NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
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
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.
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