Feline fans will make a bee-line for this new establishment

Madrid gets its first cat café, based on a Japanese idea

The first cat café in Spain.
The first cat café in Spain.Samuel Sánchez

A cat is not a toy or a stuffed animal to be handled at will, even if it is a tame one that does not seem to mind the attention. It is definitely not a good idea to jump on a cat to caress it unless it gave you permission first. Humans never have the initiative on this front; it is always the felines who end up deciding when and how to get cozy. Especially when the human is about to enter their home territory. And most especially if this home is a real cat mansion, such as the one which has recently opened its doors in the Madrid neighborhood of Lavapiés (c/ Argumosa, 28). Welcome to Spain's first cat café - a place to go have a drink and enjoy the company of these four-legged hosts. A place where everybody wants to be a cat.

Tokyo is the original home of the cat café, with at least 40 similar establishments scattered throughout the Japanese capital. Residents have a hard time keeping a pet at home, either because their landlords do not allow it or because their apartments are just too small. So 10 years ago they came up with these venues where patrons could enjoy a sip of tea and the purr of a cat. There is now one in Austria, and Paris has had its own cat café for about a month. Now, Madrid has its own La Gatoteca after reaching agreements with regional and municipal authorities on issues of hygiene.

Eva Aznar, a 29-year-old cat lover from Zaragoza, need only walk on all fours to become a feline herself. She ambles among the eight cats in the establishment wearing shoes with a cat whisker design. She tattooed the faces of both her pets on her upper arms. "There are all kinds of cats; some are more quiet and affectionate, others are more nervous and agitated," she says. "But it's not true that they are aloof animals."

After studying illustration and interior design, Aznar took the savings from her job at a furniture store, found the premises she wanted in the capital, and began turning it into feline heaven, complete with cushions and clawing posts so the cats feel at ease.

La Gatoteca also plans to have a membership program in which participants can adopt a cat. The first eight specimens have been donated by an association in Ciudad Real, but Aznar already has donations from other organizations and individuals. "But it will be the animals who set the pace for the colony that will live here; they're the ones in charge," says the owner, standing in front of the (cat) mural that decorates the wall. "There are just two restrictions: no animals with infectious diseases or aggressive behavior will be accepted."

There will also be cat-related talks and feline therapy sessions held in the back of the establishment. There is an admission fee of four euros for a stay of half an hour, and six euros for one hour. Drinks are charged separately. For now, a maximum of 20 people is being allowed in at a time, although this may also change depending on the cats' will. With this as with everything else, they have the last miaow.

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