NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By ALMA J. BUELVA
NO self-respecting cat lover should pass a chance to visit a cat village even when a typhoon is about to hit it. Taiwan has one up north in Houtong reputed to have at least 200 free-roaming cats. The day I came for a visit, typhoon Maria had the same plan.
It was a gloomy afternoon when I reached Houtong by train along with other tourists, just as typhoon Maria started to hit the northern parts of Taiwan. But though the skies looked dark and pregnant with rain, Maria thankfully didn't rain on my parade until I finished a quick tour of the cat village.
Maybe it was the impending rain and blustering winds that caused most of Houtong's cats to hide away that afternoon. It was unfortunate that only a handful of them were around to amuse travel-weary guests.
The Houtong train station wastes no time and space in shepherding tourists to the tiny cat village. A stairway immediately connects the station to a bridge – almost like a short tunnel adorned with cat items that opens to the cat village. There we were greeted by our first two Houtong cat residents, a black-and-white kitty and a grey tabby that walked a short distance with us.
Despite the poor attendance of actual cats that day, the place will still excite cat lovers given the number of cat objects around the village. From street signs and memo boards to flower pots and stepping stones, just about anything that can follow the cat theme has been done so.
The Houtong Cat Village is a very tiny community, which is all that is left from what used to be a busy mining town. From the bridge, guests can walk up the Cat Corridor where cat-inspired shops and cafes are located. Here we found a few more feline wanderers who, like us, were peering into the glass doors and windows of shops that closed early due to typhoon Maria.
It must be delightful to shop and dine right at the Cat Corridor, if only the weather was less unforgiving the day we came.
Below the Cat Corridor is a narrow lane where people actually live, which means more cats to see. Although people there are used to tourists walking up and down their streets, it still felt like we were trespassing so I veered away from the area.
At the ground floor of the train station is another street with gift shops. Here I found a bakeshop selling pineapple cakes in cat forms. Pineapple-filled cakes are one of Taiwan's popular souvenirs. I wasn't convinced that I want some until I found them in the shape of cats!
Most of the cats, if not all, in Houtong Cat Village are strays but residents and volunteers attend to their basic needs. I've spotted cats with one of their ears clipped which means they have been spayed or neutered already, and I've also accidentally walked in on pairs while they are mating.
As in any big cat colonies, the Houtong Cat Village has cats that look sickly or with skin ulcers. As for behavior, the prevailing cat attitude the day I visited was indifference. Sure, there were sweet cats who followed tourists with cat food to give, but many were aloof and stubbornly refused eye contact. In fact, meowing at them or saying “Here, kitty, kitty...” would get you nowhere. But we can't blame the cats for not being accommodating. You would be a sour-puss, too, if you had to put up daily with cellphone-toting tourists who take your photos all the time. To get the cats' attention, one must be creative so I barked.
Seeing that the cats were not in the mood to play good hosts that day, we went back to the station to wait for our train to Taipei. It was then that typhoon Maria brought cat visibility down to zero, for the time being.
Overall, Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village is quaint and charming but is starting to look tired and lonely, too. But I'm sure you can overlook what qualifies as eyesores here and there if you are truly fond of cats. After all, with allegedly over 200 cats, Houtong is like no other purridise.
** Text and photos are all original properties of MetroPets Magazine and protected by copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly not allowed.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
THE management of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe has announced that they will soon evolve into a full pet café, with not just cats but dogs and rabbits, too.
If all goes well, Velvet Friends Pet Cafe will be the first of its kind in the country.
“It will be a place of sheer delight to pet lovers as there will be cats of different breeds and lovable dogs such as Papillons, Japanese Chins, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Keeshond and a lot more to make the place even merrier,” said Chito Aclon of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe.
In addition, the upcoming pet cafe will also feature bunnies. Aclon plans to introduce Netherland Dwarves and Holland Lops, among others, imported from Singapore and Ukraine.
With his new partner, Aclon eyes the opening of Velvet Friends Pet Cafe very soon, still at Blue Bay Walk in Pasay City but on the ground floor.
Aclon told MetroPets that Velvet Friends Pet Cafe will occupy a bigger place with one section for cats and another for lap dogs. They also plan to feature an indoor garden.
Velvet Friends Cat Cafe officially opened in June 2015. It featured top-of-the-line cat breeds such as Kurilian Bobtail, Maine Coon, Siberian, Cornish Rex, among many others. They also featured and fostered Puspins.
The upcoming Velvet Friends Pet Cafe will allow the company to differentiate itself from other cat cafés by hosting other types of pets. It will give dog lovers in the city a second place to visit and enjoy the company of dogs in a café setting.
