At the House of Paws

The barrier to entry for opening a dog café in Bangkok is extremely low: if you have a shophouse, leaving the front door open over night with a plate of leftover rice just inside will have you going by the morning. There are a huge number of extremely fat and tame dogs on the streets of Bangkok, mostly because if you are a Thai Buddhist you can make merit by leaving them food. Perhaps because there are so many dogs in Bangkok, there are not nearly as many dog cafés as cat cafés, unless you count 7/11s as dog cafés, in which case you have no standards.

We have somehow not been to any dog cafés, I think mostly because the dog cafés were in inaccessible locations or being closed because the dogs had been biting people. House of Paws is a new entry in the Bangkok dog café scene; it is convenient to the sky train, which also means that it is full of people and that there is, on Saturday afternoon, a line to get in. There’s an entrance fee of 150 baht per person, which gets you a drink (maybe more than one drink?) and two hours of dog-petting, which is not a terrible deal as the economics of pet cafés in Bangkok go.

They have two sizes of dog as far as I can tell, big- and medium-sized. I do not know any of the breeds of dogs. Here is what I think they had: Malamute. Golden Retriever. Corgi. Beagle. Schnauzer. Curly Terrier. One of those low-slung dogs with droopy ears whose name I forget – a Baskerville Hound? Something that was kind of a half-size Collie with short legs – maybe that’s actually a Corgi? I don’t actually know what a Corgi is. Some of the dogs wear sweaters which would be ridiculous in Bangkok except that the air conditioning is jacked way up. Advance publicity for the House of Paws promised that all of the dogs were led around by a monstrous Sheep Dog. No such Sheep Dog was in evidence. Perhaps he was being groomed or walked? There were two Golden Retrievers, but no one really cares about that.

One can buy little packets of treats for the dogs – these appear to be Pocky formulated in such a way as to be delicious to dogs. Some of the dogs will catch the treats in their mouths if you drop them in their mouths, which isn’t much of a trick, though that seems to be the only trick the dogs know. The dogs seemed pleased to be getting so many treats. Maybe if you came in the evening the dogs would be tired of the attention and would want to sleep; when we arrived, the dogs were still happy to exchange attention for treats.

Every once in a while a door opens and a new dog pops out to general applause.

A sign suggests that you can bring your dog here and they will wash it. I did not see anyone do that, and I suspect that if anyone did do that all the dogs would go crazy and start fighting. But that didn’t happen while we were there.

Here is the thing about dog cafés as opposed to cat cafés: they are very blatantly transactional. You give the dog a treat or attention and the dog pretends to like you. A cat café is more ambiguous.

It is hard to get good pictures at the House of Paws, mostly because it is a tiny space crammed full of dogs and people all trying to get pictures of the dogs. But I tried. Here a dog receives attention from several people:

Here Harriet attempts, with no success, to teach that same dog to do a trick:

Many people like dogs:

Harriet pets a dog and is petted by another dog which is being petted by another person:

Probably if Bangkok were destroyed, all of it could be rebuilt by the information in this photograph:

I don’t review dog cafés, so I don’t know how it does as a dog café. As a cat café, the House of Paws is an utter failure, as it contains no cats. Sorry.

Various Disasters

First, it turns out the Cara Meow Cat Café, the closest cat café to us – and as far as I know the only Italian-themed one in the greater Bangkok area – has closed. Who knows why! The space is empty. Presumably the cats were released to the wilds of Chan Road, which at least has a lot of fish soup restaurants. They’ll probably be okay?

Second, things in the aquarium are in a fairly savage state. Two of the three remaining fish have disappeared, and I have not seen Button in a while. Rosella is larger than ever; Serena looks to be about the same size. I went to the fish store and bought ten baht worth of glass shrimp; now there are probably about three baht worth of glass shrimp, which is still a fairly large number of glass shrimp.

We went back to Cambodia over the weekend, but things are too busy to write about that right now.

