Ok, we can’t ignore it any more. Over the past few weeks, there has been an incredible amount of coverage in Bristol media regarding the opening of a new cat cafe in central Bristol. To be totally clear, Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue will not now, or ever, be involved with this cafe. Nor we will be involved with any other cafe.
We were approached by the cafe back in Autumn 2015 and raised our welfare and practical concerns before declining any involvement.
We support and stand with Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary and RSPCA Bristol on the matter of welfare in cat cafes. As with all responsible animal charities, the welfare of our animals (who are often the most in need) comes first.
We agree with the statement released by the RSPCA and Cats Protection, the full version is available on the RSPCA Bristol website.
“…the introduction of new cats into the group could create even more stress and further compromise feline welfare. Rescue cats need as stable an environment as possible to reduce the possibility of stress-related behaviours and infectious diseases such as over-grooming, urine spraying and cat ’flu.”
Even if we were to disregard welfare considerations (which of course we wouldn’t), there are a couple of practical reasons why we wouldn’t work with a cat cafe too.
The ‘right’ temperament of cat
According to other cat cafes around the country, it takes a certain type of feline to feel comfortable in this environment. A cat must be confident but not bossy, happy to interact with people of all ages, and relaxed enough to deal with a lot of hustle and bustle.
With very few exceptions, the cats we have with these personality traits do not struggle to find furr-ever homes quickly. Our foster felines can stay with us for anywhere between 3 days and 6 months, with most our chilled-out, confident pusses often snapped up within a couple of weeks.
Any time spent integrating one of these cats into a cafe environment is adding more stress for no benefit. Most of us would agree that fortnight break in a quiet and warm home is much more appealing than being the subject of a 2-week show & tell exhibition.
Vaccinations and a cat cafe
When we take on cats for rehoming, it’s common for them to arrive without an accurate vaccination history. In an ideal world, we’d vaccinate every cat who comes through Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue but at the moment, we just don’t have the money to do that.
For the cats who are vaccinated with us, it means a few shots followed by a month in isolation to make sure they have nothing to spread. In that month, they may well be adopted too.
If we did pass on a cat we think has been vaccinated to the cafe, we could never forgive ourselves if that cat passed on an illness to the surrounding felines.
Passing the homecheck
If a cat cafe were to ‘adopt’ from us, at a minimum we’d expect them to pass the same criteria we ask of our families. We’re quite flexible with the homes we approve as we do our best to fit cats and families together to make sure everyone is happy.
For example, we won’t rehome a cat who has shown signs of stress to a family with young children to protect both the cat and the child. We also won’t rehome a cat who loves being outside (as most do) unless the new home has access to a safe outdoor area.
When we do our homechecks, we take into consideration the facilities you provide. We don’t judge the colour of your kitchen or the tidiness of your bathroom. We keep an eye out for things like safe, quiet spaces and access to windows (the equivalent of TV for your cat!) to keep your puss mentally stimulated but not stressed.
If instead of a business, the cafe were a family home with the same conditions. It would be a home with up to 9 other cats, on a busy road, off the most congested part of the city, with no outside space, and up to 100 strangers passing through every day. There’s not a single foster cat we would be happy to rehome in this situation.
A cafe is a business, and businesses fail
We don’t wish failure on anyone, but the reality is that most start ups fail and a lot fail quickly. We don’t want to rehome 10 cats and find them returned within 12 months, especially when they could have been in safe loving homes from the start.
We are adapting in other ways
Many people praise the ingenuity of cat cafes for finding new homes for unwanted pets. In principle, that’s great, but we think there’s better, smarter and safer ways to do it.
At Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue, we’ve invested in a new website that makes it easier to find cats that meet your family’s needs. We’ve also started up a newsletter to show off our latest arrivals and foster cats looking for new homes (you can sign up here).
We current use social media very succesfully, with a large proportion of our adopters having found their puss via our Facebook page.
We’re investigating more ways we can reach more people too, so watch this space. We’re also always open to suggestions so please contact us if you have any ideas!
What you can do
If you are craving some cat attention but don’t have a lifestyle that fits a permanent puss companion, there are other ways you can get your feline fix. You can volunteer for Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue to help us at our annual show or future events.
Because we don’t have a single central sanctuary, we don’t have any hands-on positions. Other local rehoming centres might, so check them out and follow on Facebook
If you want a cat but are not sure of long-term suitability, being a fosterer might suit you well – you can help cats in need find new homes.