London Grilling with Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium hit the headlines this year when cat-lover Lauren successfully managed to raise over £100,000 of crowd-sourced money to launch her Japanese-style cat cafe in east London. As frustrated cat-lovers ourselves (East Village will be pet-free, so we need to get our cat kicks elsewhere), we were desperate to find out the latest mews…
First and pawmost, who is the fabulous Lady Dinah?
She isn’t really anyone! 95% of the time, it’s me who people are talking to online, and there are some wonderful people who help me when it gets busy. Its peculiar: Lady Dinah isn’t a pretend name for me, I actually pretend to be *her*, which is very odd because she doesn’t exist! We chose her name for the shop in homage to Dinah, Alice in Wonderland’s kitten, so perhaps it’s fitting that the personality of the shop is an imaginary lady!
You successfully crowd-funded over £100,000 this year to open your feline emporium, which is pawsitively amazing. How on earth did you begin to go about that?
It was all a bit of a whirlwind and a surprise. We were helped by Tailwind Media to prepare our crowd-funding video. Steven directed the interview format, helped us focus on the questions that crowdfunders would want answers to and shot all the footage.
I’m supremely lucky to have a boyfriend who is a Video Editor. Greg did an amazing job cutting a video that was to the point, engaging and flowed well. I’ll never underestimate the extent to which video production is like another language, and some people understand it and some people don’t. It’s worth putting in the effort for a good crowd-funding video. The campaign started slowly, but once the media picked it up, everything went crazy and it has been crazy ever since! One of the other best things we did was to have a briefing meeting with my friends Miranda and Siobhan each morning. We’d talk through anything that had happened overnight and talk about new ways to boost the campaign. Every single day we did this and it kept the campaign moving constantly.
Where did you get the idea for your cat emporium, and what will make it the purrrrrfect place to visit?
There is a little cat that greets commuters each night on the way home from the train station near my house. I have been to cat cafes in Japan and after watching the nightly ritual of the cat coming out to wait for a fuss and commuters happily obliging her, it occurred to me to investigate why there wasn’t a cat cafe here already. All the ingredients are here: lonely city life, small, dense housing and pet-prohibitive lifestyles. I wanted to make a change in my life and it all seem to slot into place once I started.
How close are you to opening your cat café? Right meow?
Right meow we are drawing up the tender documents to get builders, plumbers etc ready for the fit out. A soon as we get planning consent, sometime in September (we hope), we will have them all locked in and ready to start building immediately,
How many pawsome types of cat will be taking up residence in the emporium?
We don’t really know what kind! We will take whichever litters of kittens need a home and are at the right age in their social development to be socialised with each other and cafe patrons at the time: they will be rescued cats. We have to handle that part very carefully, we must ensure that the cats have no early fearful experiences with strangers or each other and feel safe in their new home.
I moustache, how many cats will be there be?
Ten! The Humane Society recommends no more than ten cats in a colony shelter. Other cat cafes exist with more or fewer cats but there hasn’t been any analysis of how the cats cope in that environment. The closest scientifically researched match is a colony shelter and they claim that beyond ten, social problems begin to manifest in an enclosed space.
Cat lovers love litter-ature – fact. Who’s your favourite fictional cat?
It has to be the Cheshire Cat, Dinah’s Wonderland counterpart!
Will they stay in the emporium at night time, outside, or will you whisker them away?
They will stay overnight in cabins, as we believe it would be more stressful to move them constantly. Some cats can be good travellers, but we have to assume ours are unlikely to be and plan accordingly.
Enough kitten around – what do you say to people who are worried about the welfare of the kitties?
Animal welfare is the keystone to our business: a cat cafe with unhappy cats will not survive. We’ve consulted with veterinary organisations, welfare groups, several independent vets and feline behaviourists and are using all this knowledge to design a cafe around the needs of the cats. They will have a double-storey cat ‘aviary’, cat trees, more beds and litter trays than they will ever need and an endless entourage of humans who want nothing more than to be near them.
They will have an entire city of people who love them and an entire city of people watching us to make sure we treat them right. There’s no room to fail: providing exceptional care for our animals it is the most important thing we can do and we know that beyond a doubt.
Be more dog?
If you want! We have no rivalry with our canine buddies and some cats like a good game of fetch. Be the best at whatever you like to be!