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Trending in Taiwan and Japan since the late 1990s, cat cafés have expanded to such countries as Spain, Germany and France. And more recently, Montreal hosted the first North-American cat café in 2014, leading to venues opening in New York, San Diego and Vancouver.
The interest in North American cat cafés isn't surprising, says Jennifer Morozowich, founder of the North American Cat Café Embassy. She saw Toronto's market potential after visiting a cat café in Japan where the human customers live in small spaces and can't keep pets.
Besides the space issue, hanging out with cats has other benefits. Research shows that cat purrs, which have a frequency between 25 and 150 hertz, lower stress, decrease symptoms of Dyspnoea (shortness of breath) and improve bone density. "Like the Japanese, Torontonians tend to work long hours and carry high stress levels," Morozowich points out. "A cat café is an opportunity for people to de-stress."
The cafés are good for the cats too, providing homes and regular meals for the ones that need them. Youssef Labib, co-owner of Cat Café Montreal, works with Montreal's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals (SPCA) to adopt all their cats from shelters. "The idea is to offer the cats a permanent home," he explains. "People don't adopt the cats of the café, it's rather the cats who adopt the humans here."
Many cat cafés follow similar models and provide cats with comfortable and social spaces, like Vancouver's Catfe. Opening this fall, Catfe be a foster home for rescue cats, says Michelle Furbacher, business entrepreneur of Catfe. "We're partnered with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), a volunteer-run, no-kill rescue whose mission is to end cat overpopulation and homelessness," she says. "They'll help us choose sociable cats and help us introduce them to the space and monitor their health."
While opening a cat café in North America sounds straightforward, the process can, in fact, be complicated. To help, Morozowich created the Cat Café Embassy (which has up to 40 members), to help cat-lovers navigate the process of a creating cat café. Sounds like the purr-fect place to start.
Are you looking to adopt a pet? Check out our ultimate guide for adoption.