Barkin' Blends Dog Cafe near Katipunan Ave. in Quezon City operates the country's first and only dog cafe to date.
“I'm always a dog lover, it never changes. To have both (cats and dogs) plus bunnies would be paradise for me,” said Aclon.
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
THE cats have moved in to Katipunan! Uchi No Neko (The Cat House) has officially opened the doors to its cafe and 9-suite cat hotel on a generous 200-square-meter space right in the middle of the busy school and restaurant row.
The seventh cat cafe in Metro Manila, Uchi No Neko tries to top the usual amenities and offerings one would expect from a cat cafe by having a full-service kitchen, floor-to-ceiling cat suites, a cattery, a separate events and ala carte area, and a shifting schedule for its cats.
For P300, one can commune with cats, mostly rescued puspins, for two hours. The cover charge comes with a full cat-themed bento meal, drink and desert.
Uchi No Neko's cats came from the business partners or individual rescuers and organizations like the Philippine Animal Rescue Team (PART). As resident cafe cats, they get to enjoy about 100 meters of catwalk above the cafe and play area. The cats can romp around the artificial turf or in the screened outdoor garden where they can watch cars and people pass by.
Unless still very young, the cats have been either neutered or spayed and are vaccinated against common health threats. Some have one of their ears clipped as an indication that they have been fixed.
As members of the Uchi No Neko family, the cats enjoy their own quiet, air-conditioned cattery away from the public's eye. They “work” in batches of 14 or more for at least two hours at the cafe before the staff dutifully take them back to the cattery and then reintroduce another batch of cats to play with customers.
Visitors to Uchi No Neko should get a kick out of the cat-inspired bento meals, pastries and coffees. The kitty onigiri, spam musubi and beef teriyaki are just some of the choices available daily. To make the cat-themed dining complete, Uchi No Neko has customized cat-shape tables and chairs.
The interiors, walls, décor and everyday objects all have something “catly” to tie them all up into a haven for cat lovers.
Uchi No Neko's architectural design and execution were done by Ms. Ali Dalisay. But the creative brain behind this new enterprise is Cha Lacsamana who designed the furniture and also hand painted some of the intricate murals with her friends. It is perhaps the artist in her that inspired her to offer Uchi No Neko's upper floor as a gallery for cat artwork from different artists. She currently hosts the limited works of Geneva David, the young lady who paints cats by the dots to help her raise her own clowder of puspins.
Next to the events and ala carte area is the 9-suite air-conditioned cat hotel which charges P450 a night per cat. Guests must provide food and litter for their own cats. People can check-in at least 3 cats in one suite. Uchi No Neko's staff will look after the guest cats 24 hours.
The view from the street doesn't give much justice to the beautiful interior and exciting experience that Uchi No Neko hold. One must step inside to see that this is a thoughtful cat cafe with elevated standards for the good of the cats and guests alike. If you are a cat lover, Uchi No Neko should be your next pitstop.
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.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
YOU can't rush perfection just as you cannot hurry love. These two truisms explain the repeated delays in the opening of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe as the owners strove to take care of the smallest details so that even if the cafe of their dreams is not the first, it certainly will be the finest.
Days before its official opening, people curiously stopped by and peered into the cafe, hoping to get a glimpse of the cats. Word quickly spread about the arrival of 14 magnificently handsome cats that include a Puspin (Pusang Pinoy) in black and white tuxedo markings, housed in an upcoming cat cafe on the second floor of Blue Bay Walk in Pasay City.
As last-minute finishing touches were applied at a feverish pace for Velvet Friends Cat Cafe's opening, the cats handled themselves beautifully, quickly settling into their cat haven.
The haven is a 40-square-meter cozy zone furnished with all the kitty comforts, including cat towers and condos, water fountains, food bowls, scratching posts, lofts and walkways, hidden loos and their own grooming room.
The cat haven looks out into a huge park that provides a gorgeous outdoor backdrop day and night for the cats.
The entire 106-square-meter place is designed with a soft shabby chic feel that is evident in the veranda style cafe section, complete with trellis and customized metal chairs with cushioned seats wrapped in cat prints. It is a polished yet relaxed ambiance, perfect for sipping coffee while enjoying a different kind of view – a room full of cats.
Velvet Friends Cat Cafe's proprietor, Chito Aclon, told MetroPets that with their remarkable lineup of cats and actual store already in place, they have secured the necessary government permits, including a certification from the Bureau of Animal Industry to operate what is essentially an animal facility. As required by BAI, the cafe has appointed an official veterinarian to be part of its team, he said.
