Cats at Ailuromania, UAE's first cat cafe -- on Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai Image Credit: Zarina Fernades/XPRESS

Dubai: Themed restaurants are a dime a dozen in the UAE. But one café that opened in Dubai on April 2 has purred its way through the clutter.

Called Ailuromania, the Jumeirah Beach Road restaurant is believed to be the first cat café not just in the UAE but in the entire Middle East.

As its sibling owners from Saudi Arabia explained, a cat café is a themed café whose main draw lies in the cats it houses, with visitors getting a chance to watch and play with them over a quick bite or cup of coffee.

“My sisters Allaa and Iman, graduates in marketing and finance, wanted to start a family business when a friend gave them the idea of a cat cafe. Although such cafés existed in Taiwan, Tokyo and other parts of the world, the concept was new to the UAE. As such, it was appealing. We also happened to have several cats in our home, most of which were rescued from the streets, so it was just a question of moving them,” said Omnia, one of the five siblings. 

Coffee with cats

The café, which has both outdoor and indoor seating, has a separate room which visitors can opt for if they wish to interact with the cats.

“At current count, we have 16 cats in there and as you can see, there’s a variety of breeds - Persian, Rag Doll, Scottish Fold, British Short Hair, Arabian Mau, Himalayan etc,” said Omnia.

A collage of the cats’ pictures with their names greets visitors at the sliding glass door of the customised room. When XPRESS visited last week, Belle, a Himalayan cat, was lounging on a sofa as was Persian cat Ash. Mr Bean looked from the traditional majlis while Tigger, an Arabian Mau, could be seen warming up to a group of Filipinos. ET Sphynx was perched on a shelf and Bob sat on an empty coffee table.

“Each cat has a distinct personality. Bob is a charmer and quick to snuggle into a customer’s lap. Smokey is bossy, goes up to strangers and demands attention, Snow is mischievous and affectionate and so on,” said Omnia.

Many tables were occupied with food but the cats, most of which appeared well-fed, kept their distance. “No, they generally don’t sniff at or nibble into the food. We tell customers to take care in any case,” said Omnia.

Omnia said there was no extra charge to interact with the cats. The café is open from 2 to 10pm Sunday to Wednesday and 2pm to midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.