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Opinion: Why opening a cat cafe in Preston is a terrible idea

Posted on - 10th January, 2017 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Opinion
Cat cafe's have become popular across the UK, like this one in Nottingham Pic: Tony Worrall

Cat cafe’s have become popular across the UK, like this one in Nottingham Pic: Tony Worrall

This is a guest post from Becca Schofield, who is a veterinary nurse from Preston. She’s currently working abroad volunteering with animals.

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Most people know a person who loves cats.  They are one of the most popular pets in the UK. It’s hardly surprising that if people get given the opportunity to visit a cafe they are both intrigued and excited at the prospect. Particularly if personal circumstances do not allow them to have pets of their own.

The cat café concept really took off in Japan, with the first Japanese café opening it’s doors in 2004. Over a five year period, approximately 80 more cafés opened and the idea started to spread across the world. It is no surprise that throughout much of Asia, although there are some very dedicated animal lovers throughout the continent, animals simply have a different place in society. Their welfare is not a priority and being seen as a fashion statement or accessory is normalised.

As such, the UK’s leading cat charity Cats Protection has widely voiced their opposition to cat cafés. Many of the cat cafés already opened in the UK claim to follow guidelines for cat welfare of Cats Protection, some even quoting so in their mission statements. Many cafes claim welfare is their number one priority. But surely as a business, profit would be a priority. 

MORE: Cat café could be coming to Preston

Preston is home to many small animal charities. There is Lancashire Cat Rescue, an RSPCA shelter and many local, dedicated fosterers. There is one thing all of these have in common. They are all full, with animals continuing to be abandoned every day. Throughout the UK, not only in Preston, pet overpopulation is a massive problem. Limited funds and resources result in many of these charities and their staff struggling to cope.

If a cat cafe opens in Preston, there is no doubt that the first few months will see many cat-loving visitors pass through the doors. Cats may be sourced from breeders, possibly even rescue centres. To be taken out of an environment where they feel safe and secure, placed in a room with unfamiliar smells of unknown cats and people can only contribute towards stress. Once the initial buzz has died down, if the business does not continue to make a profit, where will these cats go?

This brings up many more concerns. The annual PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) PAW Report 2016, states the average cost of ownership of a cat over their lifetime can go from a minimum of £17k to £24k. Cat cafés often have more than one cat, some over ten and some over twenty individual animals. In a city such as Preston, will a small business make enough profits to be able to cover the cost of the cats for the rest of their lives?

With the exception of lions, all cats maintain a solitary life and do not form structured social groups. Cats in multiple cat households have been scientifically proven to show an increase in aggressive, territorial and fearful behaviour. This behaviour contributes to stress-related conditions such as urinary infections, over-grooming and abscesses from fighting.

A small business such as a Cat Cafe would see a massive impact on their profits if  their animals falls ill due to disease, sickness or injury. The average cost of cat care from the PDSA does not take into account unexpected veterinary fees. As well as their physical health, multiple cats in an enclosed space coming into contact with large numbers of unknown people every day will have a massive psychological impact also.

According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, all animals kept in a domesticated environment must have five basic needs met; diet, companionship, health, environment and behaviour. With major opposition to cat cafés from leading animal welfare charities, it is clear that these needs are compromised when animals are exploited for a business venture.

The recent Blog Preston article looked at the prospect of a cat café in Preston. Comments were plentiful. Being a veterinary nurse, I completely empathise with wanting to spend time with animals. However, I can’t help but think this is purely adding to the problem of animals being seen as disposable. Although the above individuals are clearly cat lovers, I was unable to find a comment stating a cat café would be a good idea for the cats themselves.

In a nation that is supposed to be full of animal lovers, our rescue centres are bursting. Veterinary practices also see large numbers of avoidable health problems every day. Instead of teaching children to see cats as only being ‘fluffy’ and there for a ‘cuddle,’ why not take them to a rescue shelter?

The same goes for those unable to have pets of their own, those with stress, those who love cats so much they simply want to be close to them. Instead of paying £12 per hour, why not spend that money on cat food, donate it to your local shelter and spend time with the cats there for free.

Cat cafés are a business venture exploiting the good nature of animal lovers, with welfare often far from the front of their minds.

Although many people, and sometimes even the cats, enjoy the affection and companionship, cats have much more complex requirements to ensure a good standard of overall health and well-being. As such, there is absolutely no place for a cat café in Preston.

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