NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
THE Animal Health and Welfare Division of the Bureau of Animal Industry is encouraging present and future operators of cat cafes to secure the necessary BAI permit to operate.
In an interview with MetroPets, Armelo Mauro of the Animal Health and Welfare Division said only two cat cafes – Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Pasay City and Miao Cat Cafe on Congressional Avenue in Quezon City – have been issued permits after meeting all the requirements set for an animal facility.
Mauro said they are now processing the permits of Cat Cafe Manila and Uchi No Neko Cat Cafe. There are eight cat cafes in the country today, with seven located in Metro Manila and only one in Cebu.
Aside from cat cafes, the BAI also requires dog cafes, catteries and kennels to undergo BAI inspection prior to the issuance of a permit. Mauro said they have also issued permits to Barkin' Blends Dog Cafe and Bonnevie Cattery.
To get a BAI permit, an animal facility must comply with the country's animal welfare regulations, must submit proper business papers, must show location plan and specifications to prove that it is conducive to animals and must appoint a licensed veterinarian (contracted or on call) who would regularly check on the animals' health, among others.
Mauro said they also particularly want to ensure that the cats are not getting exhausted due to constant exposure to cafe visitors.
“They must provide for the animals' needs and make sure the cats are not stressed especially by being constantly carried by different people,” he added.
Mauro said they are not strict with current cat cafe operators that have opened shops without permits, but they strongly encourage them to register with the Animal Health and Welfare Division and be inspected and evaluated to see if they meet the government's standard.
If after one year an animal facility fails to comply, Mauro said they could be stricter the next time the operator needs to ship animals.
The BAI charges cat cafes P300 for registration, renewable annually. He said they plan to revisit Velvet Friends Cat Cafe because it wasn't completely constructed the first time they visited.
“We will be more strict during renewal of permits,” Mauro warned. “We want cat cafes to make sure that they meet all our recommendations during our first inspection or we won't renew their registration.”
For cat cafes and other animal facility outside Metro Manila, Mauro said the BAI has regional offices and focal persons to conduct the inspection.
The eight cat cafes in the country are:
* Cat Cafe Philippines in Cebu City
* Cat Cafe Manila in Maginhawa, Quezon City
* Miao Cat Cafe in Congressional Ave., Quezon City
* Gilmore Cat Cafe in Gilmore, Quezon City
* Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Pasay City
* Le Cat Cafe in Paranaque City
* Bengal Cat Cafe in Cubao, Quezon City
* Uchi No Neko in Katipunan, Quezon City
By ALMA J. BUELVA
IN the middle of a concrete jungle that is Cubao in Quezon City now lies an oasis lorded over by 18 glorious bengal cats.
Roaming freely inside a 120 sqm cat cafe are exquisite bengals that are the main attraction of Bengal Brew. Officially the sixth cat cafe in Metro Manila, Bengal Brew is the first in the world to exclusively feature exotic bengal cats. Its themed interior, top quality facilities, and the stories behind the furniture and other items in the shop all create a fascinating atmosphere different from most cat cafes. Definitely, this one takes people closer to the wild side.
Five years ago, Don Michael Perez, a television and film writer and director, acquired his first bengal cat – a rare, long-haired bengal that is currently the only one in the country. He named the cat “Amir” because that was how its meow sounded on their first meeting.
“I fell in love with the breed and started to look for other good quality bengals but I couldn't find more here, so I looked abroad,” Don told MetroPets. “When their number grew, that's when I started toying with the idea of sharing them with other people by way of a cafe.”
It was January this year when things started to take shape, from finding a location, hiring a design team, to finishing construction last July. The result was impressive.
Aside from the magnificent bengal cats, having a spacious play area with a tropical rainforest theme, a spacious cattery at the back, a staff and cat grooming area, a decent comfort room for guests, and a comely cafe section stocked with good coffee and pastries and cakes, make Bengal Brew one of the best cat cafes around.
(Click on the four photos above to read the caption)
Located at one of the busiest commercial centers in the city, Bengal Brew at the ground floor of Manhattan Parkview, Manhattan Garden City, Araneta Center, Cubao is now accepting walk-in guests. They charge P400 for an hour stay at the cat play area, inclusive of coffee in a tall tumbler and a choice of food. Other guests may opt to simply dine outside the play area, but still enjoy a good view of the bengal cats through the glass wall.
Aside from its accessible location, Bengal Brew is hard to miss because of the huge cat logo dominating its facade. What looks like the facial features of a cat in the logo are actually the owner's initials – DMP.
A PORTION OF THE PLAY AREA AS SEEN FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS WALL THAT SEPARATES IT FROM THE CAFE SECTION. BENGAL BREW IS USING OLD FURNITURE FROM THE PEREZ'S ANCESTRAL HOME IN ISABELA, INCLUDING THESE DINING TABLE AND CHAIRS, NOW UPDATED WITH CUSHIONS AND TABLE CLOTH USING FABRIC WITH CAT PRINTS. THE CAT LOGO BEARS THE OWNER'S INITIALS: DMP.
