Inside the plush Longcroft Cat Hotel near Bury St Edmunds where guests can live in the lap of luxury
Guests can expect their every whim to be indulged. The suites are luxuriously-appointed and there is even a chauffeur is on hand to supply transport if needed.
They can feast on poached salmon, prawns and chicken, admire the view of a secluded corner of Suffolk, and recline on beds with feather pillows.
And if they prefer a chin rub, or a scratch behind the ears, those are all part of the service too.
That’s because this very upmarket hotel is aimed not at celebrities, oligarchs, or the fabulously wealthy, but at cats.
And, it must be said, it is also designed to appeal to their human companions who obviously want the best for their pets.
From short stopovers while owners are on a mini-break, to long-term stays during house moves or renovations, every effort is made to keep the residents comfortable and contented.
Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel was opened in May by lifelong animal-lover Lorna Hamilton.
Since then, there has been no shortage of takers for the eight light and airy purpose-built suites in the grounds of the home Lorna shares with her husband Freddie and their own two cats.
Each suite has two rooms, divided by a door with a catflap, which can be propped up if the guest finds it a chore to open it themselves.
After all, if one books into a five star hotel, one does not necessarily expect to be pushing through doors with one’s head.
At the back of the suites is a bedroom with thermostat-controlled heating. At the front is a fresh air room with a tower covered in soft fabric that includes boxes and platforms.
Here they can sleep, curl up in a private space, play with toys, sharpen their claws, or simply sit and watch the birds in the trees outside.
“The bedrooms are lovely and toasty for them at night but sometimes they prefer to stay in the fresh air, especially when there’s a full moon,” said Lorna.
“I love it because when you come out after dark you can see all their little faces looking out.”
In the countryside setting at Drinkstone, a few miles from Bury St Edmunds, there is always something for a cat to look at.
Regular passers-by include Boris the pheasant, who turns up in the garden every day for food.
For some guests it is a real eye-opener. Indoor city cats who live in flats might have never seen the outside world.
Longcroft Bury St Edmunds is the 25th addition to a franchise founded in 2010 by Abi Purser.
“When we moved here from Somerset three years ago I couldn’t find anywhere suitable for my cats to stay,” said Lorna.
“Then I was reading an article about Abi who is the founder of Longcroft, and thought, I could do that because we have the perfect space here.
“Abi started her first hotel for the same reason – she couldn’t find anywhere for her cat Norman.”
One of the first owners to book in said they would like to do something similar, and the franchise was born.
“They’re a very good company and offer a huge amount of support. It would be quite difficult to set it up on your own,” Lorna added.
“I wanted to provide an environment for other cats I would be happy to leave my cats in."
Every guest gets regular playtimes with a choice of toys, and if they look forward to time with their host it’s also clear that for her it’s a labour of love.
“I didn’t want the hotel to be too big. We have eight suites, which means I can give every cat so much attention and I really love it.
“I get to spend all day with cats and I become very fond of them. We have a lot of returning guests and once they are back they know me.
“A lot of owners think ‘my cat’s really going to miss me and their home’ but they settle down really well.
“I really think it’s like a holiday for the cat as well. There’s so much enrichment. Sometimes it can be good for them to have a holiday too, and a break from each other.
“Outdoor cats’ owners say they won’t like being inside, but once they’re here they get so much attention they seem to really enjoy it.
“Owners get peace of mind and are so grateful. They get photo updates at least three times a week and they can call me any time. I aim to look after their cat as they would look after it.
“Especially after lockdown cats and dogs have become a bigger parts of people’s lives than ever before.”
Clients travel from as far away as London. “A lot of them drive two hours to get here.
“But we also have a company chauffeur, Robbie, who works for all the Longcroft hotels and can collect the cats and deliver them home if necessary.
There is also an in-house vet on hand to give advice.
“We all want the best for our animals, somewhere they feel safe and secure, and are well looked after. I will be looking after them as if they were my own,” said Lorna.
The Longcroft bed has a wrought iron frame, and older less agile guests are given a ladder to climb up to reach it.
Meals are served in bone china bowls, whether they are branded catfoods or the slightly pricier ‘a la cat’ menu which includes salmon, prawns and chicken.
“It takes me about one and a half hours in the morning to give everyone their breakfast,” said Lorna.
“Then I clean their suites, and am also backwards and forwards throughout the day.
“In the afternoons I go in and sit on the floor and let them come to me and climb over me.”
She gives the cats regular grooming sessions with brushes or grooming gloves, which is especially important for long-haired breeds.
It is not only pedigree pets whose owners book them in for the five star treatment. Several of the guests are rescue cats, and every one has its own likes and dislikes, quirks and foibles.
“Like people they all have completely different personalities,” she said.
Although many people think of cats as loners, Lorna recalls a real bromance developing between two British Blues who were in adjoining suites, and could see each other through the grille dividing them.
“I had to push their cat towers closer and they used to lie with their heads together.”
Lorna and Freddie have two British Blue cats, Bluebelle and Poodles, who joined their family soon after they married in 2013.
“My husband was very much a dog person but is now a complete convert. He is putty in their paws,” she said.
“I’ve been a lifelong cat lover but for many years I lived in the centre of London and worked as a property developer and landlord. Living where I did, I felt it wasn’t fair to have a cat.
“But a month after getting married and moving to the country, our gorgeous two cats joined us. I now fully embrace country life and I’m so excited about our Longcroft adventure.”
Lorna and Freddie recently welcomed local residents, customers and friends to an official opening ceremony carried out by John Griffiths, the leader of St Edmundbury Council.
They were also joined by representatives from charity Cats Protection, including Margaret Spratt, from the Bury St Edmunds branch, to whom Lorna donated a cat hamper to be raffled for the cause.
Longcroft is dedicated to supporting Cats Protection with regular donations including food.
For more information go to longcroftcathotel.co.uk