A space with small furniture seems at first glance to be a kids’ corner but is actually a café with seats, beds and small wooden houses for 15 cats at the Cat Café.
This project in Arjan, in the east of the Emirate of Dubai is not the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. The Ailuromania Cat Café, in the Jumeirah tourist area in western Dubai, is frequented by many residents, citizens and tourists in the UAE.
Cat Café director Nisreen Battal told Al-Monitor that the success of the Ailuromania Cat Café motivated others to open similar projects to rescue abandoned cats. "Instead of leaving them on the streets exposed to danger, diseases and even death, the project aims to rescue them and put them in a space where they are provided with psychological and physical comfort.”
Battal has always rescued stray animals, especially cats whose owners got tired of them or left the country, because "domestic cats do not know how to take care of themselves" in the wild.
More than six months ago, she and another group had the idea of opening a private cat café. The first 15 cats came from a veterinary clinic and had been vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Most of the cats that come to the café do not stay for long. They are adopted by clients who come with their children for a drink or dessert, while cats play and sit next to them. Clients who want to adopt a cat have to get to know the cats and test how compatible they and their family are with them.
The entry fee of 45 dirhams (about 12 dollars), covers the expenses of specialized cat food, weekly vet visits, rent, security cameras, and more.
Cat owners who want to give up a cat cannot send it directly to the café. First a veterinarian must examine it and put it on the waiting list, as the café cannot receive more than 15 cats at once.
Those who want to adopt a cat from the café must show they have a suitable home and bear the expenses of vaccinations, treatments and sterilization, which amount to about 2,000 dirhams (about $600).
Emirati citizens also visit the café, especially those who cannot own a cat for some reason, such as allergies in the family. But British, Russian and Albanian tourists also visit on a regular basis. Battal said, “Some people from Britain headed to Dubai specifically to visit the café and adopt a number of cats. They learned about the place through our pages on social networking sites.”
She has also heard from Saudi visitors that a similar café was recently opened in Riyadh. Another one is planned for Dubai soon in the Mirdif area (in the northeast of Dubai).
These projects will not completely solve the problem of stray and abandoned cats, but at least they contribute to protecting the largest possible number of cats, especially domestic ones.
The first cat and dog café in the world was launched in Taiwan in 1998, before it spread to the US and European countries in subsequent years. In the Arab world, similar cafes will be launched from Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain and other countries soon.