In 1912, a Russian chap called Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was on holiday in Austria.
In 1912, a Russian chap called Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was on holiday in Austria. He was probably better known as Lenin, and he was more in exile than on holiday.
While in exile, the revolutionary enjoyed visiting a certain revolutionary café. It wasn't full of Bolsheviks or political dissidents - we mean the other kind of revolutionary. It was full of cats. Actual cats. It was the world's first cat café - a coffee shop with a posse of pussies.
Rumour has it that, with the outbreak of the First World War, the owner donated his resident cats to the war effort. Stop imagining cats with uniforms and guns; their fur was used to line soldiers' boots. We like to think that's not true, but - with or without Puss in Boots - the café closed when the war broke out.
Flash forward a decade or seven and the Cat Flower Garden claims to be the world's first cat café. It opened in Taiwan in 1998 and the idea was swiftly hijacked by Japan. The large quantity of young workers occupying small apartments that don't allow pets created a market for what is essentially a pet rental service. Between 2005 and 2010, 79 cat cafés opened in Japan.
As the trend has evolved, so have the types of cat on offer. Black cats, fat cats, and rare breeds all have their own cafés and patrons pay an hourly fee to touch and watch the cat of their choice. The system sounds very familiar to another industry.
There are cat cafés in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, and in all the other countries permitted to enter the Eurovision Song Contest.
The one in Paris is delightfully, aptly situated beneath the city in the catacombs. There's one in Berlin that has only two residents, so we're dubious about whether or not that counts. We're sure Adolf and Heinrich are adorable, but two cats do not a café make. There's a cat café in Hungary, a cat coffee shop in Italy, a cat club in Lithuania, and a cat camp in Poland.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium in London has a two-month waiting list; Crumbs and Whiskers in Washington managed to crowd-fund $15,000 in just one day.
Shoving a load of cats in your coffee shop is obviously big business. And there are countless ventures across the country currently in the pipeline. But apparently not in Brighton. That's because when our landlords say no pets, we know they won't mind a cat or four.
Most cat-café-owners have struck deals with local rescue shelters to save their shops from the animal-loving, picketing boycotters.
Even so, we can't help thinking that legalised cat-prostitution is not particularly cool. We'll have to go and see though, just to make sure. Must dash - our Lady awaits.