Would you like some kitten with your coffee?
Feline company is exactly what one of the newest cafes in London, England, is offering — and stressed-out city-dwellers are lapping it up.
“People do want to have pets, and in tiny flats [in the United States, we call them apartments], you can’t,” said cafe owner Lauren Pears, who opened Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium last month in an area east of the city’s financial district.
“There’s not many places in London you can just curl up with a book and chill out with a cat or two on your lap,” she said. “I think that’s what our success is down to.”
Cat cafes first took off 10 years ago in Japanese cities, where many people live alone in cramped high-rise apartment blocks that don’t allow pets.
Making feline friends became popular with workers who were lonely or anxious.
“I can see how this would be good for someone lacking company,” said customer Sara Lewis as she stroked a cat sitting on her lap. “It’s the best idea ever.”
The cozy English tearoom, named after Alice’s cat in “Alice in Wonderland,” charges customers $8.29 for two hours of kitty company. Coffee and afternoon tea — sandwiches, cakes and scones — are on the menu at an additional cost.
Lady Dinah’s opened March 1 and is fully booked until the end of June.
Pears raised more than $181,000 through a crowd-funding campaign to get the cafe up and running. After more than a year of planning, permit delays and figuring out how to maintain health and safety standards, she says the hard work has been worth it.
The 11 resident cats were donated by people who could no longer look after them. Kitty welfare is paramount: The cats get regular breaks from people, and the staff has been trained by animal behaviorists to care for them.
Lisa Vann brought her 8-year-old daughter, who has learning difficulties, to Lady Dinah’s for a play date. “She’s delighted to be here,” she said.
The animal-cafe craze shows no signs of slowing, with establishments also open in Vienna, Austria, and Paris, France. A dog cafe, House of Hounds, is scheduled to open in London later this year.
And American animal-lovers won’t be missing out for much longer. Two cat cafes are scheduled to open near San Francisco, California, by the end of 2014.