So you've managed to snag yourself a precious reservation to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium. First thing to do - Congratulate yourself! They're currently fully booked until the start of June for everyone who didn't help out at their crowd-sourcing stage, so unless you're quick on the draw (Like I was. I booked my table a whole month ago.) or you obsessively check their Twitter feed for last minute cancellations to take over, you're basically out of luck for the next 3 months or so. Keep trying though, because the Cat Emporium is amazing. Especially for those of us who've never owned cats before.
AS: OMG THESE CATS ARE LIKE REAL LIFE PUSHEENS!!!
When you first enter the hallowed halls of Lady Dinah's, you might need to wait a while out front as they ready the tables for your visit. Our reservation was for 1.45 pm but we weren't seated until 2 pm. This gave us ample time to look around at the merchandise and the various cat-related trinkets that have been generously scattered about the entrance. You might also notice that they've put out their own step by step instructions over the coffee machine: Firstly, hand over the £5 cover charge. Next, thoroughly disinfect your hands in the sinks across from the till. And then, cats. Cats! Cats! Cats! This may be perfectly fine for people who have been to cat cafés before, or who actually own cats. But for those of us who do not know how to cat, it's not the most informative guide. Hence, my own compilation. Here goes!
1. Let sleeping cats lie
Much like BB, cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day, and can often clock up more snooze hours. Take unobtrusive, silent pictures of them and marvel at their preciousness when you see them dozing, but for the love of all things good, do not disturb the cats. They will be grouchy, and then they might plot to have you killed in your sleep once they fully wake. If they're eating, let them be as well.
2. Don't feed your food to the cats
You may be overcome by the utter deliciousness of your cream tea or the other treats on the menu (With vegan, nut-free and gluten-free options available), but at no point should you share it with the cats, even if you think they're giving you looks that scream "Feed me lowly human slave!". Instead, enjoy your own food first. The sugar scone is a particularly good choice for people who view scones as a glorified vehicle for the eating of clotted cream, and if you ask nicely, they will even bring you an extra bowl of the stuff. If you prefer stronger flavours and see the scone as a food item on its own, try the apple & cinnamon.
Note that the scones served are of the extremely crumbly variety and fall apart at the least provocation. Nibble gently, and don't let the crumbs go all over the place. The cream tea came with your choice of a hot drink, so GW, AS & I went for the hot chocolate, which was nice and rich.
If you absolutely must feed the cats, then speak to one of the cat carers who roam around both floors of the café, and they'll shake out a bunch of specially purchased treats into your hand. You can even purchase more treats if you want to go around feeding all the cats, but note that the different cats all have their own taste preferences and cannot have too many treats per day for health reasons. Adamska here hadn't reached his daily snack limit yet, so I fed him a couple of prawn bites. Here he is chewing the first one.
It's taken very seriously here. Each table is equipped with a bottle of hand sanitizer, perfect for a pre- and post-food cleanse. You can even clean your hands after touching each cat. If you're pregnant or extremely concerned about parasites, fear not - Lady Dinah's is held to a much higher hygiene standard than most households. You won't come near a litter box during your visit, all the cats are toxoplasma-free and do not roam outside where they might pick up bugs.
4. Beware the occasional stampede
Sometimes, the cat carers will tempt the cats into doing something adorable, like running on the giant cat wheel. In the ensuing scraping back of chairs and rushing into prime photo-taking position, don't elbow other people in the face, accidentally or otherwise. Faces have been obscured to protect the guilty.
5. Don't take flash photography
So you want your picture to become the next big cat meme on the internet. That's understandable. The cats are used to being fawned over and treated like celebrities at a cover shoot, and will give you the poses you so desperately desire. Just turn the flash off, because that hurts their eyes. You can pick your seating once you go into the café, so choose to sit upstairs if you can, where lots of wonderful natural light filters in through the full length windows and negates the need to take flash photography.
6. Take time to get to know the cats
You probably have fantasies where you're magically the most popular human being at the café and all the cats will crowd around you and demand cuddles. It's not going to happen. If you just sit where you are and wait for the cats to come to you, chances are you're going to have a pretty cat-free visit. Be shameless! Go to the cats!
Ask the cat carers for the names of each cat, or familiarize yourself beforehand. Brush up on your cat voice. Make kissy noises. Very gently place yourself on the floor and extend your hand for the cats to sniff. Use the toys provided to get the cats to play with you. Adam here went utterly crazy for the catnip mouse and a bit of string, and afterwards he deigned to sit on my lap.
Sometimes the cats just aren't interested. Carbonelle here (Named for the King of Cats) refused to give ES even the slightest bit of attention. It happens. Cut your losses and find a cat that likes you better.
All the cats here are lovely and soft, and it's really soothing to touch them and feel their rumbly purrs. If they decide to go back to sleep though, refer to Rule 1.
My favourite cat of the afternoon was Wookie, a rather friendly fellow who got on the couch with me. I love his squishy little face so.
We were ushered out later on to give the cats some space for their mandatory human-free nap time. It had been a very therapeutic time and an afternoon well-spent. GW had been very tempted to carry a cat home with her, and under the hazy glow of happy cat time we decided we're going to get a house cat later in the year.