NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By ALMA J. BUELVA
THE Philippine market is sorely lacking its very own locally produced cat food, but that could change if the first set of trials spearheaded by a doctoral student succeeds.
Five cat food flavors, all using squash as major ingredient, are undergoing market tests and could be the start of a local brand that can help farmers and give cat owners an alternative to imported cat food products.
Hazel Alfon, who is taking up Doctor in Business Administration from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, developed her own kitty fare for her research project in functional strategy and business ethics.
A cat lover herself, she wanted to cook up something inexpensive but nutritious for cats and at the same time create an opportunity for squash growers to sell more of their crop.
“What prompted me to do the study is the surplus of squash during harvest time. Lugi yung farmers, halos ipamigay na yung kalabasa nila. (Farmers lose...almost giving their squash away).
With both the cats' and farmers' welfare in mind, Alfon set about baking her first handmade dry kibble. She soon, however, switched to wet cat food as she believes cats need it more to supplement their water intake.
A licensed chemist, Alfon told MetroPets that she did extensive research on the kinds of food that are good and bad for cats. She also took samples of her squash-based cat food to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for analysis. In addition, she consulted with veterinarians to make sure her cat food is safe. Later on, she used social media networks to invite cat owners to try her products for free.
“My cat food are all-natural, human grade and with no salt and chemical pre-treatment,” Alfon said.
Alfon added that she uses from 80 to 90 percent fish, beef, chicken breast, liver or gizzard. The rest are vegetables, particularly squash.
The results are the following variants:
* Salmon with carrots, green beans and kalabasa (squash)
* Ox tripe with chicken liver and kalabasa
* Tuna with kalabasa
* Chicken with kalabasa
* Beef with carrots, green peas and kalabasa
Sealed silver pouches, each containing 85 grams of any of the five flavors, were shipped to market testers who volunteered to feed it to their cats for seven days. Alfon said the most common feedback she received pertains to cats' poop becoming less stinky or even stink-free!
MetroPets' resident cat reviewers tested Alfon's homemade cat food and while they showed indifference at first, they soon acquired the taste and feel for it. The top hits were the squash with chicken and squash with beef. Used to the texture of paté, the cats set aside morsels of ox tripe. They ate the fish variants with no complain but also with less gusto.
Meanwhile, Alfon told MetroPets that she has started work on another cat food specifically for lactating cats.
If all goes well with her cat food, Alfon said she plans to turn it into a business and share her revenues with animals shelters.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
CAT cafés in Metro Manila are on expansion mode, thanks to the overwhelming positive customer acceptance they've been enjoying since opening shops last year.
Miao Cat Cafe, Bengal Brew and Velvet Friends Cat Cafe are all engaged in business expansion to cater to more animal lovers.
Miao Cat Café, the first to open in 2015 along Congressional Road in Quezon City, is almost ready to open its branch in 12th Avenue in Caloocan.
Loida Ramos Benson, one of the sisters who own Miao Cat Café, gave a sneak peek on Facebook of what she calls “mini Miao Cat Café” by showing two photos of the new branch. She added, however, that work on the place is not yet finished and their cats are moving in by June.
Bengal Brew, the world's first cat cafe dedicated to exotic Bengal cats, is also building another animal-inspired café next to its 120-square meter “jungle paradise” in Cubao, Quezon City.
Don Michael Perez who owns Bengal Brew is excited to open Wolf & Bear, a dog café that will take customers to another side of the world.
“If Bengal Brew is designed like the tropics, Wolf & Bear will be like the Arctic, and will showcase mostly Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. It's going to be right next to the current location of Bengal Brew—like an extension where customers have the option of going to the cat cafe, the dog cafe, or both. ” Perez told MetroPets.
Wolf & Bear is still under construction and may open next month.
Meanwhile, Velvet Friends Cat Cafe in Blue Bay Walk in Pasay City, known for its wide selection of beautiful purebred cats, is also currently expanding its operations by turning itself into a full pet cafe. To be known as Velvet Friends Pet Cafe, possibly by July this year, it will feature not just a cat cafe but also a place for dogs and even rabbits.
Chito Aclon, who owns the existing French chic-inspired cat café, said Papillons, Japanese Chins, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Keeshond and other dog breeds not commonly seen in the country can romp around at the pet cafe's indoor English garden. The dining area will have an outdoor Parisian café ambiance, he added.
Unfortunately, one cat cafe has folded. Uchi No Neko in Katipunan Ave., Quezon City which catered to rescued Puspin cats sadly went out of business after only several months of operations.
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
THE Pet Expo 2015 organized by Pet Express during the first weekend of August successfully gathered hundreds of pet owners, dog and cat lovers, animal groups plus makers and sellers of pet products under one roof. Held at one of the halls inside the SMX in Mall of Asia, the show is proof of the tremendous growth the pet industry in the Philippines is experiencing right now.
The show was a good venue for pet companies to interact closer with pet owners. Lots of products from pet foods to toys and accessories were sold up to 20 percent off.
Engaging activities for pets and their owners were also held in partnership with some of the leading pet food companies. There was also a dog yoga session, bomb sniffing demonstrations and even a presentation of a beach resort and hotel of their unique accommodations for pets.
Here are some of the first day photos from the show.
* Claws out! Cat lovers fight over this Starbucks mug