Boom Time in the Local Cat Café Scene

I don’t know what happened, but we went away for the summer and came back to discover that our neighborhood has become a paradise of cat cafés. Shortly before we left, a new place opened a few streets over with the overly generic name of The Animal Cafe; because of one thing or another, we didn’t end up visiting it until last weekend. It’s not very far! Probably twice the distance as current standby Cara Meow Cat Café, but that works out to be basically ten minutes in a tuk-tuk, and much closer than any other cat café we’d known about. Also! As the name suggests, this place is in the mold of Little Zoo (which, you may recall, is way off in Pak Kret, technically a different province of Thailand) and does not content itself with cats alone, declaring itself to be an “animal café”. It might be more accurate to call The Animal Cafe a slavish recreation of Little Zoo: it has the main attraction of that place, fennel foxes and two different kinds of owl. It does not have a meerkat, but when we were there the meerkat was asleep the whole time so it doesn’t really count.

However, The Animal Cafe manages to outdo Little Zoo by also having two caracals, a serval, and, finally, a racoon. Caracals and servals are African cats, about twice as big as a housecat; the serval looks like a mangy cheetah and caracals look like pumas with ear tufts. They are kept in a special enclosure; they are reasonably tame, but I would not be particularly surprised if visitors were bitten or clawed. The staff is very attentive (to the animals, at least) and is visibly attempting to domesticate them, but I have my doubts.

There are also a handful of regular cats (undistinguished) who live with a fennec fox, who seemed most interested in sleeping; some gerbils; some chinchillas; a fish tank full of tiny ruby shrimp (not for petting); a second fish tank with some axolotls; and also some hermit crabs. There’s a lot going on. Most of the clientele was there to see the non-housecats and the raccoon. The raccoon did not seem particularly pleased to be there, though everyone gave him a lot of snacks; periodically he escaped from his cage and the staff attempted to capture him while trying to dissuade visitors from helping, presumably for fear that somebody would get bit.

The Animal Cafe is fairly expensive: 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children just to get through the door, though that money can be applied to food and drink. Our food arrived; our drinks never did, though that was understandable as the staff was busy chasing the raccoon.

Here Harriet attempts to interest a run-of-the-mill cat:


Here Harriet continues to try to interest a run-of-the-mill cat; above her to the left a fennec fox sleeps, while above her to the left (and behind a wall) a caracal considers attacking the clientele:


Here is the sleeping fennec fox:


And here Harriet attempts to feed a runaway raccoon:


Walking back with the idea of going to Cara Meow Cat Café, the old standby, we made it a two cat-café day in an unexpected way by discovering the just opened Cat’s Melodic Hotel & Café, which is along Sathu Pradit road, probably about halfway between the Animal Café and Cara Meow. I will quote the English portion of their promotional material:

—Night!! Beer Thai, Lao, lots of import beer

***Third floor is a Cat hotel & first floor is Café and Bar (so don’t worry about sound disturb your cat ^^

This basically gets across everything you need to know about Cat’s Melodic Hotel & Café: the ground floor is a cat café with the notable idea of serving alcohol, and the third floor is a cat hotel where, I believe, cats can be boarded. Also they evidently have live music on the weekends which is why it is a melodic hotel & café? But this place is even newer than the Animal Café and we were the only visitors when we were there; there were no musicians, but there was rather more reggae than is usually the case at a cat café.

How are the cats? There are not that many of them, maybe six or seven of them? They are not particularly exotic-looking cats, and most of them seem to be related, though they are not as jaded as most cats who live in cat cafés are. You sit on the floor on pillows that are in the shape of cats’ faces (a nice touch) and the wooden tables are also shaped like cats. There is no doubt that you are in a cat café. They do serve beer, which is a nice touch; the proprietor explained to me that they were also a bar, though she said that their opening hours were from 7 to 7 so maybe they are more of an afternoon sort of bar with cats. No one had yet brought any cats to stay in the cat hotel upstairs, but she had high hopes. Here is a general photograph:


Maybe the best thing about this cat café are the descriptions of the cats. Many of the cat cafés have descriptions of the cats; often these are worry-inducing because the pictures of the cats on the wall don’t seem to match the cats in the café and what might have happened? Who knows. That is not a problem with the Cat’s Melodic Hotel & Café; they have six cats and six pictures of cats, and the pictures all match up with the cats. This is probably a function of 1) their having so few cats; and 2) their being new. Who knows what might happen in the future with all the cats coming in and out of the cat hotel. But for now you can enjoy their description of the complicated lives of their cats and the intimations of complicated neighborhood relations:


I Was Promised Raccoons

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:
  • horrifying beast without hair

  • A rolled-up sleeping beast, relatively soft, that later turned out to be a meerkat:
  • sleeping beasts

  • 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.

