What is a cat café? Where do they originate from? And vitally: Are cat cafes really good for cats? We’re considering this after recent reports from the BBC that cat cafés may well be far from purrfect for our furry friends…
Animals can be helpful with dementia care, so being concerned with all things dementia related, cafe related and being animal lovers, this is a topic right up our street!
We know that animals have been introduced in care homes and for the most part, this seems to work well for both human and animal counterpart.
The world’s first cat café “Cat Flower Garden” was opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. Cat cafés became a huge tourist attraction among tourists from Japan as well as for tourists from all over the world. The concept of the cat café is to adopt cats that are homeless, give them a better life and give the opportunity to animal lovers who don’t have a pet at home, to visit these cafes, have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the cat’s company.
Later on, the same concept of the cat café was adopted also in Japan, after the big success in Taiwan, they opened the first café of its kind called “Neko no Jikan” which means “Cats Time”, in Osaka in 2004. Now there are said to be nearly 40 in Tokyo alone.
This concept was adapted in many countries around the world and now in UK as well. “Out of the 13.5 million people in the UK who have a pet, 24% of us own a cat – and it’s no secret that as a nation we love cats.”
“Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium” owned by an Australian lady Lauren Pears, was the first cat café opened in east London in 2014. And it seems to be very successfully so far.
“We loved the idea that the cats had been rescued and were enjoying a better life in the café environment. The can-do attitude of the people who set up these businesses in challenging city environments was inspirational.” Says Katie Jane Glazier, owner of Newcastle’s Mog on the Tyne.
With all the good intentions that business owners cat cafes around the world have, comes the big question: Are cat cafes really good for cats?
As mentioned by some of the cafes, the prime purpose of the cat café concept in the UK was to give shelter and a loving home to homeless cats’ but in reality this is not always the case. Sadly not all of the cats are rescued and not all of them live a happy life inside these cafes. Limiting factors such as reduced outdoor space inhibit the freedom of the animals and while many promise to re-home older cats that may have sat unwanted in shelters, the go-to marketing ploy is often to purchase young kittens for the cute factor. Most of these animals will never taste freedom or experience fresh air.
Currently there are 9 cat cafes in the UK and the number is rising. Some charities including the RSPCA say that they are not suitable homes for cats. “Cat cafes are not a suitable environment for cats because they are in a confined space with a revolving population of people,” says Nicky Trevorrow, behaviour manager at Cats Protection.
“They need a stable environment – more so than dogs.” The RSPCA add. They are also concerned by the stress that it may cause to the cats from the large amount of unfamiliar strangers wanting to stroke and handle the cats everyday. Cats as we know can be prone to stress from overcrowding, loud noises or unsettling, changing environments; all factors which for the most part, resemble a café. Eek. Not ideal.
However, some charities have more positive comments, “It is a difficult environment to get right but it’s not impossible by any means,” says Andy Sparkes, veterinary director at International Cat Care. “I’ve seen cats in some poorly run re-homing centers, where there are many confined to one room. That can be far more stressful.” He adds.
Cat cafes can be upsetting for some cats it seems, for others however and with the right conditions; some will have a better life from the experience. How long they will be situated in a cat café is another issue altogether. Are they forever homes? Nobody really knows.
Clearly cat cafes need to be properly regulated. Strict rules are a must to ensure cleanliness and animal welfare, in particular seeking to ensure that the cats are not disturbed by excessive and unwanted attention. They should have a quiet room that only they can retreat to and their own personal space away from other cats too.
Unfortunately, in some cat cafes, cats die because of the poor conditions and the lack of fair treatment. Many have been shut down. Reports of a cat café in Leicester told of it being shut down just weeks after opening in 2015 due to hygiene concerns.
We at the DC love animals and support animal equality and animal rights. While it is important to rescue and adopt homeless animals; we are not sure how effective and helpful the cat café concept really is for cats. The verdict is still out on this one!