LAHORE: A cat walked lazily past one of several bean bags on the floor, while another lounged on a shelf in a room full of children and adults cuddling the furry creatures against the backdrop of walls filled with murals and portraits of cats.
Welcome to the Safari Pet Cafe in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, a haven for humans craving fluffy feline company, which also hopes to double as an adoption center for strays in the furture.
“Definitely, with this pet cafe, we have a plan for rescued cats and their adoption here,” veterinarian Dr. Iqrar Ahmed, who opened the cafe in the city’s Banker’s Society in November, told Arab News last week, saying he was in talks with a rescue service called “Crazy Pets” and would house cats at his cafe and encourage visitors to adopt them.
“They will be stray cats, we will keep them here and have people adopt them.”
Around the vet, dozens of cats weaved in between the tables and chairs or curled up on bean bags as cafe-goers sat enjoying coffee.
Apart from a comfortable, loving space for the animals, Ahmed hopes he can bring cat lovers some joy with his cafe, while boosting awareness over pet raising and adoption.
In a country where people are discouraged from bringing their pets with them even to public parks, Ahmed’s is a rare space, cashing in on an idea first popularized 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 cafe has homed some cats of its own, but also allows customers to bring their own pets there. The space has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they want to publicly socialize with their cats or show them off. Then there are also those who cannot keep a cat at home.
“There are many kids, like me, who never got permission to keep a pet,” Ahmed said as he stroked a golden Persian cat. “Pet café is a place where you can bring your pets or if you don’t have pets and want to spend time with pets, [you can come here].”
The ground floor of the cafe, where the kitchen is located, is a no-go area for the feline creatures, but the second story is where they are allowed to freely lounge and play, with an Astroturf to walk on and plenty of shelves to climb and nap on.
“The quality of cats here is beautiful and sweet, so it’s a good idea and when I heard about it, I felt happy,” said Subhana Faraz, who was visiting the cafe with her husband, two sons, and pet cat named Milo.
“Often, we have to leave them [our pets] at home and when we go back home after a long time, they get disturbed. So, we like such places where we can take them.”
Student Syed Ramil Ahmed, 14, said having pets and being around animals helped him deal with stress.
“First of all, if you have a pet, you can’t feel lonely at all because it doesn’t leave you. When you return from somewhere, when we come back from school, they always come running to us immediately,” he said as a tiny white kitten slept in his lap.
“You can give them all your love and they love you back equally.”