by Maina Chen; Professional Writing, ‘18
This one is for all the animal lovers coming to Montreal.
There is an abundance of cafes, small eateries and take out joints in downtown Montreal, and while having many options are by no means a bad thing, choosing is the hard part. Sometimes you might be looking for a different location or a quick change of pace, but something is missing. Your lap might feel empty, or you might be expecting the fast taps of a certain furred friend.
My much needed breath of fresh air came when I entered, Café des Chats Montréal, located on Rue Saint Denis, around the corner from our Academic Center. The name translates to The Montreal Cat Café, and is home to six incredibly soft and fluffy cats. A wonderful little family-owned shop, featuring nifty cat-themed decorations, toys, towers, scratching posts and signs; everything in the café shouts a cat lover’s dream. It is packed with happy people chatting about their daily lives, while attempting to gain the favor of a strolling cat. There’s nothing to worry about when it came to language barriers here, because the workers and signs are bilingual. In fact, the only things to pay attention to are the specific rules the employees have cutely illustrated in regards to respecting the cats, and what not to do.
On my visit, the general atmosphere was calm and quiet enough (rule #6), that while there was a conversational buzz, there were also a few people pulled to the side with their laptops out, typing away. Stocked book shelves separated a good half of the room, for anyone to peruse and do some light reading as they sip their warm beverage.
Although the menu wasn’t something to immediately fall in love with, it does have its variety of coffees, teas, desserts and sandwiches. It wasn’t generally a place that you’d expect to get a hefty meal from, instead a light snack or an option other than Starbucks. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise; imagine six cats flying at your plate, and the ensuing envy and panic of the other customers as they hiss at you to respect rule #2. Yep, not a pretty sight.
I highly recommend going with friends, because of how much time you’ll spend trying to get a cat to come in your direction, or to even look at you from the top of their towers. It’ll be more fun too, when you succeed or fail together.
Now I’m not a cat expert and I don’t actually own one, but I think two of the breeds swing towards a Siberian and a Persian (aka long-haired cats). All I know is that they are some of the softest things I ever petted that aren’t pillows or sweaters. I’m pretty sure that I spent an inordinate amount of time sinking my hand into the fur of the white cat by the window, that I almost forgot I even had a hand. It was the first time I ever pet a cat’s belly without it ripping that same hand off seconds later. In fact, it started shifting into my touch and kneading the air, so I must have done something right.
A giant plus to the café is how amazingly friendly the cats were. Most of them seemed sleepy by the amount of napping and general stillness they showed, but once they woke up (rule #5) they were playful and accustomed to the amount of human contact and attention.
My next stop was unsurprisingly my most anticipated, that being the newly introduced dog café, Le Doggy Café, which opened in 2015. I was already in an uplifted mood from the cats that I was even more ready for the dogs. The difference was that I actually have a dog back home and separating from her was one of the hardest things I experienced going to school in another state, and now going abroad. Animals provide a great remedy to stress, and with midterms coming up at the time, I sorely wanted to hug a happy dog.
Woe was me when I arrived at its location on Avenue Papineau, and I found no dogs. I was shocked when I entered with my friends and noticed that the café was nearly empty, save for a woman idly eating a sandwich underneath a wall of many dog portraits. There was a gate inside, and from what I figured, it was to prevent the dogs from running outside. See, there was a door all the way in the back, and although I couldn’t see what was written on it from all the way in the entrance of the café, I thought that might have been where the dogs were kept. I kept staring at the door until the owner came to us and asked if we wanted to come in before unlocking the gate. I was so ready to have her release the dogs, but she grabbed menus instead.
By the time I sat down I read the words on the door in the back. It stated it was not a kennel or keeping area, but a bathroom. There were no dogs. It was a bring-your-own-dog café. I was sorely disappointed, but honestly it might’ve depended heavily on what time and which day you chose to go. I heard accounts from other friends about how there were many friendly and playful dogs in the café when they went, so I assumed it was the same as the cat café.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t but it didn’t deter me from actually ordering off the menu. Now this café was more of an eatery than the cat one, because it had options in burgers, salads, smoothies, drinks and a mini menu for your dog. This was a place where you could sit down with your canine and eat a full meal, which in itself was pretty amazing.
The aesthetic of the place was cutesy from how the dog portraits, décor and bright pastel colors marked the interior. Even if there weren’t any animals, the general atmosphere was superbly calming and made me want to visit again.
The great thing about the cat café is how close it is to the academic center. At a mere 5-minute walk away, it’s effortless to pet some kind felines. The dog café is farther at about a 30-minute walk from the center, but it’s actually not too bad, especially if you cut through Parc La Fontaine. Makes for nice scenery and good exercise. Both cafes were a wonderful experience and I don’t mind going again. Don’t hesitate to check them out when you have the chance!