We are all aware that these are times of unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety, you don’t need the proprietors of a cat café to tell you that! When Lady Dinah’s was first conceived of it was as a sanctum: a cat haven in a bustling, often overwhelming metropolis. Our founder envisaged a safe and cosy space for humans and cats alike because she understands how uplifting feline companionship can be, particularly in a city where busy lifestyles and cramped living conditions can make it impossible to adopt a furry friend.
Ever since opening our doors in 2014, we have dedicated ourselves to providing an environment that cats and humans can enjoy together while always keeping the emphasis on the well-being of our four-legged family members. The message we’ve championed is that rescue cats can save us as much as we can save them, and this sentiment has never resonated so much! Now that we are all confined to the not-so-great indoors, those of us who are fortunate enough to have feline housemates are doubly grateful for the comfort they bring, and those of us who do not have this privilege are cheered by photos and videos of cats sitting on laptops and interrupting conference calls.
It is in this spirit that we would like to contribute some happy and wholesome content of our own with a new “feline good” series of blog posts! Our doors may be closed, but the Lady Dinah’s clowder continues to bring us the daily dose of joy we need. Our little family is temporarily disbanded, but the cats are getting on very nicely in their foster homes and we’d like to share their progress with you! Over the coming weeks, we will publish accounts from our foster parents about how the cats are faring in these exceptional circumstances. Spoiler alert: the cats are totally oblivious to what ails mankind, their priority is soft bedding and stinky treats! Clean litter is a concern, but they haven’t exactly been in a frenzy to obtain it.
Before we delve into the individual stories of our cats in quarantine, we would like to recount the days leading up to their hasty departures from the café...
Like so many businesses in the U.K. last month, we really had to think on our feet. Thankfully, six years spent in the presence of cats has taught us a lot about agility! At the beginning of March, as they observed how the situation was escalating in other parts of Europe, the senior members of our team began planning for a potential short-term closure. In fact, our Chief Cat Carer, Laura, had already experienced some of what was to come because she had visited her family in northern Italy for what was supposed to be a brief holiday. Her trip was cut short and she returned with a sense of foreboding. It was clear that we would need to make arrangements for the cats so that we’d be prepared in the event of a lockdown.
Laura commenced a precautionary two-week period of self-isolation and used this time at home to get into contact with the people she believed would be most suitable as foster parents. Naturally, she started by reaching out to members of the Lady Dinah’s team since we’ve all bonded with the cats already and appreciate their different preferences and behaviours. Success! Quite a few staff members were able to offer their homes as a refuge: Peter and Wendy went home with Amy, Tinkerbell was taken in by Freyja, Rodney and Cassandra are with Abbie, Del Boy has commandeered Anneli’s bed, and Baz and Pip have settled in with Leah. Estella and Mountolive, two of our youngest cats, tend to be a little bit nervous compared to the others, so Laura decided that it would be best for her to foster them herself.
As a small, independent business we are very lucky and extremely grateful to have built relationships with certain patrons who have supported us over the years. Two such valued friends of the café had offered to foster cats for us in the past and were happy to oblige this time around by welcoming Teddy and Obie to their meownagerie! A house check is required before we can allow our cats to go home with anyone, and in this case one had already been performed since the couple in question adopted one of our most popular residents, Wookie, when he retired last year. Teddy and Obie are outgoing fluff-boys, so we were confident that they would be comfortable sharing a space with some new adoptive siblings.
Purr Highness Queen Liz, however, is not so laidback. Any of our guests who’ve witnessed Lizzie monopolising the running wheel will know that she’s a solo act, a diva who demands all of the attention! It was ideal, then, that we were able to pair her with a lovely lady who doesn’t currently have pets of her own. Once again, we didn’t have to worry about a house check since one had been conducted at the beginning of the year when Lizzie’s foster mum had been short-listed to adopt our velveteen superstar, Victor.
Finally, we needed to find accommodation for Salome and Dorian. The cat carers felt that it would be best for them to be placed together as they are from the same litter, hence their Oscar-Wilde-inspired names, and they enjoy the same kind of attention. Both girls ask for cuddles and they love to receive firm pats on their rear ends! In the end, it was the parents of our Senior Cat Carer, Amy, who took them in. This eliminated the need for a house check since Amy can certainly vouch for her own mum and dad! Thank you, Meow and Paw! (Sorry about that last bit.)
Finding people whom we trust who were willing and able to foster our cats for an indefinite period of time was hard work! Our Chief and Senior Cat Carers had to make a lot of decisions in a limited time frame, and we really commend them for doing such a good job. Not only that, but provisions needed to be made for our fosterers to ensure that they would have enough food: that’s enough food for fifteen cats shared between nine households!
Thank goodness we had the foresight to take these steps before the 20th of March, as that evening the Prime Minister announced that the hospitality industry would effectively have to be shuttered for the foreseeable future. Our original plan had been to take the cats out of the café one day at a time so as to minimise the upheaval, but only Lizzie had left by this point. Fortunately, all of our fosterers were ready to receive their charges either that night or the following day! The ensuing twenty-four hours were a flurry of activity as we shut down the café, which included washing everything that would be leaving the premises to go to a foster home, but we tried to stick to the regular routine of feeding and playtime so as to avoid distressing the cats. There were some meows of protest when the time came for them all to be put into carriers, but Mountolive slept during the entirety of the commotion!
As for what happened next, we will revisit the cats in their new surroundings in the blog posts to come. All of the staff members who have fostered a feline colleague have written accounts of the adventures they’re having, and we’re excited to share these updates with you!