The Cat Lounge

Where fe­line friends min­gle ef­fort­lessly with café go­ers.

Good - - Good Stuff - Words Sa­man­tha Alle­mann

A room filled with 17 friendly cats is heaven on earth for fe­line fans, and at The Cat Lounge in Auck­land, the kit­ties have a pretty stel­lar deal as well. Spend­ing their days in an in­door play­ground com­plete with tree houses, tun­nels, bridges and walk­ways, able to re­treat to a vis­i­tor-free abode should the at­ten­tion get too much, th­ese pam­pered pusses are well looked af­ter. “They’re all res­cued cats that have come from some pretty hor­ri­ble beginnings, so it’s great to be able to give them a home where they get spoiled rot­ten and can snug­gle and sun­bathe all day,” says Mike Jones, co-founder of The Cat Lounge.

Since open­ing its doors in Novem­ber, The Cat Lounge has re­ceived 7000 vis­i­tors for smoochy res­i­dents Richie McClaw, Marae­tai, Daze, Char­lie, Bruce Wayne, Xanadu, Smudge, Am­ber, Jazz, Bear, Char­lie, Ron Weasley, Laila, Asher, Lancelot, Flot­sam and Jet­sam.

Jones and co-founder Vicky Chap­man set up a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to es­tab­lish the Glen­field café, the first of its kind in New Zealand, af­ter hear­ing about one in Mel­bourne. They raised $30,000 and caught the at­ten­tion of res­cue or­gan­i­sa­tion The Lonely Miaow As­so­ci­a­tion as well as pet food com­pany Friskies, both of whom came on board as part­ners. “Crowd­fund­ing is still a rel­a­tively new and un­seen thing in New Zealand so we didn’t know how we’d get on, but it cer­tainly took off!” Jones re­calls.

The venue was de­signed with learn­ings from other cat cafés in mind. Ex­trac­tor fans to swiftly re­move lit­ter smells out of the build­ing were a pri­or­ity, and the cof­fee shop is sep­a­rated from the cat lounge by dou­ble doors, en­sur­ing café fare is cat hair-free. Hav­ing re­ceived com­mu­nity back­ing from the get go, The Cat Lounge gives back by do­nat­ing its un­sold food to the Sal­va­tion Army.

While he couldn’t pre­dict The Cat Lounge’s instant pop­u­lar­ity (500 book­ings in two days), Jones un­der­stands the de­sire to chill out with fe­line friends. “There are so many stres­sors in life,” he says. “A place to get away from them, to re­lax and cud­dle some fluffy an­i­mals, is what peo­ple need. We al­ready have reg­u­lars who visit us a few times a week to get their cat fix. We’ve had ev­ery­one from grand­par­ents in re­tire­ment vil­lages that can’t have their own pets, to fam­i­lies that can’t [have pets] be­cause dad’s al­ler­gic, to par­ents bring­ing in sick chil­dren on their way back from hospi­tal to cheer them up. We’ve had com­mu­nity groups through who look af­ter peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and to see smiles on the faces of ev­ery­one who walks through the doors is very re­ward­ing.”

For for­mer bank­ing em­ployee Jones, the re­al­i­sa­tion of a cat haven has been sur­real. “To have it be­come so pop­u­lar is ex­tremely hum­bling. I hadn’t re­alised just how re­ward­ing this job would be and how it could brighten up peo­ple’s days so much.”

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