We recently had the pleasure of working with Paws Cat Cafe, a delightful cafe in Tonbridge, Kent, that is home to 17 fantastic feline residents as part of our festive photoshoot. We sat down with cafe manager, Lauren, to chat all things cat and find out just what it is like to run such a unique venue.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, the cats and the cafe?
My name is Lauren and I am the Manager at Paws Cat Cafe. We set up in 2018 as a family business run by me and my mum after we had both had enough of our regular jobs and needed something better for our mental health. We decided that cats were our passion so to have a calm safe cosy environment was exactly what we needed, so we rescued all the cats and set up Paws - a cafe for Coffee, for Cake and for Cats!
What made you decide to open up a cat cafe?
The primary thing was that both me and my mum suffered with anxiety and in our day to day jobs it was all just getting a bit much. My mum came up with this crazy idea of a cat cafe- it would be calm and quiet and cosy, everything most other cafes aren't. At first it seemed too out there but the more we thought about it and researched it, the more we knew that was exactly what we wanted.
What is your favourite thing on the menu?
As a drink it has to be our Top Cat! It's a hot chocolate complete with Whipped cream, mini marshmallows and a chocolate sprinkling on top, plus we have loads of flavoured syrups, so if i'm in need of a sugar rush I add the salted caramel one... perfection!
Wears our Nebula Cat Collar.
How do you decide which cats would be well suited to cafe life?
We worked closely with the rescue centre when we set up to help us find cats that would be suited for this. They needed to be indoor cats as it was close to impossible to find a suitable outdoor property, they all needed to have the right temperament, love people and a fuss, and they needed to get on well with other cats. So with the centre we found cats that had previously been used to this life before and had been happy in it. We also work alongside a cat behaviorist who gave us advice and tips to help and visited regularly to give her views. We then gave them a settling period to make sure it was all right and then from there I think we have been very lucky to have such great cats!
Which cat loves the biggest fuss?
SO Many of them! Tweenie comes to mind as a general for the public, when they are sitting down for a cuppa, she loves to sit on people's laps and so does Pride. But Jasper and Belle love a fuss too, but they are more selective and tend to prefer it from the staff they know well.
Wears our Coastal Kikoy Cat Collar & Cat Bandana
You are passionate about cat rescue, can you tell us a little more about that?
There are so many cats in the world and don't get me wrong kittens are the cutest! But when you see how many are in need of homes it's kind of heart-breaking. We decided if we were going to do something like this to change our lives, then at the same time we could change some cats lives too and I cannot even explain how rewarding it is. Especially when you see the progress they can make, sometimes it takes a while, sometimes its really fast but its always so amazing. I think the best example I can give is Jasper. He was kept in a cage from the age of 6 months for 2 years. When we got him, he was timid and scared and we couldn't even touch him. He got eye infections and ulcers from stress and that was worsened by the fact we had to pin him down 6 times a day to give him eye drops. But within just a couple months of love and attention and a lot of patience, he is the one I mentioned above for loving a fuss. He loves cuddles, and playing, he loves being picked up and sitting on a lap, he's honestly a different cat, and that is just one of the most rewarding feelings!
I will always recommend rescuing, and to those who would prefer a kitten - don't be put off you can rescue kittens too, you just have to be patient.
What is your favourite part about running the cafe?
I mean obviously the cats! It's pretty hard to have a bad day when you're surrounded by them, they make everything seem easier. But in terms of as a business, I love the level of creativity I get as Manager, coming up with new ideas, events and themes etc. It gives me a lot of freedom in that sense.
What is the biggest challenge of running the cafe?
Right now - Covid! Obviously this has had a real impact on us, because we aren't your standard cafe we still have 17 cats that need feeding, cleaning, litters cleaned and maintained, we still need to heat and light the premises and have running water so our costs have not been reduced while we get no income, plus on top of that the longer this all goes on for the more uncertain things become, the cats have less company and we begin to lose motivation on some days.
What is a common misconception people have about cat cafes?
Unfortunately I think there are still quite a few, because they are still so unique people don't know much about them so a lot of the time they will judge them without knowing all the facts. The 2 biggest ones we still hear the most are -
1 - It must be really dirty. Well no, it isn't. We have to clean more than any normal cafe would to keep the cleanliness up. The tables are wiped down between every use the same as any normal cafe, the floors and swept and mopped daily, we have these little blocks that help us de fur the cat trees and chairs. We disinfect everything all the time. If you think about it we are actually cleaning more than a regular cafe and cats are actually very hygienic animals, but at the end of the day we appreciate it isn't for everyone and that's ok.
2 - The second one is always - isn't it cruel cooping them up indoors their whole life? Well again no it isn't. We worked closely with the rescue centre and a cat behaviorist and it's all very dependant. Yes some cats are better suited for an outdoor life and would hate to be cooped up inside. But the cats at the cafe we all rescued because an indoor home is what they needed! Some of them had only ever known an indoor life before and so at the age of 12 to make them an outdoor cat would be dangerous and take Frank for example - he's our big white cat - he's deaf so a life outside would also be unsafe for him. We give the cats plenty of space including a whole floor just for them away from the public eye, they have plenty of things to run and climb on and we are always finding enrichment activities such as cat grass, puzzle feeders and toys.
Can you sum up your cafe in 3 words for us?
Coffee, Cake and Cats! <3
We'd like to thank Lauren (and the cats!) for taking the time to chat with us. We know covid has hit small businesses like Paws Cat Cafe pretty hard, so if you would like to donate to help towards the upkeep of the cats you can do so here. We thoroughly recommend a visit once the cafe can open their door again too - the cats are all gorgeous and they have a fabulous menu that also caters towards vegans and has some great gluten free options.