Initially opened to much excitement from giddy cat lovers, and perhaps also accompanied with the odd moan from reluctant boyfriends and girlfriends across Bristol who would inevitably end up joining them on their visit, You & Meow, Bristol’s first cat café on Denmark Street, opened to the public on February 25th.
However, it has now come under criticism; earlier this month, Bristol 24/7 reported that the RSPCA, Cats Protection and Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue have criticised its opening. The RSPCA’s Bristol branch stated they were ‘concerned about the welfare implications of having a number of cats in a limited space with groups of people unknown to them coming and going throughout the day’ adding that the ‘cats involved may experience stress as a result of being in a confined space with other cats and a continually changing group of people.’
— Charlotte Gay (@CharlotteGay92) February 27, 2017
For cat enthusiasts who have greatly anticipated its opening, this news doesn’t exactly purrfectly tie-in with one’s hopes of cake and kittens, accompanied by a guilt-free conscience whilst enjoying the two. Conflicted by our love of cats and well, a bit of curiosity too, Epigram made its way to the premises – the home to nine kitties, and previously home to a strip club called Kush, to decide for ourselves.
From the outside, You & Meow looks fairly nondescript on the unremarkable side street near some takeaways and the Hippodrome, but inside, the owner aims for tropical paradise: soundtracked by the soothing sounds of waterfalls and birds twittering in the ‘zen corner’ of the café, all courtesy of an iPod touch of course. Whether it masks the reality of what is visitors (maximum 16 at any given time) awkwardly sitting in a sort of semicircle, hoping and waiting for a cat or two to appear (which in our experience, was quite some time) is not something Epigram’s entirely convinced by.
The cats (sourced on online marketplaces such as Gumtree after the owner was refused by local rescue centres trying to adopt cats for the café) were in great physical condition, but seemed a combination of sleepy, skittish, or had chosen to opt-out entirely and hide from keen customers eager to pet and play with them.
It wasn’t difficult to figure out perhaps why they might have decided to do just that. During our hour-long slot we saw visitors who either didn’t understand, or chose not to (maybe propelled by the thought of making sure they get their £5 entry money’s worth) acknowledge certain cats general anxiousness, and continued to shove toys in their faces, much to the cat’s and also Epigram’s disdain.
By the end of our visit though, once agitated or sleepy cats seemed to perk up and become more relaxed, accustomed by the visitors they had encountered for the past hour, which made things more comfortable for everyone. Yet with up to nearly 100 visitors in a day, we couldn’t help but wonder how fair this hourly re-adjustment experience was on the cats.
So that’s our verdict, make of it what you wish.
What do you think about the cat café? Will you be paying a visit? Let us know.