The Catfé is a new cafe that opened up in Vancouver. What sets it apart from the regular café is that it’s home to a bunch of cats, but if you’re in this city and have been paying attention to the media, you would have already known that by now. The cat café is not anything new, as it’s already set up shop in Japan, Taiwan, Germany, France and Mexico. In the case of Canada it already has spots in Montreal, Quebec and Guelph, Ontario. But now one is set up here on the west coast, and it’s just as busy as you would expect.
Though, one of the other News Friends had booked time to be inside the Catfé I decided to come by as a bystander (or bysitter?) and experience how busy this place is on opening day.
2:40 PM: I show up to a place that I wasn’t expecting. The second floor of the Tinseltown mall (which I later discover has been called the International Village, and has been called that for a while now). It’s situated in a corner of the floor overlooking the south entrance of the mall.
There’s two entrances. One is the actual cat part of the café, the other part is just a normal café. I mean, I think it’s supposed to be? It looks more like a waiting area to get to the good part. The front wall does explain the rules for entering the cat part, so I enter the less exciting area first.
2:42 PM: I sit down at a stool first, informing other News Friends that I’ve arrived and a bit confused, expecting someone to reply to my text and explain this place to me.
I realize, that information is something I’m going to have to seek on my own.
2:43 PM: I walk up to the two women standing at the counter after they just finished talking to someone else about the state of the café, and they’re probably going to tell me the same thing.
“Hi, do you have a reservation?” is the first question that was asked to me. I didn’t have one, but it wouldn’t have mattered regardless. They tell me that the cat area is booked till pretty much the end of December.
“So how does something like this work?” was the only question I really had, “what’s the difference between this part of the café and the other one?”
They explain to me that the left side of the Catfé is where they cook all of the food because they can’t have it in the same area as the cats. Which makes sense, health regulations and all that.
At the same time, there was a smaller man, basically asking the same questions that I did. I imagine these same questions were going to be asked to these people all day, considering they just opened up and the whole process is confusing at first.
They’re only allowed so many people at first, and the area is currently completely booked.
“It must be fun to keep telling the same thing to everyone today,” I joked.
They laugh and follow it up with “Yeah, it’s pretty crazy today.”
Since I was sticking around, I decided to order something. They didn’t have a menu but the women told me that they have vegetable soup. A small sign posted to the back of the espresso machine confirms this. I already had two cups of coffee before showing up, so I go ahead and order the soup.
2:48 PM: I pick a prime spot in the ‘limbo part’ of the Catfé. Sitting there I can see perfectly inside the cat part, which looks pretty large in comparison to this off-to-the-side waiting area. I see a lot of people sitting around, having a good time. Obviously enjoying being in a room with all those cats.
I can’t actually see any of the cats from where I’m sitting.
I can also look at the mall entrance and the second floor railing. People often stand by the railing looking inside. What are they trying to look at?
2:54 PM: Plenty of groups have already shown up only to be turned away. The poor employees keep giving the same answer over and over again:
“We’re completely booked!”
“It’s reserved for the next couple of hours!”
“You’ll have to come to our website if you want to reserve a time!”
“We feel really bad that we have to keep turning people away.”
3:01 PM: There was a tiny woman being helped by the small man from earlier. It turns out she was a reporter working on a story about the Catfé, much like most other news outlets in this city.
I wonder if what I’m doing counts as that.
3:05 PM: Because I’m watching the entrance, I can make a game out of guessing which people are coming up to the Catfé. The first set which I assumed was “a definite given”, were a couple all dressed up fancy-like.
The man was wearing a long black overcoat and a top hat, with long flowing hair. The woman on his arm was dressed as a gothic-lolita. I’m passing judgement by thinking, “If you’re eccentric enough to walk around like that, then you’re probably here for tea and cats.”
3:07 PM: I guess I was wrong, I did not see them come in.
3:09 PM: News Friend Melissa shows up a bit late, but she booked time for 3 PM. There was already plenty of coverage about this brand new spot, but we wanted to do some live tweeting anyway.
Her phone was broken so I offered up mine, knowing full well that I won’t be able to time-stamp my thoughts.
