By William Thomas
“Cats have it all,” said poet and singer Rod McKuen, “admiration, and endless sleep, and company only when they want it.” Now they have it all in one place — the Café Chat l’heureux in Montreal’s Plateau Place, will soon be the site of North America’s first ever North American cat café.
Poets have often pointed to two surefire retreats from the miseries of everyday life — cats and music. You get that and much more at the Café Chat l’heureux — cats, music, muffins, tea, pastries, sandwiches and specialty pet products. I’d love to have the Sticky Lint Roller concession. It’s the only place on the planet where your pet can get a tuna juice Chinese tea.
The place will be also known as “The Happy Cat” in English, a good choice, but I’m sure somebody in the brainstorm sessions was seriously tempted to call it “The Cat House.”
Owner and creator Clément Marty visited similar feline-focused establishments while travelling in Japan and South Korea. Convinced the concept would fly in his hometown of Montreal, Marty put out an online SOS and cat-crazy people provided $40,000 in start money in no time at all.
The café full of purring furballs is the fun part. The serious messages that underscore the project are raising awareness of the treatment of animals, the calming benefits of “cat therapy” and the facilitation of cat adoptions. Our humane societies and SPCA’s are sadly and seriously overpopulated with cats.
Can you imagine a coffeehouse filled with sprawling cats — on laps and couches, on tables and perches, in the window and off the walls — cats. The owner plans to hire a great big German shepherd to sit security at the door. Dogs of course will not be allowed except — and you’ll want to live stream on the café for this one — except on April Fool’s Day.
Having written a couple of books on the subject of cats, I consider myself a bit of an expert. Which is why I believe that after about a week of catering to several hundred cats, the café will have no choice but to add a “complaint department.” Oh yeah, I can see it now.
The Tabbies think the stray cats should be kept out in the alley and not be allowed to wear collars.
“The Calico got into the kitchen. How come we can’t go in the kitchen?”
“That Ginger Tabby! She’s got some temper on her!!”
“Oh sure, he says he’s a Hemingway but has anybody actually counted his toes?”
And of course, the Ukrainian Levkoy keeps hissing at the Russian Blue for invading her territory.
“And those two Siamese twins? They’re just plain crazy.”
A “Take A Number Complaint Department” is what they’ll need at the cat café.
Kittens will have to sit in high chairs provided and breastfeeding will be restricted to the “Mother’s Milk Only” corner. Mostly the cat café will be the site of one very long communal nap. Until the last Saturday of the month … that’s “Live Mice Day.” Yeah, then the place will look like a Wal-Mart Superstore at midnight on Black Friday.
And catnip? Lots and lots of catnip. The skunky, pungent odour of weed will be so strong the neighbours will think Marty is operating a downtown grow-op.
They decided against screening movies at the café and instead they’re going to show the same film clip over and over again all day long. It’s a video of dogs playing “fetch.” Most of the cats tip over laughing. None of them ever get tired of watching it.
Years ago, I wrote captions for a book of cat paintings, funny portraits of cats in various domestic predicaments. I finally settled on the title of “Cattitude.” The attitude of the cat is best described by the subtitle of that book: “If cats could talk, yours probably wouldn’t even be speaking to you right now.”
In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods. Today, they’re trying to return to the good ol’ days.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the little buggers, but they can make Simon Cowell look “unarrogant.”
I would like to see a roll call at the United Nations in which the leader of every nation in the world has to give a brief and honest report on how they protect and provide for the country’s creatures, helpless animals that put their lives in human hands.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress,” said Mahatma Gandhi, once the gentlest and most powerful soul on earth, “can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Whenever somebody comes up with a new way in which to better care for the little critters, it should make us all feel good. Pets — they make us crazy and they make us better people.
For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca