* Cat Emporium so popular its online booking system crashed
* Concept comes from Japan; Paris too has a "Cafe des Chats"
* Animals "may fall asleep in your lap"
By Harpreet Bhal
LONDON, March 28 People like coffee and people
love cats so together they make the paws that refresh at a
London cat cafe that is so popular it's booked out until June.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium on the fringe of London's
financial district is cashing in on an idea first popularised in
Japan to allow stressed-out workers to wind down by stroking a
cat while sipping a cappuccino or latte - or tea, if you prefer.
"The idea is you can come have a peaceful lunch or high tea
and be surrounded by cats. If you're lucky one of them will fall
asleep on your lap," said Anna Kogan, an investment banker who
is co-owner of Dinah's along with Australian Lauren Pears.
Part-financed by a crowdfunding campaign which raised more
than 109,000 pounds ($181,100) in less than two months, the
cafe, which opened its doors on March 1, is already a runaway
Cat lovers stormed the cafe's online booking system within
hours of its launch, making more than 3,000 bookings and causing
the system to temporarily crash. It is fully booked until the
end of June.
"I thought that it would be really really cool to just hang
out with loads and loads of cats," said recent patron Christy
"They're really fluffy and cute and ... I really like cats.
They're great," McCormick said of the cafe's 11 cats, donated by
people leaving the country or unable to care for them.
Britons share more than 3.8 million online photos and videos
of cats every day, compared to just 1.4 million selfies, and
more than 350,000 cat owners have a social network account set
up for their cats, according to mobile network provider Three.
The vintage-decorated cafe charges customers 5 pounds
($8.30) to enter and has a two-hour turnaround time for patrons.
Kogan said customers came from all walks of life, including
bankers, designers and students, and the cafe aims to adopt more
cats if it gets the go-ahead from the local council.
Nor does the animal cafe craze stop with cats. The same area
of London is set to get its own dog cafe, Happiness of Hounds,
later this year.
Hundreds of Parisians queued last year for the opening of a
"Cafe des Chats", which is home to a dozen animals the owners
encourage customers to stroke, claiming the vibration produced
by purring can relieve arthritis and rheumatism.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Andrew Roche)