MANILA's potentially first cat café has received mixed reactions online both from those who support and oppose its concept. But the intrepid man behind it is not about to wave a white flag.
Excitement over Velvet Friends Cat Cafe, a would-be personal venture of Chito Aclon, was doused by strong opposition from a number of local cat rescuers and sympathizers who questioned Aclon's preference for purebred cats and kittens. Their main argument: raising awareness on the plight of native cats (Puspins), many of which are homeless, should be a local cat cafe's ideal focus. They also weighed in heavily on how Aclon should not sell his purebred's kittens for profit. Doing so, they argued, would reduce his cat cafe into a cattery or kitten mill that puts profit before animal welfare.
Literally a “cat fight” broke out between the two camps in defense of felines – puspins and otherwise.
One commenter who used the alias “kurochan” wrote: “Cat cafe is a really nice place to go to. I know because I've been to lots of them in Singapore and Thailand. There is nothing wrong with it. But how Mr. Aclon has described it seems like he's doing it mostly for business. And that's the sore point of this whole thing.”
Others are even more incensed to the point of questioning Aclon's knowledge of cats and his character.
As one “Tim” wrote: “I hope that he hasn't bought the cats yet. I fear for the welfare of the cats under his "care", if all he can think of is putting up a "Cat Starbucks".”
And from a certain “Charlie”: “Shameful. Another ____ out to make a profit on animals. Only in da (the) filipins (Philippines), where its own people spit on their own local breed of cats and dogs starving and dying on the streets and pounds while purebreds are worshiped. You couldn't come up with an original idea so you took somebody else's and then ____ it up. I curse you and your business and I hope you fall flat on your face and go broke.”
To which “Leala” replied: “It's not if his business fails, it's WHEN his business fails.”
Then, as if putting out fire with gasoline, an “Abby” who looks forward to Aclon's cat cafe opening posted: “If you people are worried about those stray cats why don't you just adopt them yourselves or better yet make your own cat café with all the stray cats in Manila! For me I just love the idea of having a cat café with pure breed cats from different places around the world and for someone to spend money just to make his dream come true is really admirable.”
“So much accusations had been thrown even though the hobby-business is not up yet. I do not discriminate Puspins, they are part of Filipino lives and...are irreplaceable,” said Aclon.
But he also wrote about his fascination for purebred cats and how he longed to have and share them with others.
“Why don't you let me share that fascination and love of cats, especially the purebred ones, to Filipinos who are not even aware that they exist? I don't beg for your support, I just want you to understand that sharing these beautiful cats along with beautiful DSHs (domestic shorthairs) is not a crime,” Aclon said.
He also defended his right to have kittens from his purebred cats if he chooses to.
“If I have kittens on the café playing in the corner for people to appreciate, is there something wrong with that—give joy to people?...If my hobby-business can make someone happy why would you be unhappy about it?,” Aclon asked.
“My cat café is not a pet shop. If we get kittens, they would be kept in an enclosed space for protection. A customer might want to buy one, but most likely we would want to keep our kittens with us. The notion of breeding and exploiting is far from my mind as others would think. That is never the objective of my hobby-business,” he told MetroPets.
All things considered, Aclon also told MetroPets that he would still try to open Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Bonifacio Global City.
He promises to train his future employees on proper cat care and how to distinguish the different breeds of cats so they could intelligently answer clients' questions, if any. He also said they will sign an official partnership with a veterinarian who would regularly check on the cats. An experienced cat groomer will also be hired, Aclon added.
In addition, Aclon said they are tentatively working on a “cat school” partnership with a leading manufacturer of cat food to help further raise public awareness about cats.
He said his cat café will make sure it has all documents required by the government. The café will feature a general restaurant area, cat “haven”, cat loo area, and a cat hotel where customers can leave their own cats for a minimum hourly charge while they visit the café's ambassador cats. In addition, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will have a separate menu for visiting cats
As for Puspins, Aclon said they will be showcased as well as long as they prove to be healthy enough and that the big purebred cats won't bully them.
“I consulted many cat experts here in Singapore and they explained to me the “bully factor". One of them told me that when a cat is bullied and becomes stressed, its immune system deteriorates and becomes susceptible to viruses. On the other hand, local cats tend to have stronger immune system and may not easily show signs of having communicable disease that might affect the imported cats that are still acclimatizing to their new environment,” he said.
The target store opening date may take a little longer if construction is to begin April. But once it's ready, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will be open during mall hours. An entrance fee to the cat haven is tentatively set at P290 for adults, P240 for students, and P190 for seniors and children aged 10 years old and below.
“I am thrilled to share my dream, however difficult, to those who wish to experience the company of purebred cats. This cat café is for them most of all,” said Chito.
Needless to say, everyone is welcome...well, maybe except the dog.