Those who may not even be an animal-lover will be impressed with a whimsical new cat café scheduled to make its debut on Monday (July 29).
Vancouver’s Catoro Cafe (666 East Broadway) opens its doors next week, and city-dwellers will get a chance to bond with rescue cats in a unique setting. Its name and cat sanctuary is inspired by Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli’s cult-favourite film, My Neighbour Totoro.
“I’ve been to quite a few cat cafés and animal cafes in Korea and Japan, and I really like the concept of being close to animals in an urban setting,” Nathan Chan, co-owner of Catoro alongside Luke Mochizuki, Leo Chan, and Lisa Wong, told the Straight in an interview at the soon-to-open space.
The highly anticipated attraction is split into two parts: a cat forest side and a café side. Visitors hoping to spend time with the felines will have to book an online reservation, and admission is $8 for 30 minutes.
Once guests arrive, they can check in before receiving a brief orientation. Inside the cat forest, slippers are available because no outside shoes are allowed.
But half-an-hour may not be enough for all there is to enjoy. For starters, the cat forest features custom-built tree-trunk stools, three-dimensional wall panels embedded with twinkling light fixtures, original and colourful artwork, faux greenery, and the pièce de résistance: a pricey but very realistic-looking 1,000 pound artificial tree (there’s three of them throughout the establishment).
And then, there are the cats. 25 of them to be exact, but they may not all roam in the cat forest at the same time. Interactive toys like balls, feather teasers, and tunnels are all on the floor, ready for use.
“It’s not just a place where you come and play with cats, it’s a place where you can actually see them and comfort them too,” said Chan. “It’s good for the cats, and it’s a good stress relief for people too.”
There’s no cost for guests to go inside the café portion, and a limited food and drink menu will be available. Various bubble-tea flavours will be offered, including brown-sugar milk, vanilla earl-grey milk tea, Thai iced tea, lemon-Yakult green tea, and more. Classic add-ons such as tapioca balls (pearls), grass jelly, and coconut jelly can also be chosen.
The co-owners have adapted a zero-waste vision, and will serve all of its drinks in a biodegradable plastic they plan to recycle by themselves. That also means there will be no garbage bins in the café. Bamboo straws will be used in lieu of traditional plastic bubble-tea straws, which are reusable and won’t come at an additional cost.
As for the food, Totoro-shaped bubble waffles will be made to order. So far, that’s the only food item on the menu. A reclaimed wood bar and matching stools serve as seats and tables, and large windows gives customers a direct view of the cat forest.
“It’s really hard for people in everyday life to get close to animal rescue,” added Chan. “It’s just not convenient and are usually sad places to be.”
Similar to another cat café in the city, Catoro will only house adoptable rescue cats at its establishment. They have partnered with Cat Therapy and Rescue Society, a registered charity that follows a 100 percent no-kill rescue policy.
“I feel like there’s a very big need for people to help some of these cats. There are about 600,000 cats that are strays across Canada,” explained Chan. “We designed this with cat therapy and rescue, and basically everything is optimized for the best environment for the cats,” said Chan.
Consider it a hands-on petting zoo, animal therapy, and adoption center all-in-one. Even if you’re mildly allergic to cats, take an allergy pill and venture into the forest—it’s worth it.
Scroll through the photos below for a peek inside Catoro Cafe.