UK’s ‘First Vegan Cat Cafe’ Sparks Debate

The ethics of cat cafes are being questioned

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3 Minutes Read

A tabby cat sitting on a table in a cat cafe Coffee and cake with cats sounds fun but what's the impact on them? - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

The UK’s first vegan cat cafe is due to open in Canterbury on May 29 despite backlash centered around fears for the cats’ wellbeing and ire at the plant-based menu.

Canterbury Tails Cat Cafe has been on the cards for more than five years. However, the coffee shop’s owner Pip Harris has faced numerous hurdles. These included the UK-wide lockdown when Covid was at its peak and stalled renovations.

Finally, Harris is ready to welcome patrons into her feline-filled cafe, despite online backlash she has received for the concept. She revealed that negativity has come from a variety of sources including vegans who are concerned for the resident cats.

“I’ve had quite a lot of online backlash. First from vegans trying to take the business down before it even started by making a lot of incorrect assumptions,” Harris told Kent Online. “Negativity is always going to be out there so we’re just going to try and tell people how it is. If they want to make their assumptions, all we can do is tell them the truth.”

Kent residents have also reportedly complained about the plant-based menu. Harris responded to concerns by stating that people are not going to visit for the food, but for the cats.

“It’s essentially a cat-only petting zoo where you can sit and have a coffee and a cake, but it will be a nice coffee and a cake,” she said.

Two people drink coffee in a cat cafe
Adobe Stock Being constantly petted might not be good for cats

Cat cafes concern vegans

Similar cafe models have used their premises as an unofficial cat rehoming opportunity. To this end, cafe owners sourced feline companions from breeders or adoption centers with the notion of letting patrons offer a forever home to those they take a shine to.

This, Harris claims, is not the case at Canterbury Tails. She assures people that the 21 cats in her coffee shop are her own companions and strictly not available for rehoming.

It should be noted that similarly minded locations have been forced to find new homes for their “redundant” cats when businesses have failed. Despite claiming that cats were already in their forever homes, many were relocated.

Other welfare concerns focus on the general wellbeing of the cats. 

Deemed to be a gimmick, animal rights campaigners and charities question the ethics of keeping felines confined to commercial spaces. Primarily because they will be constantly petted and interfered with. Moreover, the likely loud and unpredictable atmosphere is feared to be harmful to their health.  

Cats Protection – the UK’s largest cat welfare charity – definitively opposes cat cafes. It states that the “risks of stress, disease transmission, and poor welfare for cats” make such businesses something it cannot endorse. As such, it refuses donations from them.

Canterbury Tails attempts to curb concerns

Harris claims that she will “ease” her cats into cafe life with a staggered opening of her cafe. This will continue for three weeks, while the felines acclimatize to large numbers of people and increased attention.

Included in the roster of four-legged residents are eye-catching breeds guaranteed to inspire enthusiastic petting. Hairless Sphynx and curly-haired Selkirk Rex cats will reside there. Despite their appeal, there will be strict interaction rules in place.

Cafe patrons will receive a one-hour slot and be forbidden from chasing or picking up animals. Additionally, young children (aged seven and under) are excluded from the premises altogether.

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