Cafe aims to find new homes for stray cats

- Stray cats in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk are being offered a home for life at a special cafe.

Visitors are invited to play with the cats, or even adopt them, at a time where there are few welfare options for animals in Russia.

This is the "Kotofey" cat cafe in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, the first of its kind in this part of Russia.

It takes in unwanted cats for all sorts of reasons, whether they be strays or if their owners can no longer keep them.

Customers pay to come to the cafe to play with them and are offered hot drinks and snacks for free.

It costs 3 US dollars (and less than 2 US dollars for children) for an hour at the cafe.

One visitor, Tamara Bakhvalova, is unable to keep a cat of her own, so comes here to relax instead:

"I'm (here) for the first time", she says. "And I like that there are a lot of different cats of different colours and shades because I like different (cats) – fluffy, smooth. They make me calm. That's incredibly cool"

Besides entertaining the customers, the main mission of the cat cafe is to find new homes for these pets.

There are cats of different colours, coat types and personalities, all sterilised, vaccinated and ready to be adopted.

The cafe's owner, Elizaveta Kaz'mina, is hopeful many will find new homes.

"I hope at least with this place cats will have a chance to be adopted. If for three months of our work a couple of cats are adopted it will be wonderful. And even if the venue isn't profitable I'll know I have done something good", she says.

Local authorities estimate there are more than 5000 homeless cats in Chelyabinsk which has a population of over a million people.

However animal activists believe the figure could be much higher.

At this veterinary clinic (one of 32 in the city), several homeless cats are admitted everyday.

Almost all are sick with viral infections, parasites or malnutrition.

They rely on volunteers such as Anna Regner to help them. However, as she explains, by the time she finds them it is often too late:

"(There is) some insane, mentally-ill person, who puts either a rat poison, I don't know which one exactly, in meat pieces and spreads them throughout the yard. Then you go and collect poor cats' (bodies), poor dogs' (bodies). Or if you manage to find them alive, you write to the (other) animal activists. They try to heal the animal and fight until the end."

Anna saved these 10 cats from being poisoned. She hid them in a heating pipeline when it was minus 30 Celsius degrees in Chelyabinsk.

Now she comes here every day to feed them. She buys them food with her own money or with the help of other activists.

There is still no official government animal rescue system in Russia or proper animal welfare legislation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for animal welfare laws to be accelerated at November's Council of Strategic Development and Priority projects.

Animal activists look forward to the changes. They compare current centres for stray animals with slaughterhouses, where animals are often killed immediately with little attempt to re-home them.

By contrast in Chelyabinsk, stray cats now have a place where they can live for the rest of their lives. If nobody adopts them, they will simply stay at the cat café and bring joy to the people who visit.

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