We are here for the launch of Manchester’s first cat café. Situated in the old Richard Goodall gallery on High Street in the Northern Quarter, we arrive to check in and put on unflattering spa slippers or blue plastic shoe covers that wouldn’t look out of place at any crime scene. It’s your choice.
Next the house rules to protect the cats’ welfare. It’s a serious business loving these cats. They are as follows:
Please do not disturb me if I’m asleep.
Please do not pick me up.
Please do not chase me.
Please do not take photos of me using a flash.
Please don’t feed me any food (except the treat boxes behind the counter!)
Please don’t let me steal your milk.
The rules only apply to the cats. Not humans. Formalities over, we enter the bright, airy and relaxed space via a little wooden gate. The gallery feel remains with lots of light coming through the vast surrounding windows so passersby can get a good look in but, more importantly, the cats can get a good look out.
There’s some rather comfy furniture for visitors and some equally comfy furniture for the cats plus cat toys and interactive games, climbing shelves scaling the walls, a cat dormitory and big fish tank. Cat heaven has arrived! But where did it all start?
The first feline café, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taiwan in 1998. Japan followed suit in 2005. Never a nation to do things by halves, there are now over 40 in Tokyo alone. With long working hours, minimal land space, tiny apartments, and strict no pet policies, the cafes boomed and give visitors the chance to relax, destress, and have fun playing with the cuddly four legged friends.
The idea arrived here in 2014 when Lauren Pears opened Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Shoreditch, London. She raised funds through crowdfunding to get the doors open – which is exactly how sisters Ellie and Sarah Close helped fund their Manchester Cat Café. It just goes to show how much people love cats.
Although some cafes are rescue and rehoming shelters, the sisters felt more comfortable raising a family of cats together that will remain in the café whilst raising funds for rehoming centres.
I had a couple of questions about food hygiene – and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. There are very strict ‘non-cat’ food preparation areas and the place is spotlessly clean and sanitary. There are also house nannies who look after the cats as they live here full time.
The family of ten cats are all different breeds and have different characters. By far the most playful on our visit was Georgina, a Birman variant, very vain and attention seeking. Aslan, the youngest family member, a sleepy Maine Coon who loves being stroked and hardly moved from the recliner the whole time we were there. Keira, a Bengal (or was it Snowy – they look so similar), loved watching the world go by on the perch next to the window. And Joel, my daughter’s favourite, a very beautiful Russian Blue, who was both mysterious and inquisitive, shy at first but gradually opened up.
There is an area for cats to go when they aren’t feeling sociable, so on each visit you are bound to encounter new faces. Children can be booked in at weekends so it’s a great way to spend time with the whole family. Simply pay for your time – £1 per five minutes with unlimited hot and cold soft drinks, cakes and snacks. And plenty of cuddles.
If you can’t keep a pet at home, this is the place for you. Being around animals makes us happier and healthier. Surely we all need more of that? Relax, stroke, play, smile, do nothing, forget work, leave the screens behind. You get the picture.
103 High Street, M4 1HQ