Eight rare cats live in this guy’s hair salon

Ever seen a Bengal cat in person? We hadn’t. Then we met Jean-Marc Richer, who introduced us to eight of them.

Jean-Marc Richer and Beau Bonhomme

Bengal cats, that cat-leopard crossbreed, are rare. How rare, we can’t say. Though they’re domesticated, you don’t come across an adult every day. Kitten sightings are even less frequent.

But if you happen to be strolling along Duluth, you may be surprised to spot tiny leopard-like creatures in the window of a nondescript salon. Yes, these are Bengals, six of them kittens, all belonging to or in the care of Jean-Marc Richer, the owner of Salon MOOV. And while you may be tempted to pet the cats, you’ll have to plunk down the dough for a haircut first.

We spoke to Richer — who says that while other stylists cut long locks, he simply organizes them — about his brood of felines.

Lucas Wisenthal: How did you acquire all these Bengal cats?
Jean-Marc Richer: My cats are here because we do zoo therapy in our salon, and at the same time, they catvertise to people. People stop in front of my shop. They see a leopard cat lying there. They go, “Oh my god!” We invite them in and we introduce the cats, and that brings us an open door to introduce our salon and our work, and to see our Facebook page.

LW: What is zoo therapy, exactly?
J-MR: It’s well-being through animals. It’s a therapy that’s very well known to make people feel good just by seeing amazing animals.

LW: Is catvertising an effective means of marketing?
J-MR: Eighty per cent of our clientele are from our cats now, and we’re getting famous nationwide. Even around the world, people are starting to give us feedback.

LW: So how did you get all these cats?
J-MR: The female cat, her name is Très Jolie. The male cat is Beau Bonhomme. And we sent Très Jolie to the breeder to get pregnant because Beau Bonhomme, her boyfriend, is her cousin, in fact. So we cannot cross family to avoid inbred action.

LW: They live in the shop?
J-MR: Yes, they do, because I don’t want to move. Leopard cats, they give birth in a cave somewhere, and moving them around is not very good for the mom and the babies because they get stressed. So they stay in the salon, and since that day — even 11 days before she gave birth — I sleep in my salon because I wanted to be close to her and help her with the birth. And I’ve [already had my windows broken] once to steal my cats, so I will sleep here now.

LW: When did that happen?
J-MR: That happened, like, a year and a half ago. They tried to steal Beau Bonhomme. They didn’t think I was here. I was sleeping here, and in the middle of the night, the windows smashed — they threw a rock through them — and I came out with a fire extinguisher and they ran away.

LW: What are you going to do with this litter of cats?
J-MR: I’m going to sell them because the mom is my ex-girlfriend’s cat, and she’s pregnant. You cannot have cats when you’re pregnant, so I’m helping her out to give birth and take care of her and sell the babies.

LW: What’s your favourite part of having all these cats around here?
J-MR: It’s pretty simple. It gives me the best joy in the world to have them with me and, equally, the ability to share them with people. Because it’s so unique and beautiful, and it gives so much back to people to get awed from beautiful animals that for me, beyond the catvertising — obviously it helps me, but I realize that sharing is great.

LW: I heard that only paying customers can pet the cats.
J-MR: Yes, because we had too many people coming, wanting to pet the cats. I let it happen in the beginning, but then my cats looked at me and said, “That’s enough.” Because when they talk to me, I know what they say.

LW: How do cats convey “That’s enough” when they look at you?
J-MR: Oh, because they talk. And when they say something, I know what they want. If they want the door, I know what they’re saying. If they want some food, water, petting, attention, whatever. They need a new litter, they tell me. But when they told me, “It’s enough,” believe me, it was another tone. I understood right away what they wanted. ■

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