Monday, March 4, 2013

Animal cafés are coming to London

Image: from
Sometimes, an idea comes along that is so obvious, so genius, that you kick yourself for not coming up with it first. I am talking, of course, of the Sausage Dog Café. Just to clarify, this is definitely not some trendy new London eatery where the menu only consists of sausage dogs and champagne. (Bubbledogs, anyone?)

Until now I never quite knew what was missing from a typical café experience - the coffee, ambience and baked goods may all be quite excellent, but what would make it so much better? Sausage dogs, of course; dozing, playing and roaming free around the room. Have you ever walked past a sausage dog and not smiled? Exactly.

The Sausage Dog Café, planned to open in Brixton once enough funds have been raised, is set to be a haven for any stressed-out dog lovers who can't have a pet of their own, with plans to have a knitting corner, opportunities to take the dogs out for a walk and all the tasty treats you’d expect (including sausage rolls).

Image: Sex and the City, An American Girl in Paris (
This follows hot on the heels of the news that London's very first cat café is officially on its way to Shoreditch, inspired by Japan's plethora of cat cafés. Just last week, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium reached its fundraising target of £109,000 and the dream is to become reality.

The popularity of the urban animal café is the latest manifestation of a universal truth that any self-respecting animal lover already knows: pets = escapism.

Pets are the ultimate antidote to our first world problems, blessed as they are with a trusting nature and an appreciation for the simple life. The best we could manage post-university was to buy two little dwarf hamsters, the late Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy; we would play with the little fellas as soon as we got in from work and enter an almost meditative state as they ran over our hands on the spot, like a mini-treadmill.

Mr Bingley was kind of a big deal
Animals can also immediately put you at ease  - in the same house, we used to watch YouTube clips of baby penguins whenever we were freaked out after watching a horror film. After 30 seconds of watching the penguins falling over and waddling around, any fears about ghosts or serial killers would be long-forgotten.

Even academic types have started to cotton on, with one Canadian university offering a 'puppy room' where students can take a few minutes between exams to de-stress with the furry friends. (Boris, please note - every London office, department store and tube carriage should have one of these as standard).

London life does not however lend itself well to pets, largely due to 9 to 5 jobs, no garden space and Cruella de Ville landlords. But when life gets stressful, Londoners need cuddle time - perhaps more than most.

Animal cafés like Lady Dinah's and the Sausage Dog Café will therefore offer the ultimate convenience for the city's 'generation rent' culture - part time pets, whose poo we do not need to deal with, but who we can be assured are being well looked after by the owners.

It's also great news for London's dating landscape. Animal-based activities, such as London Zoo and Mudchute Farm, can function as perfect quirky first date venues, so expect the new wave of animal cafés to be full of nervous couples, filling awkward silences with 'Oh look, that cat looks like Harry Styles!' or similar.

The rise and rise of the animal café began in Tokyo, where there are reportedly over 200 dog, cat, rabbit, reptile and even goat cafés. However it always seemed unlikely something like this could get off the ground here in the UK, where food standards and animal rights are quite rightly paramount.

Image: from
But thanks to successful crowd-fundraising campaigns, the pet cafés are on their way. And, reassuringly, the pioneers of both Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium and the Sausage Dog Café insist that their resident pets will be most loved on this planet, with both establishments complying by strict Animal Care Standards and Health and Safety laws.

Where will this craze end? After a day from hell, will a quick post-work puppy cuddle replace the need for a large glass of wine? It's certainly healthier. And, as long as we all remember that a dog is for life, not just a nice accompaniment to coffee, I am very much on board.

Make mine a Labrador.

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