Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Cat cafe looks to add purrfect staff

A central Auckland cafe staffed by five humans and 12 cats is on the look-out for three new feline staff members willing to be paid in love, cuddles and snacks.

Queen St cat cafe BaristaCats has been doing a roaring trade since opening three months ago. Lunch times and weekends are especially abuzz, booked out by customers keen for some feline love.

For $15, cat lovers can share the lounge space with tabbies, torties, white cats, fluffballs and more for an hour, with a hot drink thrown in. There's also human food available if all the cuddling works up an appetite.

Heidi Ferguson has managed the cafe since it was opened on December 1 by owner Julia Whitehead, with the support of $15,000 in PledgeMe donations. Donors got to choose the cats' names, which include Hamburglar, Orson, Zuul and Lady Molly Snugglington.

A self-confessed cat lady, Ms Ferguson says it's a dream job and she moved from Australia, with her 12-year-old cat, to take it up.

Ms Ferguson said the cafe's feline staff had been adopted from shelters.

They have a cat psychologist to keep their behaviour in check and staff use pheromone spray to keep the mood purrfect.

And there is still room for three more cats - with the newest addition, a sweet three-legged ginger girl from the SPCA, yet to be named.

Ms Ferguson said being around cats is relaxing, a claim that's been well reported.

A 1999 study found that cat owners had lower rates of heart disease, and the presence of pets has long been associated with reduction of stress and blood pressure.

First-time BaristaCats customer and University of Auckland student Sharni Killoran, 23, agrees, saying it's just the place to relax after a day of back-to- back classes.

Ms Killoran, who visited the cafe last week, said the atmosphere was great.

"It's what I expected -- but better."

She was particularly impressed by the cats' play areas, from the shelves that acted as a staircase up the wall leading to a little cat-sized swing bridge, to the cat adventure playgrounds covered in carpet and sprouting with nest- shaped sleeping spots.

There's even a "hissing booth" for the cats to hide away in, and separate rooms accessible through cat doors for time out.

With winter approaching, Ms Ferguson predicted business to boom even more.

"Coming inside out of the cold for a snuggle with a nice kitty and a hot drink - perfect."

- NZ Herald

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