some time, is good in general, because it helps to reduce one's stress and anxiety. Going to such a cafe won't make up for not having a cat of your own, but it will nevertheless provide pleasant, joyful moments.
Moreover, it's also a different social environment. Most people don't talk with strangers in regular cafes, for many reasons. However, it's much easier to be at ease around each other in a cat cafe, due to playing with the pets and having at least that one thing to share.
Cat cafes are also good for cats! Many of them only take in refuge cats, to give them a nice place to live, and opportunities to be around good humans (well, hopefully). They don't go out of their way to buy expensive breeds.
From what I saw on the Emporium's website, as well as on others, there are rules to follow if you don't want to outstay your welcome, and/or end up with scratches on your arms. Most should be obvious if you own or have owned a cat, but a reminder never harms.
Image credits: Sleeping Cat, by Naotalba
In general, cat cafes' rules include:
- Don't wake up the cats that are asleep. Wait until they wake up.
- Don't forcefully pet the cats if they're showing signs of not liking it.
- Same with handling them / putting them on your lap if they start to squirm.
- Don't feed them! Neither with pet food that you brought, or (worse!) with bits of your cake or scone.
Video credits: The Wilde Kittens by Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium via YouTube.com
There may be other rules, but these are usually the main and most important ones. Especially when it comes to the food, only the cafe's employees know if this or that car has specific needs.
As an example, here are the rules for Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
Dinah being the name of Alice's cat in Alice in Wonderland, just this already sets certain expectations about the place. The decor is indeed reminiscent of the typical "Alice-like aesthetics" that is seen in many movies and usual representations of what people associate with Wonderland: checkers patterns, lots of green, swirls (like the tree in the middle of the downstairs room), big tasty-looking cakes, and so on. It's either to your liking or not. Personally, I tend to like this—besides, I was there for the cats.
Image credits: The Cat in the Hat, by Naotalba
There were two rooms that I could see:
- The upstairs room, smaller but with more light.
Image credits: Upstairs room by Naotalba
- The downstairs room (where I got to sit), with its very cozy atmosphere, although a little darker (no windows).
The cats were absolutely adorable: beautiful and healthy-looking, pretty chill in general around so many people, and some of them were attention-seeking, in a good way. They clearly were used to people, enjoyed being around them, and having my coffee in such a place was definitely relaxing.
Image credits: Downstairs room by Naotalba
The two I enjoyed being around the most were Lizzie and Donnie (I'm not sure how you spell their names, but it should be close enough).
Lizzie had much fun in a giant hamster wheel—well, cat wheel, I guess—as you can see in this video:
Video credits: Lizzie in her wheel, by Naotalba
Donnie was a bona fide good ole' tabby tomcat, all tough-looking... Except when the employee who was petting him with me had to leave, and then he remained sitting next to the door waiting for here to come back. Poor boy.
As often happens with cat cafes, you can't expect to just walk in and be seated. You need to book two to three weeks in advance for weekdays (possibly even more for weekends), as otherwise you'll very likely be turned down at the door.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium offers several types of bookings (except on Wednesdays, when it's closed).
Image credits: Tea and velvelt cake, by Naotalba
Entry, Cats and a Cuppa
This is the one I chose. For £10, you get a cup of your beverage of choice (non-alcoholic drinks only), and 90 minutes to spend with the cats. You can, of course, order food or more tea if you like.
These slots are available six mornings a week (from Thursday to Tuesday), and all day Tuesdays and Thursdays.
High Tea with Cats
This is on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons only. For £25 (entry fee included), you'll get a selection of treats (scones with jam and butter, tarts, cakes, etc.); unlimited coffee, tea and soft drinks; and, here too, 90 minutes with the cats.
Image credits: Afternoon Tea on Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium website
Adopt a Cat
As is the custom in cat cafes, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium only has refuge cats. Sometimes, some of the cats are up for adoption. Although there isn't any at the moment, if you happen to live in London and would like to give one of them a chance, you can check from time to time on their Adoptions page.
If there's one thing I regret, it's that you can't stay more than 90 minutes. Which is understandable, considering how high in demand the place is—and I doubt I'd stay more than that anyway I were to go to a regular cafe. I think it's just a psychological thing as far as I'm concerned, so it's definitely not something I'll hold against the Emporium.
Written by Naotalba for bitLanders.com