I’m covered in coffee – but that doesn’t matter, since my cake has disappeared – as I look down to see my cup of popcorn being tipped over by a cheeky cat’s claw.
On top of my head is another moggy, purring so loudly I can hardly hear the film I’ve come to watch. It’s Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince, but here it might as well be called Hairy Potter and the Half-Eaten Cake.
Welcome to London Cat Village, on the quiet Rivington Street in Shoreditch, a café where you can de-stress with a film and a borrowed feline buddy all at the same time.
“I first got the idea for London Cat Village when Adam, my partner, was suffering from depression about two years ago,” says Mavis Zhou, the café founder. “We had a cat named Penny who helped him tremendously, there was a soothing effect when he stroked her- it was therapeutic.
“After a while, I began to think, ‘How can I share this pleasure with everyone?’ and the café was born.” Zhou, an avid movie fan, dreamed up the idea of marrying up three of life’s greatest pleasures – film, coffee and pussycats.
Inside the café, customers are crawling around on all fours; coaxing the cats into a cuddle. The sound of purring fills the air – as, unfortunately, does the smell of 14 cats. But don’t worry, you quickly get used to it.
The café is a utopia for cats; giant scratching posts, toys and cardboard boxes are scattered about for their enjoyment. After a quick run through of the house rules, I’m given a pair of comfy slippers to wear and led to the screening room. I settle down on one of the beanbags and order from the menu, which features a small but satisfying selection of desserts and drinks.
It is utter pandemonium at my table once the food is served; it attracts one snacking hunting cat- soon I am surrounded. The cream on the side of my lemon drizzle cake (which was delicious), proves irresistible to Alice, the popcorn bandit.
All around me, cats are finding mischief – knocking over drinks, eating the viewers’ snacks, dashing in-between legs– but no-one seems to mind. “Movie nights are when the cats are at their most active and sociable, thanks to the calmer atmosphere,” says Zhou.
With the majority of her customers being cat-lovers, they understand the capricious nature of cats.
“We can never guarantee if the place will be ready for tomorrow, no matter how clean or organised it is the night before,” says Zhou.
“They’ll go through reception, drag the laptop off the table, pull off the charging cables, break wires. They even pull the till drawers open in their quest to find treats. One night, the cats ripped open a beanbag and proceeded to play with the loose beans. It took us over an hour to clean up. We can’t even keep a daily routine.”
Despite the unpredictable environment of the café- Zhou loves her job, “I see happy faces everyday; the sound of customers laughing,” she says. “It really is a rewarding experience.”
As I leave with dozens of new pictures of felines in my camera roll and a light dusting of cat hair, I can’t help wondering what will be on next week. Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, perhaps. Or maybe Lord of the Strings.
Now that really would be the perfect end to a pluperfect day. Whatever it is- I will definitely be back for more.
Open Daily from 10am to 10pm (Wednesdays are movie nights only)
To book a slot: http://www.londoncatvillage.com/