I’m not actually sure why I decided to visit the local cat café. I’m a bona-fide dog lover, with cats lagging far behind. I’m also allergic to most of them, so I can’t really explain what possessed me to visit one.
In the spirit of ‘adventure’, I made an appointment for my hour with the cats (still wondering why) and strangely felt a thrill of anticipation as I made my way to the café with time to spare. Although on a main road, the location of the Cat Cafe is not obvious. By the time I realised where it was, it dawned on me that I had spent the last 10 minutes oblivious stomping to and fro, past its large windows – cussing indignantly – in clear view of the smirking staff inside.
All this to see a few scabby cats? What was I thinking!
Pushing my bruised and throbbing ego to one side, I took a deep breath as I walked through the door. The tinkling door bells heralded my arrival, as if the staff weren’t already blatantly aware. As I walked in, my access into the café was prevented by a cage and locked gate. A little girl (20 something woman) approached me in slippers and enquired whether I had made an appointment? “Er…yes…2pm to (cough) see the cats.”
I’m sure the bitch was smirking at me, as I imagined her trying to stifle her guffaws from the performance I had just given outside.
The girl checked a book and then smiled, asking me to take my shoes off and clean my hands with some gel before being permitted to enter. Surely it should be me cleaning my hands after being in the company of these feral creatures? Not wanting to draw any further attention to myself, I graciously did as I was told as the wire gate was pulled open.
The café was empty and strangely I didn’t see any cats as I entered into the room. Their presence however, was undeniable from the strong stench of cat piss – or something – which immediately assailed my nostrils. The smell was so pungent that for a long minute, I lost my hearing as I tried to regulate my breathing. I was aware of the girl adopting ‘serious face’ as she issued 101 rules that must be obeyed.
You must not chase the cats….
You must not pick the cats up…..
You must….you must not……(shallow breath, shallow breath).
Blah blah as I made my way to a table, hoping my olfactory senses would soon become desensitized to the ubiquitous, sharp (mal)aroma.
I sat at a small table to the back of the café, feeling slightly awkward, looking around for a cat. There were none. Feeling flustered, I grabbed a menu and stared intently down at it, flicking my eyes left and right in a surreptitious attempt to spot one of the elusive creatures. Little girl came skipping cheerfully over having read my mind and assured me there were cats in the café, but they were all sleeping. “They’ll come out soon” she purred, head cocked to one side in feigned concern. “That’s ok” I laughed (through gritted teeth because I was still breathing through my mouth), “I’ll survive”(although an element of doubt had already set in).
I listened in horror as the girl reeled off her favourite lunches on the menu (“prepared fresh today”) and recommended the ‘Special’. “Um…just a cappuccino please. I don’t have much of an appetite today,” I lied.
As she walked away, I pulled my phone out and pretended to find something of great import. Still not 1 little fucker. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or offended to be sitting alone in a cat café, without one 4-legged creature in sight.
After 10 excruciatingly catfree minutes, the bell tinkled as a young couple came laughing through the front door. Before long, they were sitting a little way from me, excitedly looking around at the decor and picking up a couple of toys in readiness to entice the invisible kittens out of hiding. “Don’t hold your breath” (I muttered, although I was still holding mine)! They didn’t seem to notice the smell. I was still mulling over that impossibility, when the girl let out a little shriek as a kitten came trundling clumsily out of a dollshouse-shaped bed, towards her.
WTF! I exclaimed under my breath as another large, squashy-nosed feline squeezed itself out of his bed and into the room to see what was going on. Not 5 minutes had passed before there were 6 cats walking, stretching, playing and jumping on the sofa where the young couple sat. I remained alone at my table, seething with humiliation, whilst I pretended to slowly relish my cappuccino in it’s catpaw-shaped mug.
Being unable to keep my rictus grin in place for much longer, I decided it was time to swallow my pride and grab a toy. This was no longer going to be a therapeutically relaxing experience, but a challenge to get one of those bastard cats to come to me. I moved closer to a small, tortoise-shell feline stretched lazily on the floor near my table and dangled a feather under its nose. It opened 1 eye and shot a death stare at me. It was clear what he was thinking and I obeyed, moving swiftly away and looking for something with a more friendly vibe. The kittens were having great time with the girl in the couple, as I stroked the matted fur of a geriatric, squashy-faced cat and smiled benevolently at it, wishing I could leave. Now.
I stood up, unsuccessfully brushing the cat fur from my sweater and tiptoeing my way to the gate. The original girl clearly observing my every move, grabbed me by the arm and suggested I go into the basement. There were about 20 cats sleeping and lying down quietly, legs in the air, personal care activities being carried out with gay abandon. I’d had my fill of cats by now and just wanted to leave. I didn’t feel relaxed and didn’t want to stroke the cat which she kept encouraging me to pet – a large glob of sleep, jelly-like, hanging out of the corner of his eye. I felt myself gag quietly as she beseeched me to stroke him. I gingerly stroked his back, all the time cooing and aaahing until the opportunity arose for me to make a break for the stairs and escape this cat-shaped nightmare.
Back in the café, I threw on my coat and excitedly prepared to bolt to freedom. As I neared the gate, the young couple seemed somewhat tentative as they beckoned me over, pointing to my rucksack. As I took it off my back , a large dark stain on the base of the bag told me everything I needed to know. The couple laughed apologetically, as the young girl daubed in vain at the stain with a kitchen towel.
I left Cat Hell Cafe 10 minutes later covered in fur, with the smell of cat piss lingering in my nostrils and following me down the street.