Aside from being content for the Internet, they do actually exist in real life. But for those of us that have to settle with getting our kitten-fix through GIF-filled Buzzfeed listicles, there is a glorious new Japanese import giving the cat-less community the purrfect opportunity to get hands on with our feline friends.
Bringing the Cat Café to the UK
The “cat café” originated in Taiwan, but was later popularised in Japan, and is aimed at those who are unable to own cats themselves due to housing situations. As this is less of an issue in Europe it has taken a little longer to catch on over here, but finally the UK has bought into the craze.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
While down in London at the weekend I paid a visit to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat café, to see if it could possibly live up to expectations. Located at the bottom of Bethnal Green Road on the way to Shoreditch, Lady Dinah’s is tucked in among a variety of shops and restaurants, and it is easy to miss it as you walk past - the only giveaways are the cats lounging in the window! Once inside you are lead to a room where the rules are read to you (it’s not quite as strict as it sounds) before you are let loose in the café itself.
The vintage tea rooms are decorated with frills, quirky antiques and are littered with toys and pillows to keep the cats entertained. They keep themselves to themselves, often found snoozing in vacant spaces in bookshelves or under chairs, however are more than happy to be petted, brushed and played with if the cuteness becomes too much.
Kittens aside, the café serves great coffee and delicious cakes and platters. I shared the three tiered cheese and crackers platter (with my girlfriend, not the cats) before moving round the café to play with Biscuit, Donnie and Adamska (all of whom have their own Twitter accounts).
One of the first things that people ask when you tell them you’re going to a cat café is “isn’t that unhygienic?” The answer is no! Guests must wash their hands before entering the café and each table contains hand sanitiser. That said, you don’t have to touch the cats at all. This is very much a café that has cats living there rather than a playground; you almost feel like guests in their home.
Lady Dinah's Online
What is remarkable about Lady Dinah’s is that it exists through the power of internet crowdfunding. After realising the difficulties of raising enough cash to make the cat café dream a reality in the UK, Lady Dinah’s hosted an Indiegogo campaign, gathering over £100,000 worth of funding from UK cat lovers. This campaign, coupled with worldwide press coverage and a strong social media presence has seen interest in the café soar. We had to book 3 months in advance to get our two hour slot!