Cat culture seems to have exploded over the past few years, from millions of funny cat videos being shared all over social media, to cats becoming internet famous and celebrities in their own right. It would be a strange week indeed if I wasn’t sent multiple links by friends to cat related articles. The thing is, as relentless as it is, I love it, and whilst friends might describe me as a crazy cat lady, I definitely think there’s a method to this madness. Throughout history, cats have been just as much our best friend as dogs. They make fantastic company as pets, make us laugh with their inquisitive natures and ridiculous antics, and are independent enough to amuse themselves whilst we’re at work, and welcome us when we get home by rolling about at our feet. It’s this feline / human relationship that interests me so much, and as a photographer, I decided to embark upon a long term documentary project exploring cat culture.
During my research online, I stumbled upon Longcroft, and being a cat owner myself, and someone who travels fairly frequently, I was immediately intrigued. This didn’t look like your average cat hotel, and with paw massages, meals served on bone china, and climate controlled themed suites, I knew that this was the sort of place that would suit my own pampered tabby perfectly.
After a friendly chat with Lucy, Longcroft’s marketing manager, I arranged a date to come and meet Abi Purser, founder of Longcroft, and owner of the Welwyn Garden City hotel. Armed with my camera, and wearing a slightly eccentric cat print dress, I spent a wonderful morning with Lucy and Abi, chatting about the business, and photographing the current residents. I met a variety of cats, all of whom were relaxed and playful, from ginger tom Monty who enjoyed dashing about his suite chasing a feather on a stick, to Jasper, who seemed to have a penchant for a Dreamies or two.
All the hotel suites are scrupulously clean and luxurious, complete with comfy bed, climbing trees, favourite toys from home, and a view to the garden. Abi’s passion for animals and their welfare really shines through in the way she interacts with the cats, many of which she knows well from their countless repeat visits. Each cat gets individual attention from both Abi, and Tom (a volunteer who’s role is to play with the cats. A job I think we’d all love to have!)
For the purposes of my project, I felt as though my visit to Longcroft helped to show me how important it is, as cat owners, to treat our pets as part of the family, rather than ‘just a pet’. We’re all different of course, but the thought of leaving my own cat Esme in a cattery with countless other cats, or with a cat sitter who might only be with her for a couple of hours, would definitely put a downer on my holiday. I would want to leave her somewhere where I know that she’s going to be safe, loved and well cared for, and that’s exactly what you get at Longcroft. I left feeling as though I had found a bit of a gem in the minefield that is cat care, and I definitely know where I’ll be leaving Esme in the future.
Emily is a London based photographer and her project ‘Cat Culture’ will be published in May 2016. To find out more visit www.emilyfaulderphotos.com