“This one is the Death Star, and this one is the Jedi temple.” Thomas Derricott points at two fluffy cat towers; one has a grey cat nosing around like a feline PI. The cat’s named Deckard (the hero from Bladerunner) and he is one of 15 cats living upstairs at Catmosphere, Sydney’s newest cat cafe.
“It’s like a night at the theatre, where people can spend an hour with the cats and then they can descend and have their coffee and a meal and discuss all the different space cats they met,” says Derricott; he and partner Wenee Yap are Catmosphere’s owners. They’re not the founders, though. That honour goes to Bernhard Mueller, an Austrian who opened the first Catmosphere in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “He has this way of talking about space cats in a dead-pan manner that just makes you assume it's all completely factual.”
Derricott says the Catmosphere in Thailand was a madhouse where cats are free to swarm both your lap and your plate. Australia has a few more health-and-safety protocols – at Catmosphere Sydney the cafe is separate to the cat experience. The cat room is $20; with that you get a coffee (lidded to prevent rogue cat sips), a biscuit and an hour’s access to one of two cat rooms. The downstairs room has just five cats and serves as an introductory experience for both humans and cats before they climb the stairs to meet the cafe’s 15 main attractions.
Regardless of which level of cat experience you’ve booked, don’t expect instant cuddles and attention. “An hour is the perfect amount of time for people to spend with the cats because for the first five or 10 minutes the cats are scoping the customers out. Inevitably, all guests are worthy, but they need the humans to feel the pressure of their judgement.” Derricott says to ensure maximum cat comfort and human-to-cat bonding each room will never exceed a 1:1 cat-to-human ratio.
The cafe is run by Yun Xia, the ex-Kinokuniya cafe manager. “It’s important to us that we offer a legitimate cafe experience because there might be some people who don’t come here for the novelty of a cat cafe.” Yap says those who’ve been dragged by cat-loving friends can still enjoy roast pork and sesame mayonnaise sandwiches on Luxe brioche; the couple’s homemade Moroccan lamb, vegetable and barley soup; and free wi-fi in the cafe’s courtyard.
In the future Derricott and Yap want to install a library of sci-fi graphic novels to read among the cats. Once the original group of space cats have comfortably settled their new frontier, Catmosphere will also employ a cat-adoption program in collaboration with the World League Protection of Animals (WLPA). All of Catmosphere’s cats are rescue cats from the WLPA.