There are many frustrated pet owners in the world (full disclosure- I am one). I suspect we are the reason cat videos are so popular on Youtube. I also suspect a lot of us live in London where pet-friendly landlords are less common than a seat on a rush hour tube. In the rare event that you do find such a landlord it doesn’t matter because you’re never home and you don’t have a garden anyway. But now, finally, the solution is here! A cat cafe!
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium was famous a year before it even opened thanks to a high profile Kickstarter campaign and the fact that it is London’s first cat cafe. A first in Shoreditch? Where everything has been done, then re-done ironically? Involving cats? They had my attention. Actually they have everybody’s attention. There has been much fuss made about the fact that afternoon tea at Lady Dinah’s is now booked up months in advance but I booked a single ticket the day before. Top tip – if you can be flexible with your time and you’re prepared to occupy a squashy armchair and eat cake by yourself (and who isn’t?) then this is the way to go. Entry is £5 excluding food and drink. After being walked through to a room where you wash your hands and hear the eminently sensible house rules (no flash photography, don’t feed them cake, don’t pick them up) you are led through to the cat cafe itself.
I took up residence in an armchair and cats ran at me from several directions. One leapt onto my bag and began wrestling it, another sat on the coffee table in front of me and a pair of energetic kittens raced about the room. I had expected the cats to be aloof but they were curious and ready to play. In the background soft music played; Sinatra crooned at us as we crooned at the cats. Sessions are for two hours and there are only about fifteen people at any one time. This is great; you don’t feel rushed and there’s time to relax. The menu boasts a tempting selection of cake, biscuits and cream teas. Keeping the residents away from your clotted cream is a game in itself. The atmosphere is very friendly; this is London but not as we know it. Complete strangers chat to one another as they play with the cats, a wonderful mix of long haired and short haired. My personal favourite was Wookie, a Persian cross.
It probably goes without saying that this place is not for the feline faint-hearted. There are cats everywhere, climbing around shelves, sleeping in hammocks and leaping out of hidey holes.
There are eleven in total and Lady D has done her research on the best way to establish a happy colony. Tortoiseshell Mue is the mother of seven while the remaining three are rescue cats like Wookie who have fitted well with the group. Amongst us sat the owner herself, working on an iPad whilst the cats strolled around. She was very observant; telling us about each cat’s character and getting food for those who appeared hungry. I have no concerns about the welfare of the cats, it is clear that Lady D puts them first and the animal welfare policy is very thorough.
At the end of two hours I didn’t want to leave but most of the cats had begun a well earned nap and I was wired on the cafe’s excellent coffee. I’m already planning my next visit. If you’re a cat-loving Londoner then I thoroughly recommend a visit to Lady Dinah’s. It might be eccentric but you’re in good company. As the Cheshire Cat says, ‘we’re all mad here’.