Have coffee, pet a cat

Stray dogs and cats are such a fixture of Philippine scenery, particularly in urban areas, that most Filipinos seldom give as much as a second thought. Filipino entrepreneur Anna Calvo is different.

Upon a visiting a cat café in Japan, she came up with the idea to open one in the Philippines that showcases our puspins (short for “pusang Pinoy”).

“That way, people coming to the café can appreciate the company of cats, while also learning how lovable puspins can be and even get the chance to adopt them,” said Calvo, who had previously adopted 4 cats. 

Caring for cats

Calvo thus co-founded Cat Café Manila in Maginhawa corner Makadios streets in Quezon City along with Denis Ty.

Their establishment features cats from their partner organization CARA Welfare Philippines (Compassion & Responsibility for Animals), which also takes care of their spaying, neutering, and vaccinations.

According to Calvo, the hardest part in operating a café with live animals is trying to predict how well the cat will adjust to the environment.

“Whenever we have new cats in our café (they usually come when a resident cat gets adopted or is brought back to CARA for treatment), our team is always on alert to make sure they are properly acclimatized and litter-trained,” Calvo said.

Calvo added that they try to reduce the stress levels of their cats, so they don’t display scratching behaviors. The puspins also have regular check-ups with the veterinarian to ensure they stay fit in a café setting.

Protecting puspins

Patrons of Cat Cafe Manila must also do their part to protect the puspins' well-being.

Calvo said that for the safety of their guests and the welfare of their cats, they have house rules in the café that must be observed, such as refraining from disturbing sleeping cats or avoiding loud noises.

"But our guests are generally allowed to pet and play with them, as well as take pictures with them (no flash though),” Calvo said.

Some of these patrons are cat lovers, including those who may not have space for pets at home, while many are simply brought by their friends.

Customers return to Cat Cafe Manila because they support the cause or simply grow to appreciate the personalities of some puspins.

“Some of our cats like to cuddle, some like to sleep on laps, some love to play,” Calvo said.  

Sharing ‘catvocacy’

For new customers, Calvo and her team make it a point to share what they call their “catvocacy.”

Calvo said that this "catvocacy" begins by explaining how all the cats are puspins from CARA that have been rescued from the streets, yet have grown to be affectionate animals through proper care at their shelter.

The goal is to let new guests experience how these puspins can be great pets by interacting with them at their establishment. More than just getting these cats adopted, Calvo wants them to be adopted by responsible pet owners.

To this end, Cat Café Manila has volunteer ambassadors who serve as advocates to customers about this cause and teach them about responsible pet ownership.

“We aim to educate our guests that pet adoption is a lifetime commitment, so potential ‘furparents’ need to be capable of providing for the needs of the pet they wish to adopt,” Calvo said.

Calvo and the Cat Café Manila team also promote the spaying or neutering of pets, which she said improves their health in different ways and ultimately prevents their overpopulation.

“Female cats that are not spayed come into heat often and are at the risk of pregnancy, which may lead to cases where owners cannot support the offspring in their household,” Calvo said.

Male cats that are not neutered tend to wander and mate with stray female cats, in turn increasing the cat population in the cities, Calvo explained.

Calvo also cautions against the seemingly harmless practice of feeding cats with human food when they want it. Doing this may lead to health problems for the puspins, and when the owner cannot afford to provide for its healthcare, they often end up getting abandoned.

Thus, Cat Café Manila is working toward making sure that those cats which have already been abandoned may find a proper home.

Calvo shared that they have recently kicked off their adoption process with CARA. Three of their puspins have been adopted over the past month.

“We aim to ramp this up and encourage more adoptions from CARA through the café.” – Rappler.com

Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter @EzraFerraz.