Londoners fall in love with cat cafe

Pedestrians look at a cat in a window at the Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium in London March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

By Harpreet Bhal LONDON (Reuters) - People like coffee and people love cats so together they make the paws that refresh at a London cat cafe that is so popular it's booked out until June. Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium on the fringe of London's financial district is cashing in on an idea first popularised 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 idea is you can come have a peaceful lunch or high tea and be surrounded by cats. If you're lucky one of them will fall asleep on your lap," said Anna Kogan, an investment banker who is co-owner of Dinah's along with Australian Lauren Pears. Part-financed by a crowdfunding campaign which raised more than 109,000 pounds in less than two months, the cafe, which opened its doors on March 1, is already a runaway success. Cat lovers stormed the cafe's online booking system within hours of its launch, making more than 3,000 bookings and causing the system to temporarily crash. It is fully booked until the end of June. "I thought that it would be really really cool to just hang out with loads and loads of cats," said recent patron Christy McCormick. "They're really fluffy and cute and ... I really like cats. They're great," McCormick said of the cafe's 11 cats, donated by people leaving the country or unable to care for them. Britons share more than 3.8 million online photos and videos of cats every day, compared to just 1.4 million selfies, and more than 350,000 cat owners have a social network account set up for their cats, according to mobile network provider Three. The vintage-decorated cafe charges customers 5 pounds to enter and has a two-hour turnaround time for patrons. Kogan said customers came from all walks of life, including bankers, designers and students, and the cafe aims to adopt more cats if it gets the go-ahead from the local council. Nor does the animal cafe craze stop with cats. The same area of London is set to get its own dog cafe, Happiness of Hounds, later this year. Hundreds of Parisians queued last year for the opening of a "Cafe des Chats", which is home to a dozen animals the owners encourage customers to stroke, claiming the vibration produced by purring can relieve arthritis and rheumatism. (Editing by Michael Roddy and Andrew Roche)