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London cat café seen as ‘a relaxing place to go’

Stressed city dwellers living in tiny apartments may soon have a café in London where they can relax with a cat or 10 on their laps.

Lauren Pears, video game executive and cat lover, is raising money to open the British capital’s first cat café, modelled on the feline fanciers’ coffee shops in Tokyo.

There is a cat café in Canada Small Things, in Sudbury, Ont., which is a book and gift shop designed mostly to match up homeless cats and new owners. And the cat cafés of Tokyo specialize in designer purebreds, cats with labels and attitude.

Pears’ Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium will be different: cats courtesy of the Mayhew Animal Home of no particular pedigree and no adoption agenda but plenty of cat-first rules.

The planned hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. might adjust if the cats don’t like them, she told the Star. Staff will have a “quick chat” with children who have no experience with cats so that a wagging tail isn’t mistaken for friendliness. Cats, which will have their own living space, will be socialized first at the Mayhew shelter and undergo regular health inspections.

“It’s more about a relaxing place to go to than about designer cats,” she said. “There is a lot of medical research into the benefits of animal therapy.”

Pears, a senior project manager in the U.K. for Sony PlayStation, believes some customers would be similar to herself: young tech executives who live in tiny flats that prohibit pets.

“It’s one of the reasons why I’d like to open a cat café. It would be nice to have one again.”

The resident cat population — made up of adults, “because they’re calmer” — would vary from 10 to 15 with the possibility of some available from Mayhew for fostering, she said.

Pears has a spot in the Shoreditch district in east London she’s hoping to use for the café; it’s in a tech-heavy part of the city and near the Google campus. In fact, she’s hoping Google will be one of the angel investors that will augment her fundraising through the Indiegogo crowdsource site.

“The Internet and cats have quite a relationship,” she said. “That’s why we’re looking at the tech city innovation hub” as a suitable locale for the café.

The local councils have approved of the idea in principle and Pears knows the food safety inspector requirements. If they meet their Indiegogo goal of $ 172,000 by Feb. 15 and find a spot to rent, they hope to be open in April or May. – Videos