A FELINE fanatic has a dream of setting up a cat cafe in Colchester.

Laura Cole, who has four pedigree Ragdoll cats, has always wanted to set up a cafe where her pets can be with her at all times.

The mum-of-four, who used to be a senior nurse at a care home, is now dedicating her time to set up Tea and Whiskers.

She has a few venues to look at in Sir Isaac’s Walk and Lion Walk later this week.

It will be the first “cat cafe”, a cafe where customers are encouraged to stroke and play with the cats stalking or sleeping inside, in town.

Mrs Cole, 35, of Kensington Road said: “I have been thinking about setting up a cat cafe for a couple of years but having young children and working full time I never got any further.

“Over the past year I have put together a business plan and have done lots of research - if I don’t do it now I never will.

“I hope to have it open before Christmas.”

The cafe will have a sofa, tables and chairs, and cat pods and ramps where her pets can sit up high and rest.

They will also have their own quiet space where they can eat, drink and use the toilet away from the restaurant.

Laura’s cats, Blue, Poppy, Lottie and Humphrey, will all be in the cafe.

Poppy is due to have kittens in the next three weeks, and once old enough the kittens will also be guests there.

Laura has taken security into consideration, and the front door will be locked with a doorbell so the cats cannot wander out.

She said: “For the time being it will just be my cats, I have spoken to Colchester Council about licenses and contracts with rescue centres so I can put up an adoption wall, but it needs a lot of research.”

She said her Ragdoll cats, which make great therapy cats, are the purr-fect addition to the cafe.

Her son Blake, 11, has learning difficulties and Blue will always go up to him and sit with him.

Her daughter Ellie, 14, who is also a cat lover, will help out in the cafe when it opens.

Mrs Cole said: “I didn’t know what ragdolls were until I had Ellie.

“We got Blue about four years ago and my obsession grew, I became a registered breeder and made many cat friends along the way.”

There are of course people who are concerned about the welfare of the cats in such an environment.

Cat rescue centres have said cat cafes are not as well received as people think.

There are risks of cats getting lost or mistreated, with some people classing it as animal exploitation.

Laura said her cats are used to being in busy environments, and love attention.

She said: “My cats are used to constant visitors, we have four children so they are used to young people and lots of cuddles.

“Ragdolls are docile and friendly anyway, they have to be centre of attention.

“You can usually tell when they are not happy. Nine times out of ten they will just take themselves away.

“It’s just about making sure they are well-maintained and are fully vet checked.

“It’s about making sure they are happy.”

Laura has set up a fundraising page to help cover costs, visit gofundme.com/colchester-cat-cafe.