A coffee shop in Bournemouth is taking in strays and giving them a cosy new home, says Sharon Smith
They do say that cats always land on their feet. And the rescue cats who were saved from the street and given a home at one of Britain’s only cat cafés have well and truly landed on theirs.
Part of a growing trend in both the UK and abroad, the Pause Cat Café in Bournemouth is one of a number of coffee shops where the animals are as much an attraction as the food, decor and staff. The cats are all rescues, and have settled in to their new life at the café, where customers who have fallen in love with the animals have even asked if they can take them home.
When you enter the café it doesn’t smell of cats, only of whatever lunch is being cooked that day, and the room has a spotlessly clean, bright interior.
The animals mingle discreetly with the customers like self-assured hosts among their guests. There is a rope ladder strung across the ceiling from where they can languidly observe the visitors, with their velvety paws dangling nonchalantly over the edge.
The animals weave with ease between the diners, and there are even empty chairs where they can join the café’s guests for lunch while they are eating their food.
The Pause Cat Café’s owner, Jaya Da Costa, 34, says that she is always ready to nip forward and remove one of the cats if they are bothering the customers, but that most of the café’s visitors are happy to put their meal on hold while they stroke the resident pets — why come to a cat café otherwise?
Pause is the sole such establishment south of London, she says. It opened in February this year, with £25,000 of the £105,000 start-up cost raised from the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The café initially attracted some protests from animal rights activists, she explains.
“They’d never actually been here, so I said come and take a look. They did and they changed their minds. They’re now our supporters. The cats’ welfare is paramount. I did a lot of research, consulting experts at every stage.
“The cats have their own bedrooms to escape to whenever they like. I was worried at first that we would be the only cat café without any cats if they all chose to stay in their rooms. Luckily they didn’t!”
The Pause Cat Café is offered animals to rehome on almost a daily basis, but at the moment 12 resident pets is their limit, to ensure that they all have enough space. However, the café is about to extend its premises into the building’s basement, so will soon be in the market for more rescue pets. Da Costa tends to select the cats depending on whether they like to spend time with other cats, how much they like to be with people and whether they prefer to live indoors, with any newcomers gradually introduced to the other cats one by one.
The cats have their own bedrooms to escape to whenever they like
Staff members include qualified cat specialists, and customers have to obey the house rules, which include not disturbing sleeping cats. “We’ve not had any cats who don’t like café life, but they all have a home lined up just in case, and some cats have more than one home in waiting after customers fall in love with them,” says Da Costa.
Hygiene is taken very seriously. The locally sourced vegan food is prepared in a sealed kitchen and served in boxes with tightly fitted lids, and there are bottles of hand sanitiser everywhere.
The customers include cat-lovers and those who cannot keep pets themselves, including students and the elderly, as well as people with small flats. The café also helps people who are nervous around animals. Josie Smyth, who is seven years old, became scared of cats after she was badly clawed as a toddler. “Josie attended a class here where she learnt about cats, and this is our second visit,” says her mother, Jenny, 36. “Now she’s happy to be with cats and we hope to get one of our own. It’s a lovely place, just like one big, happy family.”