To enjoy the company of Velvet Friends' resident cats, one must pay an admission fee of P190 for children below 10 years old and senior citizens, P240 for students and P290 for regular customers. That rate is good for an hour inside the cat haven.
Guests are required to leave an ID and sign a waiver before they can enter the cat haven. The cafe employs cat attendants who would orient guests about rules to follow inside the cat area. They will also be around to assist guests with other information they need to know, especially on how to handle cats.
Customers can use the lockers to safely stow their personal belongings. They may also bring along their own cats that have proof of vaccination, and house them in the cafe's cat hotel.
The cat haven can accommodate up to 16 people at a time, but Aclon said they would try to reduce the number if possible to keep the cats from being stressed.
Unlike other cat cafes in the city, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will not use an online reservation system, which means walk-in customers are welcome all the time.
The cafe will follow the normal mall hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. However, they will temporarily close from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily to give the cats some quiet time and tidy up the place.
Velvet Friends Cat Cafe takes pride in having collected a number of commissioned cat art works, books on cats as well as cat-inspired items from abroad to fill up its upcoming shop.
Royal Canin is the official provider of dry food for Aclon's cats. The company is expected to hold occasional educational programs at the cafe to raise awareness about cats' health and wellness.
Kittens, if there are any, will have their own protected area inside the haven and will be available for viewing only.
By thoroughly planning and providing the facilities that would make the cats' stay and the customers' visit to its cat cafe more comfortable and enjoyable, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe managed to raise the bar of quality for this new business niche. They have pulled out all the stops and clearly didn't just rustle up a few chairs and tables and brought a clowder in a room and called it a day.
They have yet to face the greatest test: real customer feedback. But judging by how people outside were craning their necks to get a glimpse of the beguiling creatures inside, the velvety cats have this cafe's fate in their paws.
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
By Alma J. Buelva
CAT CAFE MANILA, a promising business idea that initially used crowdfunding to create awareness and look for potential investors, has taken the first step to build its physical store.
Construction of the eagerly-anticipated Cat Cafe Manila began early this month in 189 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City, a crowd-favorite district made popular by an eclectic range of good restaurants and bars.
Cat Cafe Manila founder Anna Calvo and her business partners aim for a soft opening sometime next month, ahead of the target late summer opening of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Full operations of Cat Cafe Manila should start in April.
The Cat Cafe Manila team broke the news in their official Facebook page last February 5 with this post: “Hello cat lovers! For those of you who are wondering, our journey to building our cat cafe has begun. It's a modest place somewhere in Maginhawa QC, but our goal is to make it as homey as possible to both our cats and our feline-loving customers.”
A flood of comments immediately followed from happy and excited well-wishers and future patrons who promise to visit the place as soon as it opens.
“We are finally getting the cat café we have so longed for,” said one person named Chie.
Cat Cafe Manila is partnering with CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animal) Welfare Philippines by bringing in some cats that customers might want to later adopt.
The group's crowdfunding effort set out to raise $10,091 during the last three months to be able to top-up their roughly $15,000 ready capital. They gathered as much as $402 and although it represented only four percent of their target, Calvo's team is determined to bring to fruition Manila's first cat cafe.
"We know that crowdfunding is not really big in the Philippines; instead, we used this campaign to create awareness and look for other potential partners/investors, and we succeeded in this case. We were able to get additional investors and initial followers because of this campaign.," they said.
PERKS & PRIVILEGES
In courting pledges and bids to its crowdfunding activity over at indiegogo.com, Cat Cafe Manila promised a number of special packages for its supporters, from prepaid entrance tickets to exclusive monthly or yearly memberships.
It's a promise they have not forgotten as evidenced by their Facebook message on January 29: “To all our Indiegogo supporters - BIG BIG THANK YOU!!!...Rest assured you will be able to use your pledges and you'll be the first few to experience our cat cafe once we open!”
The packages, however, are still being finalized. But based on their online campaign materials, Cat Cafe Manila had thought of offering VIP memberships inclusive of unlimited visits to the cafe during the time of membership, a personalized ID, and specific amount of cafe food and drinks.
An aptly named “9 Lives Card” was also hatched by the team, which entitles patrons to a 30 percent discount on entrance fees to the cat cafe. The card is transferable and is worth 9 visits, valid for one year.
The Cat Cafe Manila team has also expressed plans to rent out its facility for a limited period for small private parties. Those who wish to have a deeper connection with the cafe's resident cats may also sponsor a cat for a year and receive complimentary visits, annual membership and drinks, among others.
