Few experiences are as quintessentially, stereotypically Asian as the Cat Café. Take a normal coffee shop, fill it with cat toys and actual cats. Then serve coffee and finger food. Magic ensues. In the mega cities of the east, many people live in situations not favorable to the keeping of pets. Why not have a place that will keep them for you? In a town where your laundry, dinner and most everything else can be delivered by motorbike, it suddenly seems perfectly normal.
We heard of three of these establishments in our end of town, but we only patronized one of them. We did, however, patronize it repeatedly.
Catmosphere was a sci-fi themed joint filled with rescued cats found or brought from animal shelters. The whole place was decorated with Star Wars or Star-Trek-themed paraphernalia. The seemingly innumerable cats had names such as Jean-luc, Obi Wan and others familiar with certain TV shows and movies.
Not that the cat’s cared about their names. Mostly, they cared about lying there juuuuuust out of reach where you couldn’t quite pet them. They also cared a lot about my laptop bag. For reasons we never discovered (I don’t tend to carry food or rodents alongside my laptop) my bag was an instant hit. Almost as soon as we had seated ourselves on the low cushions, my bag was instantly being investigated by an entire posse of locals. One my one they stuck their noses in the crevices or even insisted on sitting in the bag itself. I finally had to take it away and place it behind me to keep them from mauling it.
Yoda was the cat who really stole the show. This smallish, brooding feline glowered from a high shelf during our first visit, seemingly disinterested in the peasantry cavorting below. Only on subsequent visits would we realize this cat’s ridiculous comportment was a thin guise covering an amicable interior. Once Yoda liked you all typing, or eating, was nearly impossible. You were to simply sit there and provide a lap to stand on. At all times. Yoda demands it.
As more of the world becomes urbanized, there is less and less opportunity to encounter nature. A tame house cat is hardly going to put you in touch with the call of the wild, but it is a welcome respite to spend an hour drinking a great espresso, listening to calming music and petting something indolent and furry. In the hustle of Chiang Mai life, the quiet café seemed miles away from the busy street just outside the door.
Regardless of how they came in, soon the patrons would fall silent. They would start ignoring their laptops and soon just stare off into space as they stroked whichever cat had climbed up into their lap. Almost no one talked.
Or, at least it was a calming experience until the staff brought out the catnip. Then all bets were off.