York’s first cat café is due to open next month.
One of the most eagerly awaited openings of the year, The Cat’s Whiskers will be housed in a three story, Grade II listed premises on Goodramgate.
Here people will spend time with about a dozen cat residents, perhaps having a cuppa and a slice of cake too.
It is the brainchild of Lily Cole, and she expects it to open in early to mid-April. She told YorkMix:
Cat cafés started in Japan. I visited ones in this country purely for pleasure.
I thought one would be perfect for York. It’s the perfect city for one, with all the tourists, locals and students.
A haven of calm
Lily has been looking for the right premises for more than three years.
It is quite a change of direction for her, as she has worked in the North Yorkshire Police control room on Fulford Road for 13 years.
Lily wants The Cat’s Whiskers to be a haven where people can leave their stress behind:
We deal with a lot of mental health issues. The job, and the pressures of the job, have certainly affected me sometimes.
I’ve always found a great comfort in having my cats at home. You can come home, relax and sit with a purring cat next to you.
It’s all about relaxing, unwinding and that feeling of calmness.
I’m aiming for a very calm and relaxing environment, very peaceful, and people can just spend time enjoying their company.
Their own room
There will be about 12 cats who will live in the building. They will have their own bedroom on the top floor, out-of-bounds to the public, where they can retreat “if they want some time out, or they’re not feeling particularly sociable one day”.
On the ground floor there will be a reception area, waiting room and shop selling cat-based merchandise. The cats won’t be able to come into this area to prevent them getting out and onto the road.
Behind that and on the floor above will be a large area where people can mingle with the cats.
It will cost £7 an hour to visit. People can also buy tea, coffee and cake, but there’s no obligation.
Lily plans a loyalty card for regular customers.
She intends to limit the number of visitors at anyone time, and no children under ten will be allowed.
“The cats’ welfare has to come first and children can sometimes be a bit disruptive and loud. They’re not always the best mix,” she said.
Lily is working with the Cats Rescue And Welfare Trust at Escrick.
“Kate down there has been absolutely amazing, really supportive,” she said.
“I’m sourcing some of the cats from there, and others from other rescue places, cats that are just in needs of homes.”
They have to be suitable – indoor cats who are sociable by nature.
What about hygiene? Kate said:
I understand that people have concerns. I think the type of people who would be going to be going into a cat café, that’s not going to be their first priority.
The kitchen is restricted and off limits to the cats, so there’s no risk of cross-contamination. There will be hand-gel sanitisers around for people to use, and really rigorous cleaning.
The Cat’s Whiskers will close every Tuesday for a deep clean. Cake is to be sourced from an independent bakery in Pocklington, so no food will be prepared on the premises.
At the moment Lily is juggling preparing the café with undertaking 24-hour shifts at the force control room. How have her police colleagues reacted to her change of career?
“They’re all really supportive, they’ve been absolutely fantastic. I’ve been there 13 years, so I feel like it was time for a change.”
Not long now
She is delighted to be joining the lively independent businesses on Goodramgate.
Cats will have the run of the building, which is a pretty special place.
“It’s got views of the Minster at the back,” Lily said. “It’s an absolutely stunning building in its own right.”
Her partner, mum, dad and twin sister are all helping with preparations.
Soon a new website will be launched where you can book your slot. In the meantime follow updates on the Facebook page.
And very soon you’ll be able to, in Lily’s words, “have a cake and a coffee while you’re sat cuddling a cat!”