Chatswood Cat Palace is home to Sydney’s first cat café, Café Purrfection, where anyone can enjoy the magic of ‘CAT-fection’ whilst petting and cuddling rescue cats and kittens living at the Palace. Plus, the coffee is free! The added bonus is that Café Purrfection is also the world’s first truly ethical cat café.
“The cats don’t just offer companionship to anyone who wants it, but also to those who need it, giving comfort to people who have either lost their cat or can’t have one because of where they live,” says Sydney’s leading feline veterinarian Dr Kim Kendall, who runs the Chatswood Cat Palace.
Café Purrfection is also the first cat café in the world with trained, temperament-selected cats. Having opened to the public for a ‘test run’ on March 1st, Café Purrfection is clearly the ‘cat’s pyjamas’!
“We have had wonderful feedback from people, especially the kids. It’s a great educational experience for them,” says Dr Kendall, who is also an international author of feline care and behaviour Cats Revealed e-books and founder of Feline Friendly Care.
These beautiful, friendly cats were once homeless and now enjoy the comforts of a 6-star cat spa and boudoir, spreading feline love … and um, hair.
“We have picked cats who love people and with the routine we provide and the regular interactions – not to mention access to around-the-clock vet care at my vet clinic next door – I think they will be happier at Café Purrfection than most cats in private homes,” says Dr Kendall,
The Café cats also spread joy to people. Research has shown that petting and playing with animals provides strong therapeutic benefits. Cats purring, in fact, has been linked to lowering stress and the likelihood of having a heart attack, and even strengthening bones, she says.
Cats, coffee and cuddles…
Why do we need a Cat Café?
The answer lies in a condition called Biophilia
Biophilia is the term used to describe humans’ innate attraction to other animals. We get a genuine physical, emotional and psychological reward from petting animals and having them as pets.
So why cats?
Cats have also been popular as lab animals because those who like people and tolerate other cats can be selectively bred, so you get cats who are easy to work with, and their longevity means nurturing and affectionate bonds can be formed.
Back to the concept of Biophilia; cats are now being “prescribed” in the treatment of everything from trauma recovery to Alzheimer’s.
Cats are quiet, litter trainable and some of them don’t mind living in groups. They will respond to feeding cues. They have a soft stroke-able fur coat, they purr and they sleep 15 – 16 hours a day. And since there are fewer opportunities to interact with them in cities, Cat Cafés are growing in demand,
But what does the ideal café concept look like? How do you create an environment that protects the rights and well-being of the cats while providing a satisfying experience for the café’s patrons? Are the Cat Cafés currently operating subscribing to this ideal?
Café Purrfection cats have choices
Cats need choices, just like humans, so they can feel more in control of their lives. After all, it is our survival instincts that tell us we’ll survive if we have control.
People like making friends with other humans and pets, but it takes time to get to know and trust others, the same way it does with cats meeting other cats/animals and humans.
At Café Purrfection, the cats consider interaction with the café patrons as a hobby of choice, and they can go back into their homes (and therefore away from people and other cats) whenever they want or when they are done with their ‘hobby’ for that moment.
The cats have the choice as to whether they want to play with people or simply sit on their lap and have cuddles. The cats get to “decide” what they want to do, not the patrons.
Cats REALLY, REALLY need rules and consistency
Sticking to the rules and being consistent are key to keeping a cat happy and healthy. They feel safe and more at ease knowing what to expect – like people do.
The cats are always fitted with their own personal harness, which they have been trained to be comfortable with.
They get treats for sitting quietly at their station, and the treats are only ever given by the patrons. These rules are to encourage the cats’ best possible attitude towards the patrons and continues with the theme of consistency, which maintains happy and relaxed cats.
While the sessions can be up to one hour in duration, we only allow patrons to spend up to 20 minutes with each cat because 20 minutes is about as long as a cat can concentrate for. This way, the cats still associate spending time with the patrons as a good and positive thing, and continue their training and positive association to the experience. Plus, the patrons get the opportunity to meet new cats.
Cats hate to queue!
All the cats have their own litter trays so they don’t have to worry about sharing or queuing for the loo, which adds to their contentment and comfortability.
The Café Purrfection cats don’t have to worry about sharing any resources, either. They have their own food and water, and when it comes to Café patrons, they can only have one cat at a time. This is to ensure the cats don’t have to worry about competing for attention or play time with the patrons.
Creating a happy and contented environment
Dr Kim observes the stress behaviour in the cats at Café Purrfection and has assessed many other cats over the years. This information has served to further her understanding of what makes felines anxious or stressed…or happy and contented. As Café Purrfection is located adjacent to Dr Kendall’s clinic, she is able to personally administer to the cats’ well-being and keep a vigilant eye on how the Café is run as well as being able to respond to feedback from Café patrons.
Her close observations help her to understand what is necessary to implement in Café Purrfection to ensure the best possible environment for the cats and the patrons.
“It isn’t hard to intertwine cats and humans,” said Dr Kim. “But it has to be on cat terms!”
TO BOOK A SESSION WITH OUR WONDERFUL CAFÉ CATS, CALL US NOW ON 02 9417 3329