The Northern Quarter is known for its quirky concepts and original ideas and the latest opening doesn’t fall short of this. Up at the top of High Street, just past the old Smithfield Market is a cat cafe – the first of its kind in Manchester. I was able to take a sneak peek before they launched with an invite to their soft launch.
On arriving to the cat cafe entrance there’s a little bit of preliminary admin to be done. You have a choice of some very fetching shoe covers to wear or some equally fetching spa style slippers to wear into the actual cafe (I opted for the slippers). You also have to agree to a few points of common cat courtesy, such as not chasing the cats, not disturbing them when they’re asleep, not sharing your cake with them – nothing too limiting or joy-killing.
Other cat cafe’s in the country are homely, very much feeling like you’re sat in someones living room. But this one is different. Located in the shell of the gallery previously in this site, the feel is a lot more contemporary. White walls, untreated reclaimed wood, bright lights, bright furniture, concrete floor and a lot of glass; allowing the cats to see the world going by, causing kids and adults to coo and giggle whilst they walk past. I try anyone to resist smiling as they pass by and peer inside!
On entering the cat room there is a wide variety of seating to choose an optimum cat spot from. You’ll see dotted around the room little hammocks, cat toys, various different beds up walls with names on and hidden in tables (one even in an old school mac computer!) as well as a cat run. This starts as a ramp circling a pillar in the middle of the room, leading to the ceiling and running all of the edge of the room. There’s a well stocked cafe counter with a huge variety of drinks, cakes and even cat treats to buy!
On chatting to the extremely friendly and helpful staff, I learned there are 11 cats who now call the cat cafe home. They’ve all settled in well and are allowed complete free reign of the cafe, soaking up all the fuss and attention they can. If they have enough of being in the limelight, there is a room hidden from sight, denoted only by a cat flap at the bottom which is the cat’s own private area. Complete with all of their toilets and food bowls, there’s also a double bed in their should they want a bit of time out.
We were there for just over an hour and it flew by. A perfect escape from the realities of the outside world, amazingly de-stressing and perfect for anyone who would love a pet who might not be able to have one in their property. As a concept its brilliant. The staff’s enthusiasm and love for the cats as if they’re their own really shows through. But let’s face it – who couldn’t enthusiastic about their job when it’s playing with cats all day!?
The focus is definitely on the aspect of being in a room with cats and less on it being a cafe. If you bear that in mind – the 11 cats to go round the 40 odd people that can be accommodated at maximum – take away a few cats who might be in the private room and it means it’s actually quite difficult to get time with the felines. Even in the soft launch we noticed a lot of other guests becoming quite possessive over their new furry friends, being over bearing with toys and crowding round the cats making the whole experience difficult for the other guests
Also keeping this in mind, it is quite pricey. The cat cafe is £12 for an hour (£1 per 5 minutes) with unlimited drinks included within that price. All cakes, biscuits and cat treats are additional and paid on your way out. Given Ziferblat round the corner is just 6p per minute and offers unlimited cake as well as hot drinks instead cat play time.
As well as the normal cafe hours which are 9am-7pm everyday, in the evenings they run regular events which you have to pre book for. I’m extremely interested in the cat yoga and film nights and I feel these would be a lot more cost effective and personal.
My conclusion. Its fab, a really novel idea. A wonderful escape from the world and it’s actually really refreshing to find a booze free way to catch up with friends. You can’t help but smile when you’re in there. I’m glad Ive tried it and would recommend others go for the experience. Personally, my future repeat visits will see me booking onto one of their many events to make it more worth while. I’ll be very interested to follow the cafe, and I’m really intrigued to see how it does!
I would like to add that following on from originally posting this piece, I have had a significant change of heart in the cat cafe. I’ve kept a close eye on their social media and other comments from patrons to the cafe. My comment regarding some customers being over bearing with the cats it’s being reflected by many others which in my eyes shows the cats welfare is not paramount. In particular I’m unimpressed at misinformation I was given regarding the cats being up for adoption looking for forever homes, which is a service offered at other cat cafes and provides long term benefit for the cats and creates and institution out of the cafe. Instead only pedigree breeds are houses here and instead of being warm and fuzzy the cafe gives off a more clinical and corporate vibe similar to a zoo masquerading as a cute cafe.
A dishonesty lies in their Facebook reviews as over half of the 5* reviews were actually made before the cafe even opened for business.
Furthermore, the introduction of a special birthday package offering balloons is pretty much ridiculous. Not only an over the top and over priced package on top of the £12 per hour spent there and given how little time customers would be spending in the cafe (given most restaurants offer a birthday gesture complimentary). The inclusion of a balloon and confetti seems senseless. I can’t say I’ve ever met a cat who’s fond of balloons – far from it. To me this just adds to the proof of it being a money making scheme without the welfare of the cats at the forefront of the business.
The more I have thought about the cat cafe, the more sad it has made me and as such I am now no longer following them on any form of social media. I so badly wanted to love this novel new idea coming to Manchester, but it’s been so poorly executed it’s made me extremely upset and angry.