‘The house belongs to the cats,’ says Alex, a fellow human and founder of Spain’s first cat café, ‘but they don’t mind us visiting from time to time.’
And, for feline-loving fans of the Gatoteca, this is good news. Tucked away on a nondescript street a stone’s throw from Atocha station, the centre is home to an ever-changing cast of kitties, all of whom are available for adoption (yes, you may well walk in for a coffee and end up going home with a cat). Guests pay according to time spent with current rates €4 for 30 minutes and €6 for an hour, and a hot drink is included.
After passing through the small gift shop at the front of the building, you help yourself to a brew and head into the cats’ ‘house’. This two-storey area looks like any normal apartment at first glance, with a large living room complete with sofas, books and people kicking back and chatting with friends. But then you notice the mighty number of scratch-posts, cat beds and, um, cats. Oh, and the fact that bathrooms are segregated into ‘cat’ and ‘human’.
The surroundings have been lovingly designed by former interior designer Alex, and built strictly to the cats’ specifications. Rather than cats settling down where they can among humans in a coffee shop, it’s the other way round. Sure, you can sit on a sofa. If the cats don’t get there first.
So this is not like the cat cafés that you might have read about in the past. All of the cats are rescue animals and you might notice something unusual about one or two of them. ‘We try to take the cats that might not be adopted otherwise,’ explains Alex. ‘The cats that are missing an eye, or that can’t walk properly. Or,’ she nods towards a particularly lovely ginger cat, ‘like this one. He bothers all the other cats because he can’t sleep alone.’ The cats’ length of stay varies from just a few days to over a year, and staff are very cautious about introducing a new animal into the tribe. The resident ‘cat psychologist’ oversees the whole process and most settle in eventually.
The centre runs regular workshops for cat lovers including ‘cat communication therapy’, troubleshooting for cat owners and more off-the-wall sessions including cat telepathy. The staff are also keen to engage with children and adults who love cats but don’t have the time or resources to adopt their own feline friend.
Since launching just over a year ago, the Gatoteca has attracted over 80 members as well as its large fanbase of pay-as-you-go visitors. Members enjoy benefits including free weekly visits, reduced rates on the Gatoteca’s calendar of events and associated businesses (including vets). The centre also runs a ‘Kitty-sitters’ service for local cat owners – instead of packing Tiddles off to the cattery when you go on holiday, a member of staff will visit the cat at your home for €10 per day, allowing the animal to stay in its own environment
Address: La Gatoteca, Calle Argumosa 28, 28012 Madrid
Tel: (0034) 916 225 831