I am bound to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in the eyes of those friends who portray the future-me as a crazy cat lady… but I could imagine no better way of spending a lonely Valentine’s Day, than drinking coffee in the company of felines.
The opportunity to combine my two passions on the international day of love was that much more tempting, because the long awaited The Cat in the Window Cafe had only officially opened the day before. The venue was already close to my heart, as I had supported the crowdfunding initiative that eventually brought this place to life – which was obviously a sign that the crowds were in need of such a furry establishment.
Or were they? I think there are two types of people in the world: those that cannot get round the idea of eating in one room with a bunch of cats; and those that do not require any convincing that this is a little piece of heaven on Earth – however, I also think that among both types there will be curious minds wanting to know what the whole thing is really about.
Because I had contributed to the cause, I was kept updated on the developments by mail and email, which also included a voucher for entry, cake and coffee – but that’s where my understanding of the whole concept ended. My voucher encouraged me to reserve my slot online, which I dully did, snapping up the last remaining bookable entry on the Sunday, 14 February – the cafe’s second day in business.
That done, I had a wee browse of the website, and found the intriguing Ts and Cs – and I knew this would be a truly one-of-a-kind coffee shop visit.
Upon my arrival at the designated time – no later, so as to not lose my spot to a walk-in visitor, only admitted per availability – there was already a wee queue at the door, which was locked and guarded from the inside by a member of staff. A few minutes later, the door opened, letting out a customer who had obviously completed their feline experience, and letting the waiting folk in – or at least those who had a reservation. Inside, the door was locked again, a register taken and we were asked to take our coats off… as well as our shoes. This was one of the safety measures for the kitties, to protect them from any parasites brought in from the outside.
The other behaviour rules were not to leave the “play room” without assistance, not to shout or run about and not to feed or pick up the cats – for a less understanding customer this could have resembled a kindergarten, but for a feline enthusiast, it all made sense. Then, the inner door was opened, an our cat hour commenced.
First impressions of the cafe were great: lovely warm and fluffy decor, with puff seats, tree trunk tables and even a suspended chair, which I eagerly took for myself, seeing that all the other visitors came in pairs or groups. In fact, as I sat there, feet and all in the air, and looked around the place, I was struck by the demographic in the room: all late teens/early 20s, ordering hot chocolates and teas, all there for the sole purpose of hanging out with cats. On Valentine’s…!
But where were the cats? Since I wasn’t the first through the door, I didn’t actually get the best pick of seats, so the two sofas that had a few of the feline residents sleeping on them were already occupied when I moved onto my chair. Only a wee black creature – Drago – was within my reach, albeit also sleeping, high on a wooden climbing wall.
For the first quarter of an hour not much happened, and I fretted the whole thing would end up being a massive disappointment. In that time, everyone’s order for coffee and/or cake was taken, after which the items begun to arrive, one by one. Either because of the late hour, or early days of the business, there were only strawberry muffins and Bayleys cupcakes available, but the choice of brews seemed to be more than substantial, with everyone’s drink needs met on first ask.
Just as the rest of the decor, the coffee mugs were perfectly suited for the venue. Since I was treating myself that night, I went for a whipped cream with my mocha, so could not tell if there was any latte art involved – and, naturally, the taste was also affected. So, from sweet and creamy, to punchy and mellow – albeit not the top of the pops, the brew was still very enjoyable, and just hit the spot – thankfully, it was not too overwhelming and complimented my cupcake perfectly.
In the meantime, the cats begun to come out their hide – firstly spurred on by one of the toys, available for anyone to pick up from a basket in the middle of the room, then, occupied by each other or random objects, such as a carpet, the kitties were finally mingling with the customers. I had my part in the fun: Drago was difficult to engage, but Mickey, a soft Scottish Fold, was much more eager to play – even if he got easily distracted by other people seeking his attention.
Although all the cats (I’ve counted five present, with two wee ones never leaving their sleeping post on one of the sofas) seemed rather lazy and disinterested, it was fascinating to watch the interaction between the humans in the room. A big group of friends had known each other anyway, but as time passed, and the felines became more playful, everyone seemed more relaxed in each other’s company – and it dawned on me this would be an ideal venue for a cat-themed function, or a ice-breaker event.
As I have learnt from the staff before my departure, the creator – Heather – was looking for a change from her oil and gas career, and decided to share her love for cats with the wider community. She is the one taking care of the felines in the shop – and is looking to add more to the family in due course.
Albeit not the only one of its kind in the UK, this is the first cat cafe in Aberdeen, and I am curious to see how well it will do. Judging by the interest it generated in the first few days – so much in the visitor count on the inside as well as all the curious glances from passers-by on the outside – this crazy cat idea might just have some traction.