18 December 2015
Cats Protection is keen to put forward its opposition to cat cafes on the grounds of feline welfare.
As the UK’s largest cat charity, we are concerned about the welfare implications of having a number of cats in a limited space with groups of people unknown to them coming and going throughout the day. We believe this kind of environment is not suitable for domestic cats because they have evolved as solitary animals and generally do not choose to live in social groups - unlike dogs which are a social species. It is very likely that some or all of the cats involved will become stressed as a result of being in a confined space with a continually changing group of people. This is because domestic cats have shared ancestry with the Africa wildcat so we still see a lot of these behaviours in our pet cats today. This is not an ‘outdated’ view – in fact, recent research* into cat behaviour counters the opinion that cats living in groups do not suffer social stress. Furthermore, if the intention is to home cats from the café, this would create a 'rolling' population of rescue cats – in a café, this would create even more stress and further compromise feline welfare because rescue cats need as stable an environment as possible to reduce the possibility of stress-related and infectious diseases such as over-grooming, urine spraying and cat ’flu.
Although Cats Protection does not have powers to prevent cafés like this from being set up, we believe that people who care about the wellbeing of cats would not want them to be exploited as a gimmick to sell coffee and would therefore not wish to encourage the launch of these establishments. Given our views, we are unable to accept proceeds or donations from cat cafes in any way.
*Research looking at the prevalence of behaviour problems in the general cat population showed that aggressive behaviour between cats and fear of other cats, accounted for high percentage of cats surveyed. (Bradshaw et. al., 2000)