Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kitty party redefined

Kitty party redefined

"Have you seen Obi-Wan Catobi?" the woman seated at the table next to mine enquires with a flummoxed glance. In any other café context, this interruption of my mocha drinking by a total stranger would be deemed bizarre. But here, in Sydney's cat café - where resident cats are named after creatures who have had eclectic associations with space - it's taken in one's stride. Catmosphere, Sydney's first space-themed cat café, has two dedicated rooms where those who want to worship cats, along with their coffee, can congregate. And it's absolutely clear from the moment I enter that cat cafés enforce a particular personality. For instance, it's impossible to be sophisticated around cats, and so I'm on my knees with another like-minded patron, crawling around, seeking affection from the felines. While a dog would possibly respond with a 'Hey, want to play?', the cats regard me disdainfully as if to say, 'What on earth are you doing in this prone position?' Thomas Dericott, co-founder of the café, observes this behaviour and remarks, "Dogs are like steak, immediately satisfying. Cats, on the other hand, are like French cuisine - if you have the patience for it, you will be rewarded." While I'm being carefully schooled in the need to have no expectations, Neil Pawstrong acknowledges my loving overtures and submits herself for a caress. What appears initially as a head-butt is in effect Pawstrong growing into a hug. Dericott admits that by the time they realised Neil was female, she had already been firmly christened 'Neil'. To reassure those concerned about hygiene, the coffee, snacks, and the light, curated meals are created in a firmly separated area, and there's also a distinct café area for when you're so inclined, so that the chances of coughing up a fur ball are negligible. In fact, even to make the journey into the Cat Room with a hot drink of your choice requires you to sanitise your hands. The Cat Room looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Pastel blue walls, soft cushions displaying all colours of the rainbow, caverns for cats to climb into when they want some introspection space, perches, stands, and the comfiest of sofas. On the table in front of me lies a well-thumbed book, Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too. For those who want to stay purr-fectly balanced, I'm told there's a 'cat yoga' session on offer. Dericott says the cats get quite irritable when the focus goes off them. But as the session proceeds, they've been known to mischievously creep between the legs of a patron engaged in 'downward dog' (a respectable cat's understandably least favourite pose). "This makes the yoga more challenging, which appears to please the customers no end," smiles Dericott. The last 15 minutes of the session are spent on cat-interaction, with the creatures who have by this point gotten quite comfortable around their human devotees. The cat handlers on duty are ostensibly here to oversee the wellbeing of both cat and guest: to remove a cat exhausted from too much play (and take her to a cat-only chamber), or to calm a guest who's too enthusiastic in his overtures. But both felines and guests appear to be having a good time this afternoon. My focus now strays to the attention-to-detail that's gone into the creation of the space. Fuzz Fowler illustrations of cats in space adorn the outer walls. The magazine Pussweek talks about all things feline. No more than two cats are adopted at a time to facilitate them settling into this space. Dericott says, "When the new cat moves in, she examines how the other cats have grown comfortable with each other and then determines where she should and shouldn't venture." Downstairs in the kittens' room (called Space Academy), the tiny fur-balls brim with life and energy. People ooh and mewl, as sleeping kittens open their eyes. "There's a bit of human in every cat and cat in every human," Dericott says. I leave, ruminating that Catmosphere feels a bit like a metaphor for Sydney itself - playful, energetic and always ready to try something new.

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