Many people have many questions, and what we seek to do throughout this statement is to make it clear who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it. If you know nothing about the concept of a cat café or if you are familiar with the set up but concerned about its execution, this mission statement aims to set your mind at ease.
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life – music and cats” –
So what exactly is a cat café?
It’s just that, a café, with cats. Patrons pay to snuggle up on a cosy sofa and relax with a coffee in the company of our feline friends. A group of ten cats live in the café, full time, and as a customer you can play with them, stroke them, and even have a nap with one if they choose to curl up on your lap. For a few hours in the week you can have a pet. Well you can have ten. All different, and all full of love. You can spend time with cats without the stress of a permanent lifelong commitment. You can have a friend. No strings attached.
Because the world is busy. City residents across the globe have busy and stressful lives. Many of us live alone in high rise blocks of flats and apartments without enough time to catch up with friends and family never mind look after a pet. And even if we did have time for a pet, we wouldn’t be allowed. Because landlords say no. Today urbanites work all the hours under the sun and forget to eat. We sit in traffic. We have to do lists. We stare at the computer screen. Or phone screen. Or TV screen. Or dare I say it, watch screen. We live and die by the clock. We spend most of our time sat at a desk staring outside at the one sunny day of the summer season and wishing things were different. Or, we are wrestling rain sodden commuters on the train as we click a few ‘like’ buttons on social media platforms just to let all our ‘friends’ know we still exist.
And then we wonder what is wrong with us. We wonder why we don’t feel happy, why we don’t feel fulfilled. Mental health problems are rising and the NHS doesn’t seem to know what to do. One in four people are anxious, or depressed, or tired, or are harbouring some sort of personality disorder. People are walking in to a GP’s office and confessing to suicidal thoughts; only to be sent away with the promise of an
appointment with the mental health team sometime two years later. Cats transcend stress. They beat us at day to day living. When it comes to living in the moment, to being present, cats win. Cats equal therapy. Stroking a cat reduces your heart rate and your blood pressure. Cats are good for us. Dare I say it, cats can make us happy.
Our aim is to create a relaxed and peaceful space free from stress, where cats and humans can come along side each other away from the world and rest. We are an escape. A safe haven. Cat Café can give you a new perspective, it can make you present, and it can refresh and heal an urban soul.
How will it work?
So at Cat Café Manchester the idea is you don’t pay an entrance fee or pay for tea and coffee. Instead you pay for time. When you come into the café you are given a time card and then you are free to spend as much time with the cats as you like with all hot and cold drinks unlimited and free of charge for the duration of your stay. When you leave you pay for the amount of time you spent in the café, which could be ten minutes or two hours, we just charge you to the nearest five minutes. The price is £1 for every 5 minutes, which equates to £12 an hour. So for £12 you get an hour of cat time plus as many hot or cold drinks as you like. We are going to operate both a pre-booking system for customers who would like to book in advance as well as a walk in allocation for customers who want to turn up whenever they feel like it. The maximum capacity of the Cat Café is twenty people at any one time and we have to stick to this capacity to protect the wellbeing of the cats as well as the quality of the experience. Therefore, we will pre-book ten people every hour, and allocate the remaining ten on a first come first served basis. When you enter the café you will be advised of the house rules (see the rules FAQ) and then taken through to the cloakroom where you can use a locker to store any coats and bags you may have if you wish. You will then be given a pair of slippers to wear in the café, or if you prefer not to remove your footwear you will be given shoe covers to place over your shoes. You are then free to use the café to relax at your leisure. There will be premium drinks available as well as top quality cakes and snacks. You can pet the cats and play with them as much as you like (or as much as they like, as the case may be).
There will be baristas to serve drinks and cat nannies available to answer any questions you may have about the cats. There will also be a tropical fish tank (a favourite of the Manchester cat family), and a book nook such you wish to unwind with a novel. Pop up venture? No thank you. To become a permanent part of any city centre Cat Café has to generate not only enough revenue to operate (which is a substantial amount for a decent premises) but also enough to pay and employ a handful of staff as well as providing the highest level of care for ten cats. We believe we have a solid business plan and enough experience to make Cat Café a permanent resident in your city. What’s unique about Cat Café is that we want to make it part of the local community. We will be running weekly Cat Yoga classes (yes, yoga, with cats) as well as Mindfulness sessions. We are even planning on doing a Cat Speed Dating once a week, so keep your eyes peeled.
We would also like to give the café to charities on a regular basis. In particular we will be approaching the mental health organisation Mind to offer the café for free to people suffering with anxiety and depression, and a proportion of our profits will be going straight to animal protection charities.
