This story and associated images and/or video was produced before physical distancing regulations were introduced in Victoria.
WATCH THE VIDEO: If you love cats, you’ll want to visit Neko HQ – Maneki Neko Cat Rescue’s (MNCR) cat lounge.
The venue is modelled on the Japanese cat café phenomenon and supports MNCR to rehome cats who are either abandoned or not claimed from pounds and shelters around Victoria. Established in 2012, the Preston animal welfare organisation has rehomed almost 3000 cats.
Run entirely by volunteers, MNCR is focused on working collaboratively with the community, businesses and local councils to improve the welfare of cats and kittens, reducing euthanasia rates and increasing rehoming rates.
Recipients of a $50,000 round five Animal Welfare Fund Grant, the organisation was recently able to fit out the Neko HQ cat lounge with a home-like environment. People can visit, relax or work, interact with cats and, if they fall in love with one, they can adopt it to take home.
"We found that people like to meet a number of cats before they choose one, and a centre like this gives them the ability to meet 10 to 15 cats at one time," said Samantha McKernan, founder of MNCR.
The Victorian Government’s contribution allowed MNCR to complete its project much sooner than if volunteers had to fundraise for all of it.
"This was a dream of our organisation," said Samantha. "Applying for the Animal Welfare Fund Grants Program was really quite simple with an online application form.
"Animal Welfare Victoria guided us through the process and gave us feedback."
Guests are invited to make reservations to visit the cat lounge which provides work stations with Wi-Fi for those who want to work remotely or study, a dining table, couches and chairs for those who want to relax with a cuppa, and a cat book library. The centre also has an art gallery and shop that supports ongoing fundraising activities.
Along with caring for and rehoming cats, MNCR provide low cost desexing and their Feline Friends program provides food, kitty litter and other products to cat owners in need.
Maneki Neko Cat Lounge is open to the public from Thursday until Sunday. Bookings are invited via their website.