“We have a lot on our plate this month, so please bear with us as we make this cat cafe dream into reality as soon as possible! We'll post updates from time to time, and we'd love for you to join us in this journey! Thank you very much for all the support,” the team said over at Facebook.
*To know more about Cat Cafe Manila's official perks and privileges, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alma J. Buelva
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.”
After days of heated and “catty” arguments on what Aclon should and should not do, the embattled overseas foreign worker finally posted a lengthy message addressing those who lashed out on him and those who rallied around his idea of a cat café.
“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.
CAT OUT OF THE BAG
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.
By Alma J. Buelva
IF everything goes as planned, Manila will have its first cat cafe in April or May 2015 to follow the paw prints of the successful and popular cat cafes in different parts of the world.
To be called Velvet Friends Cat Cafe, it promises to house alluring specimens of purebred cats such as British Shorthair, Exotic Shorthair, Scottish Fold/Straight, Cornish Rex, Maine Coon, Siberian Forest, Ragdoll, American Curl, Kurilian Bobtail, Oriental Long Hair, Somalis and our very own native cats fondly called “Puspins” (Pusang Pinoy) by local cat lovers.
Cat fancier Chito Aclon is the man behind this ambitious project, which should see fruition early 2015.
In an exclusive interview with MetroPets, Aclon said they are considering three locations for his cat cafe: Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Mall of Asia and Trinoma. He noted that the strongest choice is BGC.
“We approached Eastwood (in Libis, Quezon City) before and they are excited but we need a good crowd so we are considering uptown Bonifacio Global City, which is owned by MegaWorld as well.
“The cat cafe I am planning to open would host an array of wonderful purebred and local cats. I am in the middle of completing my cats and then would proceed with the concept shop and leasing work. Hopefully, more Filipinos would be fascinated with cats once we open what we hope to be Manila's first cat cafe,” said Aclon.
Though a self-professed dog person, Aclon started falling for cats, so to speak, when he spotted several beautiful purebred cats in pet shops in Macau. Since then, he would find himself traveling a great deal to see more cats, including those participating in cat shows abroad. Aclon, who currently works in Singapore, also visits the cat cafes in the state-island but noted that most only have Ragdolls and Ragamuffins to offer. For his cat cafe, Aclon definitely wants to showcase more.
Aside from his growing love for cats, Aclon told MetroPets that he is pushing his Velvet Friends Cat Cafe to create awareness about and fondness towards cats among Filipinos who have not had the wonderful experience of seeing and interacting with purebred cats that are expensive and not always available.
“Many Filipinos don't appreciate cats because they have not experienced them personally, especially the purebreds. Sadly, many Filipinos only know two special breeds: Siamese and Persian. Our Cafe would open doors for them to know other kinds of cats. They would have a different perception of felines just like me and, I think, it would make more Filipinos love cats. They do not have to own a purebred to experience one. They can just drop by at the cafe and experience them,” Aclon said.
Aclon has invested a lot of his time, effort and money to find the cats for his cafe. He has scoured pet shops and online stores to find his dream cats and has contacted breeders from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and Europe.
“It is not always that easy to talk to breeders who are very protective of their cats, and whose prices are not always friendly, but I don't mind since I 'd love to have them,” said Aclon.
As of the moment, he had sourced pairs of most of the above-mentioned breeds, which he said he would be delighted to share with all cafe guests.
“Our cats mostly come in pairs, meaning there would be kittens! We will try our best to have 20 or more cats available daily at the cafe, but would rotate them every couple of weeks. People may develop a strong bond with a particular cat but they would be encouraged to interact with the other felines when the cat they're looking for is not in. We want to create excitement by not showing the same cats all the time,” he said.
Guests of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe will be able to enjoy pastries and drinks aside from having access to “The Haven,” which is the special section where the cats and humans can interact. There will be rules, however, that visitors must read and follow when they enter the Haven. The rules would cover things like sanitizing, proper handling and liabilities for negligent handling, among others. Wearing of socks is a must for those who wish to get inside the Haven.
In addition, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe is preparing a special menu of premium canned cat food from New Zealand, Japan and the US for visiting cats that tagged along with their owners. “Only the finest for them,” added Aclon.
Staff of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe would be assigned at the counter and they would be expected to welcome and attend to the customers and look after the cats.
“Looking after the cats require much work,” said Aclon.
As his cattery grows, the “cat gentleman” admits having a favorite. “I love the American Curl most of all! But now, I think I love them all. I am very much getting more fond of the British Shorthair and will try to have as many colors as possible,” he said.
Photos from Chito Aclon
* One stormy afternoon at Taiwan's Houtong Cat Village