In the southwestern England town of Totnes, you’ll soon be able to hear the purr of cats and the hiss of espresso machines brought together in the Feline Therapy Lounge. The "cat cafe," the first one in the U.K., was recently cleared to open by the Totnes Town Council.
But the steamed milk isn’t the only thing hissing. The British charity Cats Protection is up in arms about the Feline Therapy Lounge because its members believe the cats will be stressed in a cafe setting.
The woman behind the business is Liz Dyas, a former nurse who has worked with animals for more than 25 years and run a cattery since 2008. She says that like the cat cafes in Japan, Austria, and Russia, the business will give customers a place to decompress after a long workday — and, of course, allow people doing their daily work a golden opportunity for some capable feline assistance.
"We believe this kind of environment is not suitable for domestic cats because they have evolved as solitary animals," a spokesman for Cats Protection told the news website This is South Devon, "and it is very likely that some or all the cats will become stressed as a result of being in a limited space with a continually changing group of people."
Okay, I understand Cats Protection’s concern for the welfare of the felines who will grace the Feline Therapy Lounge with their presence. But there’s a long and provable history of calm, healthy cats at other cafes all around the world. It would take a little bit of doing, I suppose, but if I were concerned about cafe cats, I’d probably contact rescue groups in other areas and get their take on how the cafes are working and how the cats are doing.
Also, it has become pretty well known that cats aren’t nearly as solitary as we once thought. If you’ve ever spent time in a cage-free animal shelter, you’ve seen proof of this.
I imagine Dyas has done a lot of research on her own. She clearly knows and loves cats enough to run a cattery, and opening a cat therapy cafe seems to me like the perfect combination of nursing and cat loving. I’m sure she’d be selecting for feline residents that are more naturally outgoing and comfortable with people, who would be more likely to get their own emotional needs met by having humans constantly available to give them love.
Not only that, but the Cat Therapy Lounge could be a wonderful venue for helping to socialize shelter cats and put them in a place where they’re more likely to be seen — and adopted. This is the model used by the Small Things Cafe in Sudbury, Ontario, and a proposed cat caf├® in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
If I found myself in Totnes, I’d totally go to the Feline Therapy Lounge, not just because I love cats, but because in my experience it’s almost impossible to find a decent cup of coffee in England — and maybe this establishment could give me one.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.