Caitlin McClelland emailed me this week with quite possibly the most exciting news of 2016 so far- the prospect of a cat cafe for Belfast. What's that? What does it entail? How can we make Caitlin's dream a furry reality? We had a chat about the best animal in the world, the cat.
What's a cat lounge?
Well, it's a comfortable space where friendly, pampered cats live. The cats roam around and do as they please while visitors relax and socialise. There are already 9 cat cafés in the UK but I want Kittywinkles to be something different. It will be a calm, open space.
Your visit is booked so you don't queue or wait, your seats are ready for your arrival and you can spend your time there doing whatever you like. Bring a friend for a chat, bring your laptop and study, bring a cat-lover along for an amazing surprise - it's up to you.
I feel like we should try to bring new ideas and opportunities to Northern Ireland. Cat cafés already exist in London, Edinburgh, Newcastle, etc. and I think Belfast deserves one too. Belfast is changing and lots of new small businesses are popping up regularly, I think we're ready for Kittywinkles Cat Lounge.
What can we expect to see when Kittywinkles opens?
I want Kittywinkles to be something new and different for Belfast. I love the quirky style of interior decorating that is becoming more popular around Belfast these days. Reclaimed furniture, funny and eye-catching artwork, up-cycled oddities… Originally this was my vision for the cat lounge, but during the planning stage I started to feel that maybe that wasn’t new anymore, I could give Kittywinkles a style that doesn’t exist in Belfast.
The cat lounge will be based on Japanese cat cafés - over-sized floor cushions, little tea-tables, squashy beanbag seats and soft throws and pillows. The cat lounge will be tailored to helping our visitors to relax and feel at home, so I want it to be like their second living-room.
The cats will live in this space and their experience will be quite different. I plan on installing walk-ways along the walls and windows and hidey-holes for cats to peek out from. I’ve seen some fantastic furniture for cats such as mini bunk beds, cat-sized rope ladders and little fabric hammocks for cats to laze on. The style I’m aiming for is quirky, comfy and welcoming.
The café area will be separate, of course, to maintain high levels of hygiene when we’re serving drinks and snacks. On the Kittywinkles menu you’ll see lots of varieties of locally-sourced tea and coffee, as well as a few fun additions like bubble-tea and milkshakes. I’d like to serve mainly dessert-style snacks like flapjacks, macarons and cupcakes. Cats can’t taste sugar so you won’t have to share your treats with a kitty!
Kittywinkles will bring a new style to Belfast then?
Yes, starting with the branding that you can see in the Kittywinkles logo, it is a style called ‘Kawaii’ which means ‘cute’ in the context of Japanese culture. For instance, brands like Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma and Molang are considered kawaii; they’re adorable, chubby and based on cute animals. Our mascot is an attention-seeking brown cat called Kwinkle.
Who do you expect to see visiting the Kittywinkles cats?
I think that Kittywinkles is a place for all (unless you are allergic to cats!). It might look like a place for kids because of the cute brand but the cat lounge is for anyone who wants to spend time with cats.
Our visitors might not be allowed pets in their home or have never owned a pet before and want to try it out by visiting. I imagine that most people who like animals will want to come and see Kittywinkles Cat Lounge because it’s a new kind of space they haven’t used before. It’s not like a bustling café or a noisy pub and I’d say Kittywinkles won’t be the only cat café in Northern Ireland for long once people experience it for themselves.
Kittywinkles Cat Lounge is currently raising start up funds on Kickstarter. Backers can choose their reward from the project and pledge an amount to bring Kittywinkles to life. The project will run until 24th June.