Shropshire's first ever cat cafe: Meet the moggies you can enjoy a cuppa and a cuddle with
The first ever cat cafe in Shropshire is here and it’s fur-real.
Cat cafes, where visitors can sit and have a coffee surrounded by a little colony of feline friends, initially sprang up in Japan.
Since then they have gradually appeared in countries around the world – and now Shropshire has its first, Paws Cafe in Mardol, Shrewsbury.
Launched by James Radnor and Katie Fields, it invites customers to enjoy coffee, tea, cake, beer and films while surrounded by cats.
“When James and I first met I was allergic to James’ cat Tinkerbell,” says 33-year-old Katie. “My eyes would be streaming and my throat was all swollen and I would be coughing. But I’m immune now. James is the cat man. He’s cats and coffee and I’m tea and cake.”
James, 30, was an engineer at Ricoh and Katie a food technology teacher. They launched Paws Cafe after visiting a similar cat cafe in Manchester.
“We really enjoyed being at that cafe,” says Katie. “It was so relaxing and we were content for the first time in a long time in terms of our stress levels and feeling comfy. We realised we didn’t want to go back to what we were doing and started drawing up a business model.”
The couple, who have a nine-year-old daughter Jasmine, started researching where they wanted to open the store, and after initially fearing they would be priced out of Shrewsbury found the perfect property at the former Relate charity store.
“People have been saying things like ‘how many coffee shops do we need in Shrewsbury’, but this is not just a coffee shop,” says Katie, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
“There’s lots of little quirky shops and one-offs here and we think it will do well.”
As the couple speak, they are surrounded by some of the cafe’s 11 cats.
They have a wide variety of species, including hairless Cleo, a Canadian sphynx, Elsa the rag doll, Blue the British short hair, two Bengals Nala and Simba, ginger Tom Marmalade and black Tom Binx, and Snowy the white domestic short hair.
There are also three new kittens who have yet to be assigned a name.
- Vote to name the three kittens, the most popular selection will be given
The 11 cats have come from breeders to rescue centres around the country.
“We spent a long time researching breeds and the characteristics,” says Katie. “We’ve seen a lot of cats and we’ve had to be quite business minded. We could have had a hundred cats but we wanted to make sure they’d be a good fit and be happy here in their forever home.
“We have had to be careful, because in Shrewsbury a lot of cats are feral. They are used to being outdoors, on their own and not used to much human contact and obviously that’s the opposite of what we will be providing them with here. The last thing we want is to stress out a cat just so we can say ‘ooh look we’ve adopted him’. It has to be right for the cat.
“These are very much our babies. This is there home and the people fit into that.
“We’ve worked hard to build our colony and make sure that they are all happy.”
The £6-per-half hour entry fee goes towards the healthcare of the cats.
The colony is not quite complete yet, and James has his heart set on a Maine Coon, which he hopes will arrive in April or May.
The cats will be kept in the cafe all the time, although if they need time out they have a private living quarters upstairs, where they will live.
“We have a kitty cam set up so we can keep an eye on them and see what they are getting up to,” says James.
After a few delays and a long refurbishment of the building the cafe fully opens on January 17, and bookings are already being taken via Facebook.
“A lot of people have asked if they can bring children as a lot of cafes don’t allow children under the age of 11,” says Katie. “As long as the children follow the rules they can come.”
Films with felines
In February the cafe will also be starting movie nights, allowing visitors to watch films surrounded by moggies.
“They will be on a Friday, you can come have a beer, some popcorn and watch a cat themed film in the snug area which has a big screen and will have cinema seats,” added James.
The cafe is also planning to launch a Cat Academy on half terms and holidays where children can come with parents and do activities with cats and learn about pet ownership and responsibility.
“It’s about learning what the responsibilities of having a cat are if they were to get one,” says Katie. “They will learn how to look after the cats in the cafe, then they would have the skills if they had their own pet in future.”
While the reaction to the cafe has largely been positive, the couple say they have seen some negative comments.
“Initially there were some comments like ‘I don’t want a side of toxoplasmosis with my coffee’ and things like that,” says Katie. “All of our cats are indoor cats so they are not eating things like birds and mice and not at risk of things like that. Because it’s new people can be unsure.
“The main misconception is that you bring your own cats. We’ve always said that we’ve got nothing to hide and we’re not trying to do something secret or super evil – even though James can look a bit Dr Evil when he strokes the cats.
“But the support on social media has been really overwhelming.”