Cat cafés aren’t just about Insta-likes: they’re designed to provide health benefits, too

Guangzhou – Cat cafés hit a double whammy for today’s consumers: they provide an immersive commodity – one that’s, to boot, wellness-oriented. It’s reason enough to regard the spaces as more than cutesy destinations, but legitimate examples for hospitality entrepreneurs looking to similarly check both boxes, with animals in-house or not. Meow Restaurant, a new E Studio-designed in Guangzhou, is one such illustration.

The 300-sq-m space is geared toward helping visitors de-stress and relax. Notably – as these cafés are often criticised by animal rights activists – prioritising the wellbeing of the cats was essential, too. So E Studio transformed the location from a 90s red-wall warehouse in Guangzhou’s well-trafficked Butterfield & Swire’s Godowns & Wharf into a contemporary ‘forest.’

Feline-friendly haunts got their start two decades ago in Taiwan. Since, they’ve become popular posts in Asia and beyond, especially in Japan. There, ethnographic researcher Lorraine Plourde found that the primary reason patrons named for visiting cat cafés was the depression, stress and anxiety relief animal therapy provided. She too asserted that these cafés remain desirable because of the fact that ‘customers seek to consume experiences that produce feelings and sensations.’ The cafés haven’t proliferated globally simply because of Insta-fads, but because of their role in helping alleviate medical concerns – and the urban loneliness – that today’s wellness industry zooms in on.

At any given time, Meow Restaurant is home to around 50 stray cats. E Studio used blocks and platform devices to create a ‘balance between the two spaces for the two [species of] users.’ The terrace's layered landscape  was designated to promote interaction between animal and human, and serve as an area for public activities. On the second floor, dining spaces are organised under a stainless steel ceiling emulating rippling water. There’s also a ‘treehouse’ loft for lounging.

If the cats weren’t present, Meow Restaurant would still be attractive because of its calming interiors. But because they are? All the more reason to visit.

Meow Restaurant was submitted to the spatial design competition of the year – Frame Awards 2020. Like the project? Keep your eye out on its progress. Think you can compete? Submit your best work here.

Location Building 2, Zhongchuanhui, No.139, Renovation Road, Haizhu District, Guangzhou

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