Plans afoot for Brighton’s first cat cafe

Brighton is the latest town to join a new wave of cat cafes opening or in planning around the UK, giving pet-less tenants a chance to make some furry friends

Brighton could get its very own cat cafe, thanks to the initiative of one couple fed up with rental agreements banning pets.

When cat lover Jon Ely came to Brighton as a student in 2006, he was disappointed to find that many landlords didn’t allow pets, and he wondered how many others were missing out on the playful nature of cats and their therapeutic qualities.

After happening upon an article about Japan’s trend for cat cafes, John and his girlfriend Keri Craddock have decided to try fundraising for a similar venture in Brighton that would allow cats and humans to enjoy each other’s company in a happy, relaxed environment. They want to open Koneko cafe, named after the Japanese word for kitten, in Brighton, this year.

“I’ve always loved cats. I love how they de-stress us and how playful they are,” says Ely. “Various research has shown that the frequency of their purring can be healing. I want those who can’t have cats at home to still be able to enjoy their company and calming qualities.”

John and Keri hope to raise enough money to open the cafe in the Hove area of the city. Both are trained chefs and baristas, and are in the middle of taking cat welfare courses.

“Our key priority will be making sure our 10 rescue cats are happy and well looked after,” says Ely. “Some will be available for adoption and they will all come home with us at night. All our profits will be reinvested into the business and into cat welfare,” he explains.

The couple are on the crest of a small wave of such establishments opening, or in planning, around the UK. They include one just for adults – Totnes Cats Cafe in Devon, which opened in May 2013 and is attached to a cattery and rescue centre.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, which is due to open in London in the coming months, looks set to be a hit. Founder Lauren Pears raised nearly £110,000 through crowdfunding and has received planning permission in Bethnal Green. Other locations being scouted include Bath and St Albans.

The trend has also spread to Australia, America and European cities including Vienna and Paris, with the Paris venue Cafe des Chats having a one-month waiting list for would be weekend visitors.

The Brighton couple are hoping to raise about £40,000 through loans, grants and crowdfunding to get the cafe going.

A spokesperson for Cats Protection, the UK largest cat charity, told Positive News the organisation was uncomfortable with the idea of cat cafes.
“We are concerned about the welfare implications of having a number of cats in a limited space with groups of people unknown to them coming and going. Recent research into cat behaviour counters the opinion that cats living in groups do not suffer social stress,” she said.

Ely said cat welfare was Koneko’s utmost concern: “We know that some cat charities don’t like the idea of cat cafes, but our priority is the cats. They will have plenty of high hideouts to be alone if they don’t want to interact with customers.”

Susan Young, press officer at Totnes Cats Cafe, told Positive News that the animals at their venue “love the cafe.” According to Young, the cats “have become increasingly confident in the surroundings and with the customers, contradicting the claims of some cat charities that cats are solitary creatures.”