There’s no birthday that our children look forward to quite as much as their tenth. Not because they’re finally in double figures or they’re edging towards the end of primary school, but because they can finally go to York’s only cat cafe, The Cat’s Whiskers on Goodramgate.
Our eldest anticipated his 10th birthday with the same excitement as a 17 year-old looks forward to their first legal pint, knowing that he would be able to hang out with a whole load of cats for an hour. We’ve looked through the window hundreds of times to try to get a glimpse of a kitten or two, but because of their (sensible) age restriction, it’s been out of bounds until now. So on the birthday boy’s orders, we booked a weekend timeslot and headed along in the hope of making some new furry friends.
How it works – As a general rule you can’t just drop into The Cat’s Whiskers on a whim – you need to pre-book a time slot. This gives you an hour in the cafe and costs £7 per person. All visitors need to be aged 10+.
First impressions – To prevent any escapees, there’s a fairly strict entry procedure. Not only do you have to pre-book online, but you have to be let in by a member of staff and agree to the rules (no picking up the cats etc) before you’re allowed inside the cafe itself. It’s all done in a friendly and relaxed way and still feels like a warm welcome.
The cafe itself is light and airy, with white walls adorned hung with stylish cat beds and cat toys and accessories dotted all over the place. If our own cats saw it, they’d be green with envy (they’ve even got a huge cat wheel, like a supersized hamster wheel!). There are, of course, a lot of cats skulking, snoozing and playing, too. There’s seating across two floors, with a large open plan area downstairs and two cosier rooms upstairs. We’ve been twice now and we prefer the upstairs rooms because they’re lighter and – crucially – seem to attract more cats! The room that overlooks Goodramgate is our favourite, and the cats seem to like it too – there were several of them sleeping in the window, some curled up in the corner and another one sharing the sofa with our son (much to his delight).
What’s on the menu – There’s no obligation to have anything to eat or drink, given that you have paid for entry but this being a birthday treat, we decided to have a drink and slice of cake from the short menu. There’s a selection of cakes and hot and cold drinks on offer, but no meals. This seems sensible, given that it would have to be ordered, delivered and eaten within an hour which isn’t very relaxing. Not only that, but anything savoury involving cheese would probably result in a feeding frenzy among our feline companions.
Instead we enjoyed our caramel shortbread and carrot cake in relative peace, even though we did have to use various tactics to keep the cats from pinching them from our plate (thankfully plate covers are provided). With two cats at home, we’re well used to underhand food-stealing tactics, so we just found it funny, but there’s no doubt that The Cat’s Whiskers is for die-hard cat lovers only. Even though we live with cats, it felt like a real treat to be among so many other cats of different colours, shapes and sizes. The staff told us their names and a bit about their background, personality and relationships with each other, which made us fall in love with them even more. The only problem was explaining to our cat-mad kid over and over again why we couldn’t take them home with us.
The verdict – For cat fans young and old, this place really is the cat’s whiskers and well worth the wait for bigger kids.