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!
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.
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 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 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.