Cat lovers of Christchurch are in for a treat as plans for the South Island's very first cat cafe are underway, aiming to open in February 2018.
Catnap Cafe will function both as a standard cafe, providing coffee and beverages as well as an extensive vegetarian cabinet menu, and as a sanctuary for rescue cats.
Alyssa O'Connor and Nate Ball, the husband and wife entrepreneurial team behind the project launched a Kickstarter campaign on June 14, which has raised $13,000 towards the $25,000 they need to get the cafe off the ground.
“Post-earthquake Christchurch is the perfect environment to open such an exciting venue,” O' Connor says.
“The city is open to change and innovation in a way that perhaps we weren't before, and there are so many homeless cats and kittens that need our help.
“We want Catnap to be more than just a cafe - we want it to be a space that will give back to the community - both the human and the feline,” she adds.
The first ever cat cafe, “Cat Garden”, opened in Taiwan in 1998, but the concept reached peak popularity after making it to Japan in 2004.
Since then, cat cafes have popped up all over the world, including India, Estonia, Italy, Russia, the UK, the US, Canada and, eventually, New Zealand.
The North Island boasts three cat cafes, two in Auckland and one in Rotorua, and Alyssa and Nate think it's high time that the South Island kept up with this global trend and opened one of its own.
And they are not the only ones who believe so, with Catnap Cafe receiving enthusiastic backing from Cat Rescue Christchurch, a local rescue organisation which has rehomed over 4,400 stray cats and kittens since 2006.
Beki Milligan, Cat Rescue Christchurch director says, "We are really excited about Catnap and think it will really help us out with adoptions and [with generating] more support from the community.
O' Connor and Ball have volunteered with the organisation for over three years (O' Connor as Volunteer Coordinator) and have been fostering and socialising kittens for the past year and a half.
But taking care of the kittens while both working full time and living in a rented home proved a challenge and prevented the cat-loving couple from helping as many cats as they would like.
The cat cafe is a way to make helping and rehoming kittens a permanent part of their work and lives, and provide a large public space in which kittens can interact with potential adoptees, encouraging faster adoption of Cat Rescue cats.
Not all visitors will be looking to adopt a fluffy friend of their own though, and Catnap Cafe can cater for them too.
It will provide a space for kids and adults to cuddle and play with cats and kittens who may not normally have the opportunity, or who simply need an extra dose of kitty cat love (not to mention caffeine).