History & Japanese Culture
The world’s first ever cat café opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. It was called Cat Flower Garden (later renamed Café & Cats) and quickly became a popular tourist destination, attracting many visitors from Japan and all over the world. Today there are fifty cat cafes is Taipei alone, and the concept was adopted quickly in Japan, where the first cat café opened in Osaka in 2004. Due to Japan’s minimal land space and its booming population, many of the Japanese population live in small apartments or condominiums which do not allow pets. Cat Cafes quickly became a very popular destination for young professionals looking to lap up the companionship and comfort on offer. Tokyo’s first cat café, Neko no mise (Shop of Cats) opened in 2005 and consequently the popularity of the cat café boomed in Japan from 2005 to 2010, where seventy nine cafes opened across the country. Tokyo alone is now home to at least thirty nine cat cafes, where cats provide relaxing companionship to what otherwise can be a stressful and lonesome urban life. While it may seem at first glance like a gimmicky fad the cafes in Japan seem to attract large numbers of tourists and locals alike. A café in Shinjuku (a large entertainment area in Tokyo) is quite often full of international visitors, but the smaller cafes outside of the tourist hot spots surprisingly attract a lot of Japanese business men, one of whom said the cafes are a great place to relax and forget about work, he said he came at least once a week. The owner of Neko no mise said it is not uncommon for some regulars to take a sick day from work and stay all day. They say they are about to buckle under their work load and need to take some time out. Some regulars come four or five times a week, and others have become so mentally drained from work that they will take extended leave from their jobs to seek comfort and healing. Cat Cafes are not overly cheap though. On average cat cafes in Japan charge between £6 and £8 for an hour of cat time, with drinks and refreshments available at an additional charge. It is no surprise that the concept of the cat café has risen from Japanese culture. Notoriously the Japanese work very hard, with young professional’s frequently working long hours for low pay. The Japanese do in fact have a word for death caused by working too hard. Karoshi, literally translated as death from overwork. “You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense” – Jane Pauley
What is most important to us at Cat Café is the well-being of the cats and we have taken great care to make sure there are measures in place to protect their happiness and well-being. Firstly, at Cat Café, there are basic rules to prevent cats from being mistreated. Customers are asked not to wake a cat if it is sleeping, not to pick cats up, and not to take photographs using flash photography. This protects cats from unwanted attention. Everything is very much on their terms. The café is their environment and hey have to come to you. There is a room where the cats can get away from people if they want to, and there will be a cat sky run for them to look down on us from on high, should they wish to. The café will be manned 24 hours a day by staff so the cats will never be left on their own. Our cats have a healthy and balanced diet of both wet food, dry food and meat and fish such as chicken, tuna and mackerel. We work hard to recreate the natural hunting environment of the cats by hiding food in the cat runs and using cat tree food dispensers, where they have to paw the food out of the tree in order to eat it. They are also given lactose free cat milk as a treat.
The cats will be regularly visited by an onsite vet and they are all fully insured should they need any treatment. Our cats are groomed every day and some of the more fluffy ones are also bathed once a week. The staff at Cat Café will endeavor to make the cat’s environment as fulfilling as possible on a daily basis. This will include rearranging furniture and sourcing new games and toys for them to play with. They are also given clean bedding regularly and there are plenty of cosy and quiet sleeping spots in the café.
Unlike other Cat Cafes, Cat Café Manchester will not be operating as a re-
homing shelter. We believe that the constant entrance and exit of different cats will create an unstable environment that is not in the cat’s best interest. All of our cats have been together many months, they are like a family and to separate them from one another would not be a fair or appropriate thing to do. Cats are delicate creatures and you have to work hard to create a group dynamic among cats that works. Bringing adult cats in from new shelters every week would be disturbing for the resident cats and the rescue cats who are in need of a permanent loving home. We believe animal re-homing charities such as the RSPCA and the Cats Protection League already do an outstanding job and it would not be suitable to combine this within a café environment. Instead we will be supporting re-homing centres financially as well as displaying adoption boards for cats that need a home within the café. Cat Café are focusing on prevention, not direct cure. The prevention of families and people purchasing cats when their lifestyles are maybe unsuitable is our focus. The reality is that so many of us do not have time to look after our own pets, and we want to encourage people to come to the café rather than purchase a cat of your own if your home life is busy and you work long hours. Our aim, is in fact to reduce the number of people buying pets who do not have the time or the energy to look after them.