Cafes

Feline the Love | Cat Cafe Opens in Melbourne

By Stephen A Russell - 29 Jul 2014

A case of love at first sight, Anita Loughran and her husband Myles were on honeymoon in Japan when they first stumbled into a cat cafe crawling full of the fluffy critters.

Kicking off in Taiwan, the concept spread quickly through Central Asia and down to Japan where it really took off.  The idea's simple; if you can't have cats at home, for whatever reason, you can hang out with them in the cat cafe, doling out copious belly rubs and chin strokes while sinking your coffee with a slice of cake.

Stuck in boring corporate jobs that were making them miserable, the Loughrans decided to chuck it all in on their return home and set up their own Cat Cafe Melbourne with the help of a successful crowd funded Indiegogo campaign. The idea went off like a kitty on catnip with the city's cat lovers digging deep.

When Cat Cafe Melbourne opens, punters will be able tip in $10 an hour to hang out with the 12 resident furballs sourced from the Geelong Animal Welfare Society and, ironically, the Lost Dogs Home in North Melbourne, including little one-eyed Braveheart (my personal fave from last week's media preview), the all-white Jaspar and attention-loving, stripey cutey Lottie.

"I like the idea that people can come here to relax and get a bit of a cat fix, especially those that maybe rent an apartment from a landlord who won't allow them to have an animal," Anita says. "We've had quite a few people contacting us whose partners are really allergic, so they can't have their own and a lot of groups of younger women who just want a different social atmosphere."

The beautiful old stone Cat Cafe building sits at the top end of Queen Street, looking out through grand windows onto the Queen Vic Market. The cafe proper is housed downstairs, were you can grab tea, coffee, cake and buy feline accessories including cat toys and cardboard beds that also double as scratching posts. Upstairs, Cat Cafe Melbourne is just like a cosy Victorian home, with polished floorboards, an original fireplace, crammed bookshelves, furry rugs and heaps of elaborate scratching towers. "We wanted it to be like someone's living room, but built for cats," Anita says.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Loughrans don't have their own cat, because they weren't allowed to keep one in their previous Yarraville apartment, and none of their friends own one either, so the Cat Cafe Melbourne will feed their own feline addiction. "I love the way they look, feel and the purring," Anita says. "Dogs are very clear about getting their language across, but you need to know how to read cats, and I think that helps bonding with them."

She points out that dog owners have loads of social groups, and she likes the idea that cat lovers can get in on the act, too. Sally Collins from Lalor, who owns three cats herself, contributed to the Indiegogo campaign and was invited down for a sneak peek before the Cat Cafe Melbourne opens. "I supported it because I thought it was a great idea; a nice space for people who can't keep cats to interact with them and get to know them," she says. "It's a beautiful building and feels very homey. I'm happy to just sit here and watch them."

Paul Elliot from Brunswick owns a cat with his partner, but says they'll both be popping in regularly. "She's not very social, so sometimes it's fun to go and play with other cats," he says. "She's old and cranky and we're cheating on her. We work round the corner, so this might be a regular after-work treat for us."

Cat Cafe Melbourne opens Wednesday, July 30th

Image Credits: Michelle Jarni, The Urban List

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