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Fancy a cappurrrccino? Cat café gets the go-ahead

Up to 10 moggies will roam around La Maison du Chat, interacting with coffee shop’s customers

11 September, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Florence Heath has hit on a ‘novel use of a retail space’, say supporters of the cat café

A MOVE to open a “cat café” in a former estate agents has got planners purring.

Councillors sounded tickled by the idea as they unanimously approved an application by La Maison du Chat to move into a unit in Moreton Street, Pimlico.

The proposal had drawn letters of support but some neighbours had objected until it was agreed that a patio courtyard would not be used by customers.

When it opens, up to 10 cats will roam around the café, interacting with the coffee shop’s customers.

Westminster officials confirmed that a separate licence would cover animal welfare at the venue.

The shop has been empty for two years and councillors on the planning committee said it could be a “novel” way of injecting new business.

It got off the ground when organiser Florence Heath, who has run an animal rescue charity, began a crowdfunding campaign.

“The therapeutic effect of cats is being increasingly documented and we hope our cats would help alleviate loneliness for some of our elderly neighbours,” she said in that appeal.

“We would also like to run a project with a PTSD post traumatic stress disorder charity and also a local project with autistic children to use the cats as pets therapy.”

At last week’s meeting all three councillors holding the final say on planning consent gave their blessing.

The former estate agents premises in Moreton Street, Pimlico

“It really is a novel use of a retail space,” said Cllr Robert Rigby. “I think we’ll see, not necessarily cat cafés coming forward but certainly sui generis applications. It is certainly something that is going to be unusual.”

He said that it was “to be commended, that if somebody comes in and has a coffee and falls in love with the cat they can basically purchase it”.

A planning official said the term was actually “adopt” the cat.

“The applicant has advised that all the cats in the café will be available for adoption to suitable homes, which will be managed by RANA and subject to their usual safeguards and the cats selected for the café will be specifically those that enjoy human company,” a planning report said.

Cllr Guthrie McKie said: “Five minutes’ walk from me, in Westbourne Grove, there is a dog café and it’s been there for five years. It seems to be very successful, it’s always busy with people and dogs I don’t understand – it seems strange to me – but it’s popular. So I have a hunch that this will work.”

He added: “I think the fact they’ve got rid of an estate agent should be applauded. There’s too many of them in our high streets, and this will be a very interesting addition.”

Staff will be allowed to use an area to the rear of the building but it will be off limits to the public, and officials do not have noise concerns.

Cllr Elizabeth Hitchcock said: “A cat café is different from a normal café.

“I think it’s to be welcomed in difficult trading conditions, to stand out from the crowd and try something new.”

Fears café cats could spread virus are dismissed

ONE objector wrote to the council with fears that cats were spreading the Covid-19 coronavirus, planning reports revealed.

Officials were forced to share reassuring advice from the British Veterinary Association in response.

“The cases that have arisen appear to have been animals infected by humans, as opposed to the other way around,” the Westminster City Council report said.

“While this remains a sensitive and concerning issue, the advice from the BVA website is “there is currently no definitive evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health said the spread of the virus was due to human-to-human transmission.

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