The ranks of Bangkok cat cafés and their habitués were deeply shaken last year to learn that there was a new cat café that featured not only cats but fennec foxes and also raccoons. We had not managed to go until today, mostly because this new cat café was not actually in Bangkok, it’s in Pak Kret. Pak Kret is Thailand’s third largest city; you’ve never heard of it, nor, probably, of Nonthaburi, Thailand’s second largest city, because they are effectively indistinguishable from Bangkok’s urban sprawl. Nonthaburi is home to Thailand’s most delicious durian which maybe I have spoken of here; it is also accessible by the express boat, if you manage to get the right express boat. Pak Kret is a little more complicated. You can theoretically get a taxi to take you there, but who knows what will happen. So I was steeling myself for the complicated set of interactions necessary to explain that we really wanted to go to a random part of Pak Kret.
But! It turns out that Little Zoo Café has one of the most functional websites to be found in all of Thailand, and a van reservation system, so I reserved two tickets on the van and Harriet and I went up to dysfunctional mess/waterpark that is the Bangkok Children’s Museum until it was time for the van to take us to the raccoon-filled wonderland that we supposed Little Zoo Café to be. The van was supposed to be outside a particular exit of the BTS station at 12:45; we dutifully arrived at 12:45 and looked for a van and did not manage to find one. Possibly the van was tremendously late? It’s Bangkok traffic, it’s hard to say, and also that particular stop was full of everyone in the world because they all go up to Chatuchak for the weekend. Maybe it was wrong to hope that a van would show up and take us to a place full of raccoons.
Eventually we decided to cut our losses and prepared to explain what we were trying to do to a taxi driver; somehow the first one I approached seemed more than happy to drive us the forty-five minutes to Pak Kret, and, astonishingly, was able to read maps. And so we arrived, much later than we had intended, at a little strip mall in Pak Kret that has the Little Zoo Café.
First up: there were no raccoons. Not even one. It’s true there was a drawing of one. The staff did not speak a great deal of English, so I felt embarrassed about asking if the raccoons had all gone crazy and escaped and the rabies situation in Pak Kret was presently getting out of hand, which is about what I would expect out of a raccoon café. Feral dogs and cats, it has been noted, do extremely well in Bangkok—it is basically impossible to have a 7/11 here without a fat homeless dog sleeping in front of the door and it concerns me a little that the Chatrium’s 7/11 has no such dog—though I expect a raccoon population would soon put them all out of work. There were no signs of struggle.
Here’s what they did have:
- A cage with two chinchillas (?) in it; small children were opening the door of the cage and petting the animals, who seemed nonplussed.
- Two gerbils, very much asleep
- Two cockatoos, loose, chewing on things
- Something in an aquarium that looked like a naked mole rat, though it didn’t have any visible incisors, and might just have been a capybara with severe alopecia—no one was allowed to pet this, though whether this was from fear of disease or ferocity was unclear to me:
- A rolled-up sleeping beast, relatively soft, that later turned out to be a meerkat:
- A couple of cats, for good measure.
The real stars of Little Zoo come in too varieties: fennec foxes and owls. Everybody wants to play with the owls and the foxes, and the owls and the foxes don’t particularly want to play with anyone. They have two of each, and all four of them seemed a little fed up with the situation, though nobody was getting bit, and that’s something. Here’s Harriet with the big owl:
This owl did not actually like having his picture taken:
That one is of course a snowy owl. How a snowy owl arrived in Bangkok is too horrible to imagine. The other owl they had is much smaller:
I believe this one is a southern white-faced owl, which comes from southern Africa. This one they let sit on people. It seemed reasonably happy with its lot in life, unlike the snowy owl, who seemed actively embarrassed that things had come to this.
They keep the fennec foxes with the meerkat in a special enclosure where people can only come in a few at a time, to avoid scaring them. There are two fennec foxes and they live on top of a house in the window of a shop in a suburb of Bangkok, like many others:
They are not the tamest animals in the world, but they will sometimes consent to let you pet them:
(N.b., this scene is not taking place in a sauna despite the way the wood and Harriet’s hair looks.) They will also sit in your lap for a little bit:
Or even longer:
After we had bothered the animals for a while, we left. I don’t know. I was a little miffed at them for the failure of their van to arrive (we got another taxi to take us back, because our food had barely arrived when it was time for our scheduled van to leave), but mostly I was upset that they didn’t have raccoons. Raccoons are something special. Little Zoo Café seemed basically like if you went to the part of Chatuchak where they sell exotic pets and you also got someone to bring you rather overpriced food. I was a little disappointed, though it is nice to pet an owl.