By Cynthia Hoo
Who can resist a fluffy cat with soulful eyes? No one, it seems, not even Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng who was photographed with an orange cat on his lap at the opening of the Purrfect Cat Café in George Town.
Penang’s first cat café came on board in January to become the third cat café in Malaysia, joining The Country Cat Café in Setapak and Coffee Cottage Cat Café in Subang.
Cat cafés are all the rage across the globe, as astute entrepreneurs spy an opportunity to marry the current craze for chic coffee, cute cats and charming cafés.
Malaysia has only just embraced this craze, with three cafés opening within weeks of each other in the last two months. They became an immediate hit, with a full house on most weekends.
Warren Lim (pic), who opened his Coffee Cottage Cat Café in Subang Jaya in January, said the idea sparked when he visited cat cafés in Japan and Korea. It was also a natural fit with his pet boarding and grooming business that has been running for seven years, as well as his passion for rescuing stray cats.
“Many people like animals but don’t want the responsibility that comes with owning a pet, so they visit us,” he said.
To cater to coffee lovers who don’t want feline company, three-quarters of the floor space is kept free from cats. The two areas are separated by double doors.
Cat cafés are the latest iteration in the chic cafés springing up everywhere in Malaysian towns in the last few years. The boom in the café scene has whetted the Malaysian appetite for sleek cafés but it’s becoming more difficult to stand out in the crowd.
How does one get noticed when there are eight cafés all within walking distance?
This was the question that faced Lim but, luckily, his Country Cottage Cat Café has a natural unique selling point. Cats are free to prowl the cat area of the café, and can be groomed and petted. Customers can also buy food for the cats, and eat alongside the five friendly kitties.
“Three-quarter of our cats are rescue cats,” he said.
He hoped that the café can be a place for customers to bond with the rescue cats, and eventually adopt one. They do not charge for adoption but currently restrict it to friends to ensure that the cats get a good home.
But his café, he said, is not a pure-breed cat café. It’s both a cat and coffee café, and aims to serve both the pet lover as well as those who just want a meal and coffee.
“We serve good coffee too!” said Lim, adding that they had undergone barista training to learn how to make a decent cup.
He said that, despite the intense competition in the café scene, there is still room for new cafés. “There still potential for entrepreneurs who want to come on board but you have to do it right,” he said.
By this, he means knowing the market and competition, finding a niche, and most of all, keeping it simple.
“Keep it simple,” he said. “Everyone wants the best of everything but if you complicate things, you complicate yourself. Keep it simple.”