Posted 22 Feb 2024

Celebrating the first five years of Shropshire’s first cat café

Paws Café recently celebrated five years since it was enthusiastically welcomed to Shrewsbury
Paws cafe
Paws cafe birthday

It's five years since Shropshire’s first cat café opened to an enthusiastic welcome in Shrewsbury. With queues down the street, local press in attendance and significant social media buzz from cat lovers across the region, opening day, in January 2019, was better than owners Katie and James had dared to imagine.

Cat cafés originated in Taiwan in 1998. The concept quickly spread to Japan, where it became immensely popular, especially among city dwellers living in apartments that prohibit pets. These cafes offer a cosy space where customers can enjoy beverages and snacks while mingling with the resident cats.

As global fascination with the concept grew, cat cafés made their leap to the United States and Britain, before arriving in Shropshire in the form of Paws Café.

A challenging beginning

But despite the warm welcome Paws received in its first year, it wouldn’t all be plain sailing. Almost exactly a year after the café opened its doors, Shrewsbury saw some of the worst floods in a decade, isolating the café from most of its customers. This was followed rapidly by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the first national lockdown -- all coinciding with the birth of Katie and James's son, Arthur.

“We were really lucky to have put money aside in our first year so we could keep our staff paid and our cats fed and cared for during COVID,” Katie says. “But it wasn’t just about the money. We’d created a community in our first year and we missed our customers; that was the hardest thing about lockdown.”

To keep the business running, Katie and James acted quickly to find new sources of revenue. Many will remember the cat-themed face masks worn by dedicated Shrewsbury residents during lockdown 2020, each based on one of Paws Café’s resident felines.

The business also began hosting children’s activities online, providing craft boxes through curbside collection for residents; Katie, a former teacher, ran the sessions. It was activities like this that enabled the business to survive through its most challenging period and kept Paws Café a central part of the community.

Community focus

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It’s this community that has continued to help Paws Café thrive. It’s fair to say that its lockdown initiatives not only sustained the business, but also helped it to develop a strong bond with a community which given its loyal support ever since.

In turn, Paws hasn’t increased the price of its services in five years and works hard to be accessible to all who fancy a visit. A weekly quiet hour is available to all who need it, and for all customers who require a carer to accompany them in the café, a free carer’s place is allocated.

Every Thursday and Friday, the café runs an Age UK discounted over-60s coffee morning, allowing discounted entry for older customers, along with their family and friends.

Paws cafe crafts

For kids, Katie is still drawing on her teaching experience to offer the café’s popular Cats and Craft sessions – now in person!

Through this caring and inclusive approach, Shropshire’s first cat café has become more than just a novelty offering for the area; Paws has become a community hub for Shrewsbury’s cat lovers, regardless of background and age.

Now, fans can now express their love for the café in even more ways than ever, with calendars, mugs and more featuring their favourite feline stars.

Visit Paws Café

Cats on display

In the span of five years, Paws Café has woven itself into the fabric of Shrewsbury's community, evolving from a novel concept into a cherished local institution.

Through floods, pandemics, and the cost-of-living crisis, the café has proved resilient and quick to evolve, bolstered by the support of its patrons and the adaptiveness of its owners, Katie and James.

As Paws Café looks to the future, it does so as one of Shrewsbury’s most unique and beloved businesses – letting its patrons enjoy excellent drinks and cakes while embracing the simple joy that comes from sharing a space with an animal.

In residence today are star felines Nala, Simba, Elsa, Snowy, Marmalade, Binx, Lady Grey, Mocha, Cappucino, Darwin, and new addition Mabel.

Book a time slot or drop in to visit them soon!

About the owners

Katie and James, hailing from Wolverhampton and Telford respectively, had their first date in Shrewsbury, meeting first for lunch at the Armoury followed by drinks at the Alb. At this time, Katie was heavily allergic to cats; she overcame her allergy for the sake of cat-lover James and his elderly feline companion Tink, and soon joined the cat lover club herself.

The couple chose Shrewsbury as the ideal home for Paws Café thanks to its independent, welcoming community and quirky vibe – all the things that make Shrewsbury a true original.

Discover more Shrewsbury originals

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