York diners could soon be tucking into sandwiches, tea and cake alongside some furry friends – if plans for the city’s first cat café take off.

The idea of the café is to allow people to eat in the company of cats from local rescue centres, benefiting both the abandoned animals and their human companions.

The Scratching Post

Planned for the Shambles / Colliergate area

Support the cat café at the Crowdfunder page

More on the Facebook page

It is the brainchild of Nikki Smales. She has had cats in her family since she was three years old, and knows from her own family’s experience how therapeutic the animals can be.

When Nikki’s grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, she suggested to her grandmother that she should get one for company and to relieve stress – and Honey came into their lives.

Sadly her grandfather died, and her grandmother passed away not long afterwards. Nikki inherited Honey, and has used the kitty as a way of channelling her own grief.


“Within a few months of owning her rescue cat, Honey, my grandma’s blood pressure had reduced to within healthy limits,” said Nikki, 30, who is studying for a PhD in education.

“When my grandad passed away Honey helped my grandma deal with the loneliness. And since my grandma recently died too, I have inherited Honey and she has helped with my grief.”

Good for humans…

Now Nikki, who was born in York and has lived in Yorkshire all her life, hopes to open the city centre’s first cat café to reach out to others who may be in need.

“During my period of mourning the loss of my grandma, I launched the project, to reach out to others who may be in need cats and indeed any rescue cats that need love and attention.”

Nikki originally launched the crowdfunding project online last December, having christened the café The Scratching Post. 
It has now been relaunched thanks to some backers keen to see the café come into being.

She explained how it will work.

I have planned how the cafe will operate following models from the many other successful cat cafés from across the world.
 
The food and drinks will be prepared in a separate area to maintain hygiene conditions and guests will have a choice of whether to dine with the cats or to sit outside the cat zone and just watch the cats, perhaps taking their drink through once they’ve finished eating.
 
All guests will be greeted by a cat carer, who will introduce them to the cats. We will work closely with cat welfare organisations to ensure maximum comfort for the cats.
 
We will be serving a range of teas, coffees and pure fruit juices along with sandwiches, cakes and, for a special treat, a full afternoon tea.
Cats and cafés do mix

Cats and cafés do mix

…And good for cats

Nikki and the team intend to work with local rescue charities to provide foster homes, particularly for cats that have been in rescue centre for a long time (known as ‘sticky cats’).  

The cats in the café would then be available for adoption. It would also provide opportunities for cat carers, who would introduce guests to the cats, explain their likes and dislikes, educate and raise awareness about cat adoption and promote the work of the rescue centre.

“We currently have a team of around six but this is growing as people are hearing about the project,” Nikki told YorkMix

“The Scratching Post name was suggested by one of the project backers, Alanna, and it also received the most likes on the project Facebook page. I think it really captures the concept of the cat café.

“We have been raising awareness by taking to the streets to talk to potential backers, handing out treats and flyers and meeting with other similar organisations in the city centre.”

Alanna with two more of the project backers, Evie Paffard and Seraphina Taylor

Alanna with two more of the project backers, Evie Paffard and Seraphina Taylor

The crowdfunding project has already raised £195 of its £25,000 target. “Backers of the project will receive vouchers to visit the café and sample some of our menu in the company of cats.”

Nikki is hopeful that if enough people back the idea then the café can open around three months after she has secured a venue in the Shambles or Colliergate area. That would keep it close to both The Cat Gallery and York Lucky Cats, as well as being on the York Cat Trail.

Jack Gevertz

Jack Gevertz

Jack Gevertz is a politics student at the University of York. He is the former editor of York Vision, the university's student newspaper