“With this cat cafe you could actually save lives.”
Since 2012, PAWS Bangkok has provided care and shelter for Bangkok’s proliferating stray cat population. At their new adoptable cat cafe, visitors can come to adopt and play with their cats and kittens, while raising money for the shelter. The cafe is open every Sunday at Ekkamai’s Union Space co-working facility. We caught up with PAWS volunteer Kirsty Smith, 42, who masterminded the idea.
How did you get into volunteering with PAWS?
I’ve always been involved with animal rescue organizations. When I moved to Bangkok from the UK four years ago, I saw there was a massive problem with street animals, so I searched for volunteer opportunities and found PAWS.
How did you come up with the cat cafe idea?
At PAWS, I’m responsible for visiting schools to talk to kids about animal welfare. I started approaching universities to see if they would be interested in us coming over during exams, to allow students to de-stress with our cats. That fell through, so I began thinking about coworking spaces. We started off at Union Space, where we’d bring our cats every Monday from 12-5pm for the “Calming Cat Cuddle Corner.” Union Space is closed on Sundays, so the director asked if we wanted to do something with it, and that’s when the idea for the cat cafe came to me.
Tell us more about the project
We launched the cat cafe on Sunday May 19. There are around 120 cats at our shelter and most of them are adoptable. We have been running adoption events at the shelter most weekends, but since we also have injured and upset-looking cats there, the environment can be off-putting to some people. We’ve always wanted to create a nicer environment where people could come and play with our cats and take them home but it hadn’t been possible before, since we run solely on donations. Now, every Sunday from 11am-5pm, we transform Union Space into a cat cafe—we decorate it with a lot of cat furniture donated by people like KAFBO, Catty Craft and King Kong Pet Shop. You can come and have a drink (we also have vegan options), adopt a cat, or find out how to be a volunteer with us.
“With this cat cafe you could actually save lives”
Has it been successful so far?
On our second Sunday, we had our first two adoptions. I really feel like this is going to take off—as with any other cat cafe you can chill with the cats, but with this one you could actually save lives.
How do you feel about animal cafes in general?
To get our cats adopted into a home is just a very small part of our mission. Our main part is to educate people about animal welfare and to minimize the street population. We try to encourage people to spay and neuter their pets; we are against breeding and people buying their animals from shops. Because of that, we are quite against animal cafes that have special breeds, like where do they come from? Though, so long as the cats are being well looked after and they are not from bad breeders or from the markets, I guess some cat cafes are not so bad.
How does Bangkok’s current stray animal situation compare to when you arrived?
I think it’s just the same—as long as there’s no infrastructure or places for capture and release in place, it will just stay the same. We can only do so much until something is actually put in place by the authorities.