My cats were Ga-Ga/Ga-Ga (there are two of them) when I told them about the Cat Cafe opening up in the neighbourhood. Better yet, not just anywhere in the neighbourhood, but right at the end of our street, around the corner and over two blocks and there it is. They meowed their approval. Nick immediately took off to try to find his cafe garb — black turtleneck and matching beret. Rose swooned meows about one of her former lives when she was an un-rhyming (bad, I’m sure) poet performing in a dark cafe accompanied by a sexy Cool Cat Saxophonist while wafts of really, really good cat nip filled the air. I, personally, think she’s making the whole thing up. Or it’s straight out of one of those very noisy dreams she has when she talks to herself and moves all over the bed without waking up — well only waking me up which doesn’t count.
I told them both to get a grip. This was definitely NOT that kind of Cool Cat Cafe. Cats can take things so literally sometimes — it’s boring. They both looked at me with hurt looks in their eyes. But what could I do? I told them they definitely would not be welcome customers. I unnecessarily — meanly? — added that I was sure the Cat Cafe already had all the adorable, YOUNG kittens that they wanted. Rumbles of “Ageism,” “Exclusivity,” “Prejudice” were heard. Then, just to give them a little reality check, I reminded them, that if they wanted to go outside they would have to take turns getting into that cold, hated, obnoxiously brown piece of plastic with a door that locked. They left the room grumbling.
The Cat Cafe had just opened its doors the day before. I walked by at one point and there was a sign on the door saying, “Cafe Full. Open Again in One Hour”. They at least had the courtesy of putting what “hour” that would be so that the people waiting — yes, waiting! — in the line curling down the block would know when they might get in to see the cats. Are there really that many cat-starved people in Toronto? Maybe I should think about Private Viewings at my house. Trouble is, if any stranger dares to climb the steps the two felines inside go into hiding — Nick under the covers on the bed and Rose deep in the closet. That would definitely not be good for business.
Margaret and I, thankfully, decided to wait until Day Two to do our cat visiting. There was no line outside when we got there. I have to admit I felt a tad ridiculous going down to College Street in order to play with a bunch of cats when I had two, albeit not so playful anymore, right in my own house. But my interest was peeked. I had seen pictures of cat cafes in Japan on the Katzenworld blog. Japan evidently is the world’a capital of Cat Cafes — some even with goats, or bunny rabbits to make things even more interesting. I’ll have to ask Nozomi when we have our Skype class on Thursday if he’s ever gone to one. Maybe I’ll give it to him as a homework assignment so I can compare the quality of one in Japan to my local.
Unbeknownst to me, there was a strict protocol to follow at this Cat Cafe. There was no such thing as just bopping into the Plexiglas enclosure and petting a few cats. No siree. We were met at the door by one of the owners and escorted past the cats and into the cafe to put our names on the Waiting List for our timed-visit with said cats. There were at least six people ahead of us in line. We all had to wait until someone inside’s time expired so that a new shift could enter.
I was a little disappointed that the cats weren’t just here, there and everywhere around the cafe instead of being locked up inside their Plexiglas bubble. But, according to Margaret who had earned her Food Handler’s Certificate and knew all about this stuff, Ontario had much stricter rules. If a health inspector walked in while a cat was hanging out with the sandwich makers, the joint would be shut down immediately. All I know is that those same said health inspectors had better never come to my house where cats roam wherever they damn well please. (Margaret had sent me a picture of a Cat Pub in London with the cats walking along the bar and sitting on client’s laps. We both agreed it seemed much more sociable and friendly — plus you could buy a beer.)
Finally, it was our turn to enter the inner sanctum. The same young owner came over
to us, bowed slightly and escorted us down the short hall towards the entrance. But before we could open a door, we had to shed our outdoor shoes (this is Canada, after all) and put on little cat slippers. Then we were each given a glittery around-the-neck pendant to identify us as being worthy to move through the first door towards the Cats. I was beginning to feel like I was going to visit a sick patient rather than five rescued cats from the Humane Society.
Once inside, I was hooked. They were delightful. It really surprised
me that these cats were so cool — maybe that comes with being residents of a cafe, eh? These weren’t hiding under blankets or deep under the couches like some cats I know who shall remain nameless. It was like they had been coached on how to please the audience. They posed, acted
aloof, sprang from perch to perch, chased after feather dusters on cue and curled up and looked adorable. I was very impressed and, do I dare say, entertained?
It could have all been part of their routine to see who would be the first one to win over some sucker’s heart and get themselves adopted and out of the showroom. I wonder if they took bets with one another? I would have been tempted to think about it, but I knew the Wrath of Rose would await me if I ever tried to do such a stupid thing as bring another cat into the house.
Then, twenty minutes later, as if a silent gong had rung, the quiet guardian of the cat room came to the door and said, pleasantly, “Margaret and Ann? Your time is up.” He waited until we gathered coats and backpacks and bags. There wasn’t anyplace for us to hide out and stay a little longer but he waited for us just the same. We handed over our pendants and slipped out of slippers so the next batch of cat cooers could pass through the double door (security was tough) to visit the cats.
All in all, I think the Cat Cafe is just a fine place. The cats seem happy, well fed, healthy and pampered. And there were enough places that, if they so chose, the could go hide. But most important, they also had ample opportunity to win over someone’s heart who might even take them away from the cafe life and into a home of their own. I did mention to our smiling guide that he might want to clean the litter. He said, “I cleaned it this morning!” I mentioned that he had five cats in there so might want to do it a little bit more often.
When I got home, there was no one there to meet me. I felt like the adulterous, guilty lover sneaking back home after a rendezvous. Later, much, much later, they came down and cooly — as cool as any of those cafe cats, I must say — sniffed at my ankles and pants legs and walked around me saying nothing. Then they went to their usual hangout on the back of the couch, content that whoever I had been hanging out with today was no threat to them. I gave them an extra pile of Temptations just the same.