Cats, kids and cafes
Yesterday I found out that the Cat Cafe on Whyte doesn’t allow children under 10. A friend took her 7-year-old son there, only to be turned away at the door. He was pretty devastated, of course – they live in a small apartment and can’t have pets, so he was really looking forward to seeing the kitties.
I expressed my disapproval of this policy on Facebook and Twitter. The conversation continued later in the day, when CTV news anchor Stacey Brotzel was also turned away with her 8-year-old. It’s unfortunate that the Cat Cafe doesn’t allow kids under 10, but what made that rule seem really arbitrary and contradictory is that kids of all ages are welcome on Sundays.
Needless to say, this didn’t make the Cat Cafe on Whyte look good. Many people commented that they wouldn’t be going to the cafe because of it. Others expressed their support of the cafe’s age limit; interestingly, most of those people thought it probably had something to do with the cafe’s insurance policy.
I called the Cat Cafe this morning to ask about their policies. I spoke to an employee who confirmed that they do not allow kids under 10 during regular business hours, except for one hour on Sunday mornings between 9 and 10.
The reason? The cat’s safety comes first, she said. She mentioned that many of their cats are rescues who have come from abusive homes and therefore aren’t very friendly or relaxed, especially around kids. She also mentioned the concern of kids getting scratched or bitten. She didn’t say anything about insurance.
There’s a risk that anyone visiting the cafe could get bitten or scratched. Accordingly, the Cat Cafe requires everyone to sign a waiver. So that argument doesn’t really hold up.
The Cat Cafe on Whyte did allow children of all ages on the first few days after they opened (on March 30, 2017). According to the employee I spoke to, that didn’t go well – the cats were really stressed out. So the cafe decided to impose the age limit.
As for allowing young kids for an hour on Sunday morning, the employee said this was OK because it was only for a single hour once a week. They’ve only tried this out once, last weekend, but it went well and they were fully booked. (Admission is free for both child and parent during that hour.) The cafe is doing this again tomorrow and is thinking of having games or crafts then, too.
I accept that a bunch of rambunctious youngsters could be seriously stressful to cats. I have three cats myself and I wouldn’t want kids to be chasing them around and stressing them out. But in my experience, when kids do that, they get scratched quickly and learn to back off in a hurry. Also, the vast majority of times that I’ve introduced kids to my cats, or seen kids interacting with cats or dogs or any animal, the kids were very respectful and calm. Most of the time they are just in awe of the animal and actually quite hesitant to touch it.
I also don’t think that confining young kids to one hour, once a week is the best approach to this issue – wouldn’t that just be a concentrated burst of stress for the cats, rather than getting used to kids regularly throughout the day? According to its website, one of the goals of the Cat Cafe is to find homes for the rescue cats. Seems like it would be in the best interest to socialize cats with people of all ages, not to mention provide a space for potential owners – and their kids – to meet the kitties. (Ironically, the cafe features a picture of an under-10-year-old girl holding a cat right on their homepage.)
Also, perhaps the reason the cats were really stressed out in those first few days was less because of kids and more because it was a new environment, so the cats were just stressed in general? The Cat Cafe has only been open to the public for two weeks – hardly much time to really gauge the cats’ behaviour.
I respect that the Cat Cafe on Whyte has made a business decision to impose an age limit and it’s their right to do so. But I also question whether it’ll be good for business to regularly have heartbroken, sobbing kids in their doorway – and upset parents on social media. I also question whether cats and kids really don’t mix. Couldn’t they just have a zero tolerance policy, so if a child (or adult, for that matter) was being disruptive and stressing out the animals, they would be asked to leave?
If you’re a parent who wants to take your kid to see some animals, please check out the Edmonton Humane Society. They regularly host large groups of children to play with the animals there – animals who are often rescued from abusive homes, I might add. Plus, it’s free. (The Cat Cafe charges $15 for admission, which includes one drink.)
I’m curious to see whether the Cat Cafe is going to change its policy on this. I’m also curious to see if Stacey Brotzel or anyone else is going to cover this issue further. Might I suggest having the owners of the Cat Cafe and someone from the Human Society discuss the issue of cats and kids? I’d like to watch/read that.