For feline-lovers impatient for London’s much-publicised cat café to open, a trip to Madrid could be in order. Spain’s first ever gatoteca and its 10 four-footed, bewhiskered occupants have been up and running – or should that be miaowing? – since early October.
Julio, its co-owner, emphasises that unlike in, say, Japan – where cat cafés first became fashionable amongst pet-deprived urban flat-owners – it is not obligatory to drink anything in his establishment (though tourists might appreciate the opportunity, given the gatoteca’s proximity to the Reina Sofia art gallery).
In fact, the Madrid gatoteca (lagatotecaen.wordpress.com) is not strictly a café, but a home to ABRIGA, an NGO that puts rescued cats up for adoption. However, for €6 an hour (free drink included), it also offers cat fans a chance to sit in an enormous two-storey salon full of cushions, scratching posts and water bowls, and wait to be approached by one of its more permanent furry occupants.
The atmosphere inside is warm, quiet and very relaxing, to the point where during a recent visit seven of the cats – all former strays taken from animal protection centres and given stringent health check-ups – were fast asleep. And the rules quite clearly state that they cannot be woken up. For genuine cat-worshippers, though, one suspects this will not matter.