Time’o’clock PM: Small groups of people keep wandering in only to continue being turned away. They must feel bad knowing that they can’t be in the same room as all those cats, but again, health regulations and all that. Only a certain amount of people get to be inside. It’s the same drill for every would-be customer for a very long time.
Cat:30 PM: Though most people are being turned away, there’s also a fair amount just hovering around the entrance of the Catfé. Taking photos of the sign. People are often looking through the window, where I sit, hoping to look into the cat area. That’s a bit problematic, but at least they get to see me nursing a vegetable soup.
That soup was actually pretty spicy, which is why I was taking my time.
Meow meow meow PM: I guessed right when I saw a mother with 4 children go through the mall entrance. They came all the way up here because the kids wanted to see the cats. An employee let them know the situation, and it the same situation that its been for the past thirty minutes. It looked more like the employee was out there doing damage control for the kids.
Though they’re all disappointed, one of the kids started to cry. The boy was right outside the door, and I’m surprised by how sound proof these walls are, because I could only faintly hear him.
Still, tough break kid. I guess you’ll have to reserve a space online.
PRRRRR PM: Even though they have a reservation system, they have been allowing walk-ins, but only to those that have been waiting for a couple of hours.
“I’m sorry, have you been waiting to go inside?” I was asked by an employee.
I assured her that someone else was already in there and I was waiting for them.
“Oh, okay. I wasn’t sure. It’s been a crazy day and so many people have come in here, so I had to ask to be sure,” she said.
I’m almost done my soup.
Some-time-later PM: One woman in particular was pretty excited to just talk about cats.
“I have a cat, her name is Shadowmaster. I call her that because her hair is black and smokey. Next time I’m in I should show you a picture, she’s a really great cat. I call her M for short.”
Cat lovers are probably going to come to a place like this and talk about their cats.
After sharing her information, the woman with the shadow master looked at me with a wide face as she left the door. “This is so exciting!”
A-little-bit-later PM: I finally finished my soup. It was pretty good. Within that time a couple came in asking if there was a menu, to which an employee said there wasn’t. I wonder if they spent all this time setting up the café and securing the cats and worrying about the rules and regulations that they forgot to think about making a menu for the place.
Coffee, tea, soup, and cookies shaped like cats seem to be the only thing on the menu for now. Maybe now, since everything is said and done, they can work on making that menu.
Time-ago PM: Godfrey showed up to get a bag that was left at the Christmas party we had some time back. He also informed me that his phone was broken (Something about it not being able to charge properly).
I can still not properly time-stamp.
I let Godfrey in on the people watching game I’ve been playing, (which I’ve been doing poorly at by the way) One couple looked at the mall directory, and then frantically looked around their area.
“Those two are definitely coming up here,” we said.
A minute later PM: We were right. It’s a shame they were turned away, but if they stayed around much longer they probably could have been a ‘walk-in’ There hasn’t been that much traffic to come in anyway.
But still, the employee ensures that the reservations are backed up to the end of December, at the least. This really is to be expected to be happening to a brand new place that everyone wants in on, but due to the nature of it only so many can enter.
Time-and-time-again PM: The employee once again asks me if I was waiting to go inside. Again, she had to be sure since it was such a crazy day.
“We’re not waiting to get in, we’re waiting for someone to get out,” said Godfrey.
4:10 PM: Melissa is out of allotted time, and she seems to have enjoyed it. She described the area as zen, which is a nice change of pace from the typical cafe that can get noisy at times. Everyone in there seemed to be at a higher plane of comfort due to all the cats being around.
A nice distraction I guess? The staff says that there’s only five cats for now, but there could be up to 12 soon, which is nice for those expecting the place to get a lot more “catty” but those who reserved time can expect to see that happening soon.
I for one enjoyed my time sitting in the corner of the ‘waiting-café’ eating my soup. I learned a valuable lesson that day: A lot of people are ready to go to this Cat cafe, and It's telling by how far back the reservations go. Maybe in a couple of months I'll take a trip, but for now the Catfé will be busy for the holiday season.