The Cat Lounge
Where feline friends mingle effortlessly with café goers.
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.”