NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By Alma J. Buelva
METRO MANILA'S first cat cafe is now open! Miao Cat Cafe, owned and managed by sisters Loida Ramos-Benson and Sam Ramos, welcomed cat lovers to its feline-friendly coffee shop on Valentine's Day. Since then, a steady tide of cat fanciers has gone up the steep stairs leading to the doors of the novelty cafe, where cats and coffee are guaranteed to keep everyone warm.
Miao Cat Cafe is located at the second floor of a nondescript building at No. 7 Congressional Ave. in Quezon City near Mindanao Avenue. Parking is not easy and guests are advised to leave their vehicles a short walk from the building. The sooner they can do this, the sooner they can park themselves inside the sisters' cozy shop where cats curiously hang out with guests.
Loida and Sam come from a family of animal lovers. The cats at the cafe are their personal pets and Loida herself has a cattery. At any given time, Miao Cat Cafe visitors can expect to meet and greet more or less a dozen cats that include Munchkins, Persians, British Shorthair, Exotic Shorthairs, Scottish Folds and Puspins. The cats' ages vary from as old as six years to as young as two months.
While the opening of Miao Cat Cafe seems to have taken everyone by surprise, the sisters nursed the idea about three years ago after their visits to some cat cafes abroad.
With their family and friends' wholehearted support, the sisters decided it was time to open their dream cat cafe. After they found a place to rent, construction began at a feverish pace and in two weeks Miao Cat Cafe was up.
“Me and my sister have thought about putting up a cat cafe as early as three years ago. The last two months, I had to convince my husband that this is really what I want to do and when he agreed, it took us two weeks to build the cafe,” Loida told MetroPets.
The fact that they already own a menagerie of healthy and well-behaved cats at home helped speed up the process. The sisters also guiltily admitted that for years they have been “secretly” stashing away cat-themed items which they thought would be good to have in their future cafe.
“All that time we were dreaming of this, Sam and I were already buying fabrics with cat prints,” said Loida as she pointed to the customized seat covers and throw pillows with cat patterns that adorn the cafe.
Cat literature, cat decor, trinkets and even clothes help complete the atmosphere at the cafe. It is still a work in progress, but much thought and care have gone into ensuring that the cats are safe and comfortable. The sisters hired a carpenter who builds cat-friendly furniture and accommodations, including a special wooden bridge that hangs from the ceiling. They have also brought in part of a tree that broke during a recent typhoon to give the cats a tree to climb.
Their choice of location for Miao Cat Cafe factored in not just the volume of human traffic in the area but also the availability of a safe outdoor space. The unit has a balcony with screens to let the air in but not the cats out.
“We like this area because it has an open area at the back where the cats can get some sun, grass and fresh air. We don't want them to be inside an air conditioned room all the time because they might get sick. It's also healthy that they have access to some grass which they sometimes chew on,” said Loida.
The balcony at the back also allows the cats to see or hear some birds as they chill out on their hanging beds, cat towers and open cages. There are also cushioned seats available for guests.
Miao Cat Cafe clients can also enjoy a cat spa in the near future. Loida said it will be a separate area exclusive for guests and their own cats. Cat grooming, playground and treats will be available to visiting cats, but they will not be allowed to mingle with the cafe's resident cats.
CATS + RULES
"Now keep your frocks clean, children! You must walk on your hind legs," so said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit from the beloved Tale of Tom Kitten children's book.
You see, rules are important to keep the cats and the place clean. Miao Cat Cafe has standard rules that apply to all guests. Use of shoes and flash photography are not allowed inside the main area. Cats are not to be lifted or carried and must not be disturbed when they are sleeping.
“I will not hesitate to ask anyone who violates these rules to leave,” said Loida. “We love our cats; they are my babies.”
Guests are provided with slippers to wear inside the dining and play area. There are also lint removers at the door so guests can remove cat fur on their clothes before they leave.
Miao Cat Cafe charges adults P300 inclusive of one pastry and one drink for a two-hour stay. Children's rate is P150 with one drink for two hours. On weekends, the sisters try to serve full meals of rice and pasta. The shop is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. but they also briefly close for some periodic clean-up during store hours.
The owners strongly recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.
As for the cats, the sisters alternately feed them dry cat food and mashed broccoli and squash with chicken. Loida said their veterinarian has been encouraging them to go natural with the cats' diet.
So far, Sam said even families have come to visit them even though they have not advertised Miao Cat Cafe yet.
“The families even said they want to come back soon,” Sam added.
The excitement inside the Miao Cat Cafe is palpable. Loida excitedly shared her plan to find in her next trip to Japan a special kind of marshmallows shaped like a cat that can be used to top a coffee. Sam said they have also received an invitation to be featured in a television show. She also said their cats love the public's attention because while they do pamper them at home, there are a lot of cats sharing their love and attention.
At the corners of the cafe, young patrons slumped on the wooden floor are giggling as cats play with them enthusiastically. One even joked that one of the cats was “voluntarily” going inside her bag. Others were just too busy snapping away photos than sipping coffees.
Loida was watching them pensively. Her face a study of happiness and “jealousy” as complete strangers bond with her cats. “They are still my cats,” she whispered.
Miao Cat Cafe:
#7 Congressional Ave., Q.C.
(02) 274 7937
* One stormy afternoon at Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village