Shropshire’s Essential Entertainment Guide
Get the latest updates, offers and competitions from What’s On…
on Wed, 23 Jan 2019
Now here’s a purr-fect place to grab a coffee. New to Shrewsbury’s café scene is Paws Café, a coffee shop with a very definite feline feel. Owners James and Katie are sharing their love of cats by making it home to 11 kittens, meaning that customers can combine enjoying a relaxing cuppa with the chance to enjoy some furry balls of fun. Although the café can facilitate walk-ins, it’s recommended that you book a 30-minute session, priced £6, in advance, via facebook.com/pawscafeuk.
Brian O'Faolain recently caught up with owners James and Katie to find out more about their venture, and what visitors can expect...
Where did you get the inspiration for Paws Cafe?
James is an engineer and I’m a teacher. About two years ago, we both went through a tough time at work; too many hours, late nights, early mornings, and didn’t reap any benefit from it.
We’ve got a cat at home and for James’s birthday, my mum got him tickets to the Manchester cat cafe. We were only supposed to be there for an hour, but we really, really enjoyed it and found it so calming and relaxing. It was lovely spending time with their cats. We went home feeling quite good about ourselves and quite interested in the concept. We looked into it and found out that there were quite a few popping up in the UK, though mainly in big cities. Then we went back to work on the Monday, had another stressful week and just ended up thinking, let’s give it a go, as it had got to the point where we didn’t want to do what we were doing anymore.
So why Shrewsbury?
I’m orignally from Crewe in Cheshire and James is from Ludlow, but we live in Telford. We often come into Shrewsbury and quite like the smaller, one-off, quirky sorts of places, so we actually thought it was an ideal town. But to be honest, we didn’t think we could afford it. But we had a look around at different areas within the town centre and came across a few that we really liked and thought might work for us.
Once you’d found your ideal premises, were there any obstacles to moving things forward?
Yes. We looked into it and thought we may have to have a cattery licence. Other cafes offer things like an adoption service or a rehoming service, and because they’re doing that, they need a cattery licence. But because these are our pets, we didn’t.
Talk us though the visitor experience...
We take walk-ins and bookings - because we’re only just opening, we’ve said to people that they’re more than welcome to wait in the reception area, but that it might be a bit of a wait as we’re busy with bookings at the moment. When they come to the reception desk, they’re given some information about the cats and the rules of the cafe. For example, if a cat is sleeping or walking away from you, don’t interrupt what it’s doing, don’t pursue it or pull its tail. And if it comes and sits on your lap, your can stroke it, but if you don’t want it there then just stand up and it will get off. It’s very much the cats’ home here, and you’re coming into that, so we have a hatch at the top where we keep the food and the litter trays, so if they want time out from the cafe, they can simply go up there.
We have the coffee counter, and some drinks are available in the price that you pay. We have a selection of cakes and tray cakes, cookies and things like that, but it’s basically about just spending time with the cats. We do have to explain to people that it’s not a zoo or a circus and we can’t guarantee that the cats will interact.
What’s the minimum time people can stay?
The minimum stay is 30 minutes, and then we charge for every five minutes after that. We do have some vouchers that proved very popular over Christmas; if you have vouchers or you have very young children, then you will need to book. We don’t currently have an age-restriction in place like a lot of the other cat cafes do. We’ve decided that for the first couple of weeks we will run a ‘parent policy’. It will be up to the parents to make sure their children abide by the rules. So for example, if some children start playing around and stressing the cats, the mum and dad will be given a warning or alternatively asked to leave because the cats’ welfare is the priority for us.
Are there any stand-out personalities among the cats?
I think for us the Bengals are the obvious ones. We nicknamed them ‘the raptors’ because they’re so energetic. Bengals have a bad reputation because they’re so mischievous and very active all the time, unlike other cats who tend just to sit and have a cuddle on your knee. But because ours have been hand-reared, they do have that softer side where they do want the cuddles and the fuss.
Cleo is our Canadian Sphynx. We got her thinking that she’d be a bit like Marmite - you’d either love or hate her. I did take some convincing because of the look, so we did have a look at other breeds. She’s very affectionate and loving and can get a little possessive with other cats!
How do you look after the cats’ welfare?
All of the cats have got a care plan with Vets4Pets, so they all have monthly de-fleaing and worming. They’ve all had their vaccinations or are having their boosters, so we do have a vet coming in once a month, meaning most cats are done at the same time. It’s nice for the vet to see them in their natural environment. Whatever the cats need, we will go out and get it. For example, when we got Elsa, she was underweight, so we took her to the vets straight away and they advised us about what food and milk we needed. And Cleo has a very specific breed gastro food. It can all be very expensive, but it’s not a question of price but of the cats’ well-being.
You’re planning film nights...
We’re going to do them every Friday evening, starting in February, to ease everyone in. We do have a premises licence, so you can come and have a beer and some popcorn. They will probably be cat-themed and we’ll put them on rotation. Because the cinema is quite a small, intimate space, the cats will come and snuggle and watch the film with you.
Is there anything else you’re thinking about introducing?
Yes, James came up with a lovely idea that links in with the ‘parent policy’ because we don’t really want to enforce an age limit. So in February, probably over the half-term holiday, we’re holding the Cat Academy. If younger children want to come, parents can bring them and do activities or workshops to learn about what to do if you were to have a pet, and that it’s not just all cuddles. We’ll be having a variety of workshops on subjects like which types of food they’ll eat, litter trays, what you need to protect them from and when to take them to the vets. When you complete those workshops, you get a certificate and a badge.
How did you choose which breeds you were going to have?
With a lot of research, really. We’ve been to see a lot of cats! It’s quite easy to go with the ‘business head’ on and say, this is our budget - but each cat is individual and different. So for example, the Bengals are a lot softer and more affectionate than a traditional Bengal might be, so it was very much a case of wanting the cats to choose us. So we researched the breeds to see if they were suited to an indoor environment and would socialise with other cats.
Paws Cafe is sited at 53 Mardol Head, Shrewsbury, SY1 1PP. Visit www.pawscafe.co.uk for further information.