Fancy a cat with that?

If you’re addicted to good coffee and you adore cats, you’ll be in kittyccino heaven at a cat café, the newest craze that’s sweeping the world. What is a cat café, I can hear you ask?  Divine coffee served in the presence of exquisite, cuddly cats for the ultimate caffeine hit.

Auckland now has its own cat café, Barista Cats. With coffee, sandwiches and cakes for sale, Barista Cats is just like a regular café but with a significant difference – well, 11 of them actually. Yes, it has 11 cats, including Woody the Wobbler and Hamburglar, that you can hang out with while you’re there. Play, have fun and de-stress with the cats in a comfortable lounge-room setting – what a purrfect way to get your cat and coffee fix in one go.

In a lifestyle change that’s clawing its way up from the usual sea-change or tree-change, this new cat-change is the brainchild of former insurance lawyer, Julia Whitehead. An ardent cat lover, Julia fell in love with the cat café concept when she was visiting Thailand where cat cafes fill the void left when people cannot keep pets where they live.  Short-term renters or apartment dwellers can still enjoy the company of these enchanting felines without the worry of cat relocation hanging over their heads.

As expected when dealing with feline aristocats, cat cafes operate a little differently. You can just waltz in but you’ll take your chances because the number of people in the café is limited at any one time to ensure the best experience for the cats and customers. Booking online is the safest way to avoid disappointment.

At Barista Cats the entry fee for the café is $15, which includes an hour-long sessions with the cats and a free espresso coffee or other hot beverage of your choice. Other items from the food and beverage menu are priced separately. Find out more on www.baristacatscafe.co.nz

Moggies make their mark around the world

Since a cat café opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998, the opportunity to interact with some furry friends has been universally embraced. The café became so popular with Japanese tourists, the first Japanese cat café opened its doors in Osaka in 2004. Japan now has over 150 cat cafes. Because many apartments in Japan forbid pet ownership, the popularity of the cafes has been attributed to a desire to interact with cats to help relieve the stress of a busy urban life.

Since then, cat cafes have spread throughout the world. You can now find them in Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Austria, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Finland, Estonia, France, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the United Kingdom. Cat cafes moved into North America in 2014, with the first one opening in Montreal. Oakland was next, and then came Denver, California, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, San Diego and heaps more states, not necessarily in that order.

Closer to home, there are cat cafes in Australia – Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane at this stage but there are more in the wings. And, of course, we now have Barista Cats in Auckland. Pawsome!

Cat welfare a priority issue

Many cat cafes showcase rescued cats that are carefully chosen for their ability to interact with customers. At some places, these cats can actually be adopted, while other cat cafes maintain furever homes for their kitties. Customers love the idea that unwanted cats now have a new purpose in life, whether it is just to give out endless pleasure or to support cat charities in the event of a successful cat adoption.

Needless to say, all cat cafes have strict welfare rules to keep their “stars” happy and healthy. These include picking up or not picking up cats, not waking sleeping cats, refraining from using flash photography or annoying them in any way. Each cat café around the world has its own rules, according to its setup. Some even have restrictions on the ages of visiting children so it’s always best to check online first and become familiar with what you can and can’t do in a cat café.

Cat tourism reinvented

With the abundance of cat cafes now in the global catmosphere, is it any wonder cat lovers are planning their world travel around cat cafes?  Cats are a universal drawcard and break down any language barrier – as evidenced by innumerable cat videos being viewed millions of times on social media. We can’t get enough of the cute little critters.

As far as I can see, there doesn’t seem to be a travel agent specialising exclusively in cat café tourism (an opportunity for the caddicted perhaps?) but there are a number of local guides in specific countries who will fill the bill and take you on a cat café experience. This is something to think about for your next holiday. Why go to the Sistine Chapel when you can cuddle a cat over a Chai Latte in Taiwan?

Where will it end?

You have to hand it to the Japanese – they are inventive. The country has now gone far beyond the original cat café concept, and some of the trendiest places to visit nowadays have owls, rabbits and goats hanging around. Tokyo’s Fukuro no Mise, which means the ‘Shop of Owls’ has a full guest list for up to two months.

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