Two young entrepreneurs are celebrating after winning their battle to open the region’s first ever ‘cat café’.
Gemma Whitehouse, 28, and Lauren Moyes, 25, will open Catastrophe Cat Café, at Lions Barns, Needham Market, on August 12, attended by the Mayor of Stowmarket.
The launch marks the end of a year-long battle to find a ‘cat-friendly’ premises after initial hopes to open in Bury St Edmunds fell through.
“We are thrilled and looking forward to finally opening East Anglia’s first cat café,” said Gemma, from Elmswell.
“People will be able to enjoy tea and cake, and also meet the cats for cuddles and play.”
Cat Cafés first became popular in Taiwan in 1998, followed by Japan in 2004, where many people who were not allowed to keep cats in their apartments could enjoy meeting the animals. They also became popular with tourists.
There are currently nine cat cafés in Britain, with the first opening in London in 2014.
Cat cafés have attracted criticism from some animal charities, who say keeping too many cats in a confined space can cause stress.
“All along, the cats’ welfare has been our priority,” said Gemma, whose background is in legal and charity work.
“It is not a typical cat café and is designed first and foremost as a foster home for the cats, all of which will be from local shelters, and can be adopted.
“The cats will have plenty of space and also their own ‘human-free zone’ if they don’t want to mix with the customers.”
Catastrophe Cat Café has been crowdfunded to the tune of £2,000, with a further £7,000 being awarded by the Big Lottery Fund, more than £3,000 from Tesco, East of England Co-op and Waitrose community funds, and also a small grant from Stowmarket Town Council.
The café will also provide ‘pet-therapy’ for the elderly, and people living with dementia or learning difficulties.
“We won the grants because we will be also providing an outreach service to bring people to the café for pet therapy,” said Lauren, a beauty therapist from Stowmarket.
“This makes us truly unique in the world of cat cafés.”