I just got back from a glorious two-week “better late than never” honeymoon in Scotland and London.
My husband and I ate haggis (him traditional, me veggie), stalked (in the less-creepy cat withdrawal way) Scottish cats, went to Stonehenge, stalked our hotel cat (Lady Grey of The Rookery), went to the British Museum, stalked cat mummies, and generally thought up hilarious Scottish/English situations that our cats could get into in the UK. (You haven’t lived, or garnered weirder glances, until when on tour at Glamis Castle you talk in your “Brandy the Cat voice” to your husband and say, about the Queen’s lovely honeymoon bed, “I’ve seen better. I’ve got a litter box in the Hamptons with nicer drapes.” Hilarious, right?)
Oh yeah, and we went to:
It was like the mothership demand-yowled and I came cowering, obediently with yummy tender vittles.
As “London’s first ever cat cafe,” Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is two levels of a charming, English cat-dream. Tea, baked goods (they have gluten free stuff!), and 11 rescued cats? Thank you, Lady Dinah, I’ll have another.
This was the play-by-play:
We arrived promptly to our 11 a.m. appointment at Lady Dinah’s. If you are going to be in London in the relatively near future and want to visit Lady Dinah’s, BOOK NOW. I cannot emphasize that enough — Lady Dinah’s recommends booking 50 days in advance. The first appointment I wanted disappeared within 10 minutes of opening up!
We were first ushered into a small anteroom where the cool “front of house” gal told us the rules of the house. Basically, don’t disturb the cats if they are eating or sleeping, don’t pick the cats up, don’t feed the cats, no flash photography, don’t pester the cats if they don’t want to socialize with you.
Essentially, Lady Dinah’s is the cats’ home, and you’re a guest. The cats dictate how friendly or unfriendly your interaction will be that day. So it was just like at home. Sweet!
After carefully washing our hands and hanging up our coats, we entered the cafe through an inner door. The first level of the cafe was bright and charming. I suspect it was still early in the day for the cats, so it was relatively quiet.
Deciding to let sleeping cats lie, we went downstairs to the lower level, to find a table and order our tea.
Upon entering the lower domain of the kitties, the first cat we encountered was none other than the “Queen bee” herself, Mue.
Mue is the mother-cat to most of the kitties at Lady Dinah’s. One of the wonderful staff told me that all of their cats are rescue cats, and that the majority of the 11 cats are from a litter of Mue’s. Apparently Mue and her family needed a home, her previous owner could not keep them, and then in stepped Lauren Pear (founder and owner of Lady Dinah’s) to give them a home at Lady Dinah’s!
Other cats are adopted into the clan through the help of various local London rescue organizations, but Lady Dinah’s makes it clear they are careful to strike a balance between giving cats homes and not upsetting the existing kitty family.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium was indeed a labor of love. It took 18 months of crowd-funding through Indiegogo to get Lady Dinah’s up and running. In the end, Pear created a uniquely London cat cafe that seems to indeed be a sanctuary for the happy kitties.
But back to the cats.
Mue it turns out was in relatively friendly mood that day, allowing some pictures and scratches (I got a blinky-winky-look from her — I swooned like she was a Beatle) before retiring to what appeared to be her “egg of solitude.” I should note that each cat has a placard hung in the cafe, generally near where they prefer to lounge. This is Mue’s:
I definitely follow Mue on Twitter.
Our tea was then delivered and while Mue watched from her egg:
I had a surprisingly delicious tea with gluten free (yay!) cake. Indiana (or was it Romeo?) decided to grace us with his presence as we ate. He really liked that box.
And of course after the tea was cleared, we saved room for dessert, courtesy of Carbonelle:
And just as we were about to head upstairs for some play time, I spied Wookie, well, spying on us! Note the sign below him. Petra was out and about, but they are quite vigilant about protecting their cats’ sleeping areas. There was an entire “off limits” fortress for the kitties behind the bookcase when they need a reprieve from the adoration.
We made are way upstairs, where it sounded like things were picking up. And we weren’t mistaken! Petra was in a playful mood, and she invited my husband to play too! Loki looked on (black cat on the radiator) while Carbonelle wanted to get in on the action.
And get in on the action, Carbonelle did:
They did this for about 15 minutes — tumbling about, chasing each other across the cafe floor. And the entire time, all the Emporium patrons sat rapt. Shutters snapped, humans awww’ed, and the cats felt free to be cats.
Carbonelle eventually tired of Petra’s roughhousing (one of the staff told me that Petra and Carbonelle are always egging each other on) and retired to the cat house in the window for a “bee break.”
But it wasn’t long before Petra came over for a heart-to-heart (whisker-to-whisker?) …
… and then the whole gang joined in:
Sadly, it was now time to leave Lady Dinah’s. Our two-hour appointment (standard booking time) was up. We said goodbye to the kitties …
… they didn’t care …
… and we were on our way.
We carefully excited into the anteroom where we had first paid (┬ú5 cover charge, per guest) and received instructions. Of course we bought postcards and bags and buttons — all for the benefit of the kitties right?
And then, all too soon, our London cat cafe — no emporium — experience was over.
Leaving Lady Dinah’s my cat withdrawal was both quenched and intensified. I wanted nothing more than to go home to my sweet kitties and smother them with scratches and admiration. It was all the warm fuzzies about the kitties because of the warm fuzzy kitties.
But regardless of whether you’re missing the cats in your life or just need some cats in your life, check out Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium the next time you’re in London for a purr-fect cup of tea.
Thank you to everyone at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium — two legs and four! — for making our visit so fun, comfortable, and memorable! And thank you for allowing us to take, and post, so many fantastic photos. For more updates on Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, you can follow them on Twitter: @LadyDinahsCats
Read more about cat cafes:
About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Yokohama, Japan, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.