NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
STARBUCKS in China recently released an insanely cute transparent mug featuring a cat's paw inside that becomes visible when coffee or any liquid is poured into it.
The cat-paw mug literally became an overnight success as supplies were reportedly depleted in 24 hours and caused some customers to become catty with one another, even resulting in brawls among those who desperately wanted to take one home.
Here's how it looks when empty:
This is not the first time that Starbucks released a cat-inspired mug. In Korea and Taiwan, the company has previously sold similar cute coffee cups that attract cat and coffee lovers alike.
The latest Starbucks cat-paw mug retails for 199 yuan (around US$40). Starbucks said there will be more pieces to be sold through online shops like Taobao in the coming days to accommodate even customers outside China who want a cat-inspired mug from the global coffee shop. -- MetroPets
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 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
THE New Year is smiling fondly at cats as efforts to open cat cafes in the country gather steam.
At least two parties are on it.
Chito Aclon of Velvet Friends Cat Cafe is nearly complete with his line-up beautiful purebred cats sourced from around the globe and has already identified a location and concept for his dream project.
Anna Calvo of Cat Cafe Manila and her team are also busy stocking up on cash and cats to kickstart their theme cafe.
Extra bragging rights would go, of course, to the one who could actually open the first cat cafe in the country. But for Filipino cat fanciers, they are simply excited to visit these coffee-cum-pet shops which, depending on how successful they are, could give birth to more local cat cafes.
CAT CAFE FEVER
Taiwan opened the first cat cafe in the world in 1998 and, just like cats, this type of venture quickly multiplied!
In Asia, cats rule in their own cafes in Japan, Korea, Bangkok, Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and soon in the Philippines. There are more or less 40 cat cafes in Japan as of 2014.
There are also popular cat cafes today all throughout Europe, namely in Austria, Hungary, Germany, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, Netherlands, Copenhagen, Prague, Finland and soon in Scotland.
Canada also got into the cat cafe bandwagon with the opening in 2014 of Café Chat L'Heureux in Montreal; Catfé in Vancouver, British Columbia; and Kitty Cat Cafe in Toronto.
In the United States, cat cafes also mushroomed from East Coast to West Coast.
Bahamas and Australia also caught the cat cafe fever.
Cats are arguably one of God's most beautiful creations. They are mysterious, graceful, sweet, independent, smart, perceptive and simply wonderful as pets. They are the best latest addition that makes sipping a cup of coffee even better, especially among those who love cats but for some reason could not keep them as house pets.
Cat cafes give patrons a chance to leisurely interact with cats, minus the attendant responsibilities that go with owning their own cats. And because of cat cafes, more people have become more appreciative of cats and cat welfare issues. Inside these cat havens, customers realize that the only thing better than a cat is a cat next to a warm beverage. – Alma J. Buelva
* PH gets new veterinarians in latest licensure test