Putting the cat amongst the pigeons – the new cafe that’s dividing opinion

What a gorgeous day for us here in Kent!  Lap it up!  If you’re sitting down with something to celebrate Friday, have a read of this while you’re supping.  Cat cafes are not new but they certainly are new to Tonbridge.  I know that there were some guffaws when the cat cafe rumour was first announced on here but it really is happening and it’s opening soon…

Do you sometimes find cafes very noisy?  Elaine Lucas did and she finds a coffee and a cake in a bustling cafe with the coffee machine steaming, orders being taken, customers chatting, children screaming not very relaxing.  This combined with someone reminding her that life is short and you must do what makes you happy, led her down the cat cafe route. 




Elaine loves cats!  She has four of her own and volunteers at a cat rescue centre near Orpington in her spare time too.  She has carried out masses of research before starting this venture with her family, visiting lots of other cat cafes, speaking to vets, cat behaviourists and to colleagues at the rescue centre.  Her aim is for Paws – the name of the cat cafe – to be relaxing and calm, a haven from the hustle and bustle, providing rescue centre cats with an enriched life through play and stimulation from other cats and cafe customers.  Cats and calm are her priorities, and in that order I would say from talking to her.

How will it work?

Customers will book one hour slots online or over the phone.  There will be fifteen minute intervals between slots so that there isn’t a mad rush on the hour.  Each slot will cost £5 and that money goes towards the cats’ welfare – paying for insurance, vet bills, food etc.  Children need to be ten years old and over in order to visit the cafe – this is in the interests of keeping the cafe peaceful and ensuring that the cats are not being chased by an enthusiastic toddler! 

The cats

There will be ten resident cats which have been carefully chosen by Elaine from the rescue centre where she volunteers.  There will be a two week settling in period for the cats at the cafe when Elaine or her daughter Lauren – the cafe manager – will stay over with them to ensure it goes smoothly and identify any issues. 


The cats will have space to roam all over the cafe, except the kitchen, including upstairs where they will sleep at night. 

The cats will have space to roam all over the cafe, except the kitchen, including upstairs where they will sleep at night. 


When the cafe opens, the friendly felines will be able to wander around the cafe, upstairs and downstairs and come and go as they please, within the cafe.  Elaine and Lauren anticipate that regulars will naturally favour certain cats, or vice versa, and build a bond with them, a relationship which they hope will benefit both cat and customer.  

The kitchen 

The kitchen is closed off from the rest of the cafe for hygiene reasons and Elaine and Lauren have been busy finding local food and drink producers that they can stock – Sam’s Lemonade from Sussex, Queen Alfred cakes from Wadhurst and they decided to stock award-winning Kent Crisps after meeting them at the Tonbridge Food and Drink Festival.  They’re keen to keep it local.


The kitchen - the window will become a hatch to serve food.

The kitchen – the window will become a hatch to serve food.


The cafe is stirring-up controversy in Tonbridge but from my conversation with Elaine and Lauren this is no whimsical idea.  They have invested a huge amount of effort, time and money to make this work and welcome questions – don’t jump to conclusions, get in touch with them and ask.  Whatever your thoughts and opinions about Paws, let’s wish them luck and remember to be kind. 



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  1. I love the idea and am looking forward to my first visit. As long as the food and drink is a reasonable price, and good quality, I dont mind paying £5 to go.

  2. I’m so looking forward to visiting this new café. Wonderful idea and I hear they are very popular in other parts. I love cats too and it’s a perfect way to keep rescue cats, I think and please cat lovers. Good luck to Elaine and Lauren. Great article.

  3. I like the idea and will definitely try it if only for the cats. I do hope the food and drinks are good quality and tasty though otherwise this could fail.

  4. We have 5 cats of our own & one is a rescue . We look forward to coming to the cafe . Our fur babies Eddy ,Dusty, Misti, Mordred & Arriva all wish you & the cats good luck as do myself & simon x

  5. I have 5 cats of my own, and have been to a cat cafe in London before. However the whole thing made me uncomfortable, and I got quite angry at people poking and harassing the cats when they just wanted to sleep. Will not be returning to another.

  6. I have been to the one in Stratford and it was a lovely experience. Will definitely get my mad cat lady friends to try this with me.

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