As the opening of the UK’s first cat café moves closer, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and International Cat Care have called for cat welfare to be top priority.

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and International Cat Care (ICC) have expressed concern over “cat cafés” after reports surfaced that one is due to open in London.

Cat cafés, first popularied in Japan, must have the welfare of the animals as top priority, says the BSAVA and ICC.The cafés, which were first popularised in Japan, allow cat-lovers and coffee fans alike to enjoy hot drinks and snacks in the company of felines. However, after hearing news that Australian entrepreneur Lauren Pears plans to open the UK’s first cat café – the specific location of which has not been revealed yet – both the BSAVA and the ICC have called for cat welfare to be top priority, especially as cats are generally not a social species.

BSAVA president Michael Day said: “While some cats appear content living in groups and interacting with human strangers, other cats can be very stressed in these circumstances.

“It isn’t always easy to identify whether a cat is suffering from stress – this is often missed or misinterpreted. For example, inactivity can be seen as contentment, but they are actually internalising their anxiety. The input of a veterinary behaviourist and appropriate staff training will be essential.

Prof Day believes a veterinary behaviourist should be consulted to help look after the cats in the new venture.“Animal welfare has to be the priority, and the health, physiological and psychological needs of each individual cat must always be met,” he said.

Veterinary director of ICC Andrew Sparkes said: “While there can be real challenges in setting up a cat café to ensure the cats involved are not stressed and proper consideration is given to their welfare, you can understand the attraction of enjoying a cappuccino while sitting next to a cat, as lucky cat owners are able to do at home.

“Cat owners will also recognise their cats often have short interactions before wandering off to do something else – cats in cafés must have the same opportunity to get away from people and other cats.”

According to Ms Pears, 30, who has raised £100,000 for her venture through crowd-funding, she is on the verge of signing the lease on the property. She plans to have around 10 cats in the café, with 40 to 50 people at any one time, she said.

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