A Purr-fect Solution for Busy Cat Shelters
Lazily licking her hind leg, the reason for my visit here today glanced up and locked eyes with me as I entered the room. No, I wasn’t here to interview some strange acrobat with questionable hygiene habits. My curious observer was called Pauline, and she was a beautiful Maine Coon cat.
I was standing in the Edinburgh-based cat café, Maison de Moggy, otherwise known as heaven for a crazy cat lady like myself. I was here today to investigate the latest fluffy craze that had been sweeping the nation. Cat cafés offer customers hour-long slots with their family of cats, with additional beverages and snacks on offer and the added fun of trying to save your slice of cake from the suddenly alert gaggle of mewing cats circling in on you and your food.
Maison de Moggy was the first of its kind in Scotland, but in December of last year, Glasgow received their own cat café – the Purrple Cat Café. On hearing of this new addition to Merchant City, my interests peaked. Not only because of the obvious advantage of cute day trips but because the Purrple Cat Café planned to work closely with Glasgow cat adoption charity CATFLAP. The residents at Purrple won’t be bred specifically for entertainment purposes, but will be rescued from cramped, over-ran cat shelters.
Cat shelters are continually strained for resources and space for new arrivals are constantly limited. An article in The Herald reported a rising number of feral cats in Scotland, with an estimated 400,000 in Scotland alone. There are far too few cat shelters equipped to take on these increasing numbers and without additional help, most cats would have to remain on the street or force older residents to be euthanised to provide more space for new-comers.
‘Cat cafés offer customers hour-long slots with their family of cats, with additional beverages and snacks’.
Puurple are not the first in the UK to work with re-homing charities. Newcastle’s Mog on the Tyne adopt their cats from rescue shelters, whereas others like Nottingham’s Kitty Café doubles as an adoption centre for the cats. Though the cats in Purrple are not up for adoption, the café can put their customers in contact with CATFLAP for adoption details and proceeds from the café are regularly donated to the charity.
When questioned on the impact of cat cafés on cat shelter welfare, Clare Fowler, Engagement Coordinator at PETA, said she was “delighted to see cats taken out of shelters and put into more stimulating environments” like cat cafés.
However, despite the advantages of re-homing cats, there are still concerns for cat safety and comfort in these establishments.
Cats are generally outdoor animals who enjoy roaming and hunting and aren’t known for their great social skills with humans. Unlike other popular pets like dogs, cats are generally anti-social creatures who don’t look too kindly on being prodded and poked by strangers all day.
The charity, Cats Protection, align with these worries, releasing a statement in response to growing trends of cat cafés, voicing their concerns that “cats involved [in these cafés] will become stressed”.
Nerea Ferrando, animal rights activist and Environmental Science student, agreed that cat cafés are not the ideal environments for cats: that “a lot of cats don’t like to be petted, or held against their will”. Ferrando went on to suggest that dogs may be more suitable residents of animal-themed cafés as they are naturally far more social animals.
Approaching a cat at Maison de Moggy was a tentative business. Most the time you were met with a reproachful look from your furry friend, often bordering on disdain depending on how persistent you were. Multiple times, cats were forced to grumpily slink away from guests determined for the cute Instagram selfie they had envisioned upon their visit.
I raised these concerns with Francesca Bell, Assistant Manager at Maison de Moggy, questioning her about the potential stressors present in the café. She assured me that all cat cafés are equipped with precautions to ensure the resident cats’ full comfort. Around the café are colourful signs for customers, explaining that no cat should be lifted or disturbed when resting and multiple cat-sitters are on guard during visits to deter any problematic customer behaviour. There are also isolated quiet rooms in the back for cats to escape to if needed, which no customers are able to enter. Bell does assure though that “they don’t tend to use it as much, they do tend to enjoy being in the café more.”
Clare Fowler of PETA agrees that standards need to be set in cafés to ensure safety and comfort of resident cats: “if customers are watched like hawks to make sure no one harms a cat … then the Cat Café could be terrific.”
Looking about Maison de Moggy, I must admit most cats do all look rather serene. Though not all are receptive to customers cooing after them, some do allow the occasional quick head scratch before scurrying away. They seem content, not stressed or scared and seem only as socially flippant as your usual pet cat. They have a home and that’s a far sight better than most of their brothers and sisters still lost on the street or crammed into an over-packed shelter.
Cat cafés hope to raise awareness for un-homed cats and if customers leave here with a desire to go and adopt their own fluffy friend, then they’ve proved themselves invaluable. If that’s not enough to convince you otherwise, then I can at least promise the tea to be top notch.