CALL OF THE WILD
Inside, Amir and 17 other bengals are ready to receive visitors from 12 noon to 8 in the evening. Be ready to search for them as they don't readily present themselves. Bengal cats are not the typical, cuddly lap cats that one would expect to find in cat cafes. The bengals are a little aloof, calculating and reserved and they prefer to stare down at humans from high up their ramp.
“They feel offended when they are called cute,” said Don jokingly. “We do not baby the bengals. They are tough and sturdy. They can take care of themselves. They love to climb and play. You should let them come to you. We don't put out toys for guests to tease them with as they might pounce at the toy or the hand.”
Instead of squealing in delight at the sight of fluffy cute cats, most people feel intimidated when meeting a bengal cat for the first time, said Don.
“Sindak (fright) is the first reaction of some. But they soon learn that bengal cats are sweet, too. I want to educate people about bengal cats. They are not small bengal tigers. They are pets, only with a wild appearance.”
Bengal cats thrive in tropical environments, so they don't really need air conditioning. The male bengals are bigger than most domesticated cats, said Don, who owns another 10 bengal cats in his cattery in Lemery, Batangas.
Because Amir and his friends are a hardy bunch, the rules at Bengal Brew are a little more lax than others when it comes to handling the cats. A member of the staff monitors the interaction between cats and humans, but as long as the cats are not hurt or annoyed, guests can pet, carry, play and even feed them. The cover charge comes with a small quantity of raw chicken that guests can feed to the cats. This is the perfect “bait” to get the bengals out of their hiding places and get their full attention.
All these while world music plays in the background.
THE PLAY AREA
Guests are still required to wear slippers and sanitize before entering the play area. But once inside, they will soon find out that one of the unique things about Bengal Brew is it encourages customers to get a little exercise.
Unlike most cat cafes where people just sit around and play with the cats, here the bengals' “wild” ways make people to look up, walk around and climb up the rocky parts of an indoor pond if they want to see them closer in their "habitat".
Don's bengal cats can enjoy a circuitous walk in a hanging ramp about 30 meters long. They can also land on two multi-layered discs or bury their claws on many cylindrical poles covered in sisal rope that jut out of the overhead wall. The cats also enjoy sleeping on hammocks and cat beds exclusively designed for them by KittyTektura.
The trunk of a fallen molave tree that stands inside the play area also satisfies the bengal cats' need for great heights. Don said getting the molave trunk required a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Behind the imposing wood is a vertical garden.
But Bengal Brew's centerpiece is its life-size garden pond with waterfall and caves where the cats can hide. This extends the jungle-like theme that simulates as much as possible the natural habitat of leopards in the wild. Guests can climb up the rocks to get a top view of the cat ramp and the play area. At the back of this water feature are two small louvre type doors that give the cats access to their cattery.
The play area is furnished with different antique narra furniture taken from Don's ancestral home in Isabela. There are also two beds that customers can actually use to nap with the cats, said Don.
The play area can accommodate up to 24 guests at one time.
Those who can't be immediately allowed inside can wait at the cafe section where Don plans to have his talking macaw chat up guests.
Visitors can also eat inside the play area as food and beverage are served with covers so, even when unattended, the cats can't accidentally eat, soil or spill them.
If there's a five-star rating for a cattery, Bengal Brew's probably could fit the bill. Although hidden from view, the spacious, high-ceiling area is furnished with cat amenities including an air purifier, cat lofts, cat towers/condos, a carrier for each cat and, of course, litter boxes.
Don also installed deodorizers that automatically spray every five minutes so no bad smell lingers or reaches the cafe and play areas. A staffer also stays with the cats overnight to ensure their safety.
Most of the 18 bengals at the cafe are already spayed or neutered. Three of them are months-old kittens guaranteed to steal visitors' hearts.
Morning and evening the cats are fed raw chicken – not just the flesh but also the bones.
“Cats are obligate carnivores. Their teeth can handle the bones. We mix the raw chicken with taurine, iodine, vitamins E and B complex and fish oil which are all diluted in water,” said Don.
Bengal Brew is currently on soft opening and, as such, charges only P350 for an hour with food and drink. Those who wish to extend their stay at the play area will have to pay P150 or P200 with coffee.
Being from the showbiz industry, Don sees Bengal Brew as a celebrity hangout. Merchandising is in the pipeline as well as the possibility of featuring other exotic cats such as ocicat, serval and toyger in the future.
To know more about Bengal Brew or to make a reservation, please call: 0917 577 5264 or 366-8287 or watch this short video.
* One stormy afternoon at Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village