A few years ago, when the very first Cat Café opened in North America, I was delighted. As a lover of all things Japan, I was already familiar with the concept of Cat Cafes, and was impatiently hoping and waiting for some of Japan’s awesomeness to reach our shores.
Café Venosa wasn’t the first Canadian Cat Café I had heard about, but it was the first that I visited. Since, I have been to a few more, but there is something about Café Venosa that brings me back again, and again, that other places simply do not have, a quiet environment that almost feels like a second home. A place filled with love, respect and cohabitation for a type of animal often misunderstood, often dismissed or assumed to be something that they aren’t, cats. The first time that I visited Café Venosa, I went alone on a week day morning. There weren’t a lot of people, and most of the cats were either asleep or in another room. But when I pushed in Café Venosa’s first door, and then its second, my eyes widened in surprise as a small, furry and black thing nearly collided with my legs and ran off the back of the café with a straw in its mouth, that is how I first met Tarquin, one of Café Venosa’s famous resident.
Through a conversation with the poor employee who had just gotten their straw stolen, I learned the thief’s name, his fondness of straws, and the idea behind the café. Since that time, I have returned to Café Venosa on more occasions than I can count, brought many of my friends there, and have attempted to order beverages that come with a straw as often as I could. On all of these occasions I have had the chance to meet many of Café Venosa’s rescues, because that is what they are, and a Cat Café isn’t all that Café Venosa is. Unless you were too preoccupied by cute furry friends, whiskers or the great coffee, then you’ve probably had the chance to chat with some of the café’s employees about the purpose of the place, some of its story, and its main goal.
I’ve had the chance to talk to Summer Geraghty, the owner of Café Venosa, on multiple occasions but we’ve recently sat down to have a more in depth conversation about the café and some of the struggles that have began since Summer 2016 when construction on Saint-Denis street lingered and stretched for so long that it began to destroy the businesses of many, including Café Venosa. Many stores have had to close that summer, and although the café is still here as of December, it is struggling to remain open. Summer and I talked for a while, She talked about the idea behind the place, the cats, the past and the current residents, her own work outside of Café Venosa, and what makes this Cat Café like no other Cat Café in Montreal. There are a lot of things that make thiss particular Cat Café different than the others but the number one thing is: Café Venosa is a cat shelter before it is a Cat Café. You see, not only was the cafe the very first Vegan Cat Café in Montreal but it also was the first one to make its cats’s adoptable to the public.
When you visit the place you might find some of your expectations not met. The cats of Café Venosa are not chosen due to personality, appearance, or their ability to do tricks and entertain, rather, the cats of the café are rescues, and often, rescues who have had a very difficult life. Abandonment, abuse, malnourishment, we sometimes forget that animals are just as complex as we are, and that many live lives of abuse or negligence, leading to the development of depression, anxiety as well as post traumatic stress disorder. So, when you walk into Café Venosa, these are the cats that you get the chance to meet, cats with stories, some darker than others, preferences, anxieties, fears and needs. Through the work of Summer Geraghty, the cats of Café Venosa that are rescued and cared for, and gently integrated into a new environment, get to have a home through the existence of the café. At your arrival, you are given a list of rules that are based on respect and consent, a break down of things not to do and the Café’s stance on breaking the respect that it asks you to give to its cats.
Through your purchasing of a cup of coffee, tea, or one of many vegan meals that Café Venosa offers on its menu, you directly play a role into the care of these animals our city far too often fails, and it’s working. Since it’s opening in June 2015, Venosa was able to find a forever home for over 30+ cats, and are constantly, through the help of the SPCA, integrating more rescues into the café, never discriminating, never picking a cat for its look or likability. Through my own experience of the cats of Café Venosa, I have fallen in love with all sort of furry friends, big, old, friendly, shy, grumpy, fat, partially blind, my heart does not discriminate and it has always filled my heart with much warmth to know that neither does the café, that every cat is given the possibility of healing, being loved and finding its forever home. That is the message of Summer Geraghty and her café. As she said it herself: “Café Venosa is built upon the ideals of compassion and empathy for the planet and all of it’s inhabitants, through using the most environmentally friendly practices possible and helping the overpopulation of cats in Montreal find homes and teaching responsibility in animal care.”
And this is where we have to come in, as consumers, feminists, animal lovers, fighters for empathy and compassion, however you choose to categorize yourself, whatever word you feel fits you best, there is no doubt that Café Venosa shares many of the values that I, and you, might share. While Summer and I talked, we talked about the many ways that Café Venosa can be saved. And many of those things require the direct attention and help from Café Venosa’s familiar clientele, Cat Café fanatics, as well as the every day people who most likely can all agree of the importance of rescues and finding homes for animals. So, I encourage you to visit Café Venosa if you are able to, bring your friends and families and see for yourself what it is that I have been talking about. Meet Tarquin, or Smokey, or Bandit, my latest love, in all of his one-eyed fabulousness.
As of right now, for Montrealers, I will be having a meet up on December 15th at Café Venosa ! I will be at the café starting 1pm until 6pm, the owner of Cafe Venosa is kind enough to host us so make sure to stop by, purchase yourself a warm beverage & come have a chat with me! This will be super casual so please feel comfortable to come say hi, bring a friend if you’re feeling a little weird about it, I’m sure I’ll be feeling shy too. See you on the 15th!