Meet the man who aims to open a cat café

Clément Marty launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a café that’s at once a refuge for felines and a haven for irresponsible animal lovers.

Clément Marty’s appeal for a local cat café

[UPDATE: On March 17, 2014, it was announced that the Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 for this project is a success. Café Chat l’Heureux, the first cat café in North America, is due to open in the summer of 2014, in the heart of Montreal.]

Clément Marty is a well-travelled Frenchman who’s lived in Montreal for five years. He’s also crazy for kitties, and wants to open a cat café in this city, preferably in the Plateau. He’s currently devoting 100 per cent of his time to this endeavour, launching an Indiegogo campaign that aims to raise $40,000 to get it off the ground.

You may have heard about dog cafés, establishments where dog owners can stop in for a coffee or a bite without having to leave their canine companions at home, or chained up outside. There are at least two such businesses in the Montreal area (one in the Plateau and one in Brossard). But the cat café concept, wherein felines actually live on the premises and are cared for by the café’s staff, is an Asian one that has spread west.

“This concept started in Taiwan and inspired a trend throughout Japan and South Korea,” Marty explains. “People in those countries often live in very small dwellings where pets aren’t allowed. There’s usually a cover charge at these cafés, so it’s a real business.

Cats doing lunch
Cats doing lunch

“Cat cafés have also opened over the past two years in Paris, Vienna, London and Budapest. But in adapting this idea for Quebec, we have to recognize that in Montreal people move all the time, fewer and fewer landlords allow pets, and this has created the issue of abandoned animals. For some reason, the Québécois seem to have a problem with being responsible pet owners, and I feel like an establishment like [a cat café] can act as a substitute and provide people with a more ethical, responsibility-free relationship with animals. So instead of owning a pet for a year and then dumping it out on the street, go to a place where you can appreciate cats without having to care for them.”

As for the multiple issues of bylaws and licensing bureaucracy that every food & drink business in this province must face, especially with regard to the hygiene concerns raised by the notion of a multi-cat establishment, Marty is well aware of the hurdles he faces and has been in communication with the relevant boards and ministries. And it won’t be as difficult as one might think, according to Marty, who says that the precedent has been set by dog cafés, where animals have no access to areas where food is stored or prepared. Where the litter boxes will be stashed, and how the smell of multi-cat waste will be channelled or masked, is another story.

“Don’t worry,” Marty says, “it’s all part of the plan.” ■

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