Yet Another Cat Café

Okay, enough nonsense about Burma, back to this blog’s core competency, which is cat cafés when it is not aquatic reptiles. Today we went to Caturday Cat Café. First we were going to go to the rabbit café, but it turned out that they have up and moved to Chiang Mai. The other cat cafés we hadn’t been to seemed like they were a long way from anything. So we decided on Caturday, which is right next to the Rachathewi BTS stop, making it Bangkok’s most easily accessible cat café.


This also means that it’s Bangkok’s most crowded cat café, at least on a Sunday afternoon. Cara Meow, down the street from us, is almost never crowded, which is mostly because it is in the basement of a mall where almost nothing else is open. Maybe Purrfect Cat Café or whatever that other place is called gets crowded, though it’s much bigger than the other two. Caturday is a little smaller than Cara Meow, too small even for chairs, and it is stuffed to the gills with people and cats. Or at least it is on a Sunday afternoon: there was a line out the door and a one-hour limit.

How does Caturday compare? It does have some splendid cats. However, it is so full of people that most of the cats are inaccessible, and I came away with the impression that the cats were probably better than Cara Meow and not quite as good as Purrfect. Also it is a no-pick-up cat café, which differs from Cara Meow, which is more of an anything goes cat café, where you can even bring your own cat. Caturday does have a pretty good cat habitat, though, all sorts of things for them to climb on and a cat terrarium (there is a technical name for this I’m sure but I don’t know it) made out of hollowed-out televisions which is pretty nice.


The food is a little fancier than at either of the other ones, but not that much fancier. Also if you are going to a car café for the food something is wrong with you.

Finally, it is maybe worth noting that one of the cats bit Kim. The parking lot outside did seem to be full of uncommonly friendly street cats, some with collars; possibly they have some kind of open door policy. But what an open door policy at a cat café gets you is bit. Let that be a lesson to all of us


Korean Cat Café Update

The more observant of you may have noticed that we are not actually in Bangkok anymore; for the past few days we have been in Seoul. Obviously once we arrived in Korea we planned to inspect their cat cafés, the Koreans having come up with the idea in the first place. So we went to Hongdae and promptly found a promising cat café (I don’t remember what it was called but it was opposite a makeup store) but! it turned out they had a no pre-schoolers policy which, they determined, applied to Harriet. We were sad but not that sad as evidently there are eighty thousand cat cafés in Hongdae, a number which does not include the sheep cafés. But: a Korean family who were also trying to go the cat café decided to take pity on us and suggested that they give us a ride to another cat café in Sinchon. So we did that, which was a little odd, but they did seem determined that we go to a cat café. We explained it was not that big a deal, we could just walk down Chan Road to our local cat café, but that meant nothing. So we got in their car and drove to Sinchon, which is an adjoining neighborhood. Yes, this seemed strange, but they did very much want Harriet to see some cats.

We arrived in Sinchon and went to the Sinchon cat café – which did seem grander than the last one – but they also had a no children policy, which they were not willing to relax. So we can at least report that Korean cat cafés are more selective than Thai ones. The Korean family was extremely apologetic that their plan to drive us to a new cat café had not worked out and they offered to drive us to another one, but we said no, it’s fine. But they were apologetic and took us out for yoghurt shaved-ice and then to see all the sights of Sinchon. The people of Seoul, it should be said, are extremely hospitable.

We spent most of the rest of that day watching a street dance troupe which enraptured Harriet; she got an offer to join, but that would have meant giving up her lucrative powdered milk modeling career in Bangkok. Also there are no pictures of any of this because I hurled my phone at the ground, making it unresponsive; however, a shop near the Nowon subway station fixed it for under $10, so we’re back in business, though you don’t get to see what it looks like to be thrown out of a Korean cat café, who is doubtless what you wanted to see.

Important Cat Café Update

It turns out that there is a brand new cat café right down the street from us, maybe a twenty minute walk. They are building an enormous and insane shopping complex (this is what they do in Bangkok) on Chan Road; it is still heavily under construction though they claimed it would open in December. The complex is named (in English) Vanilla Moon, and I cannot for the life of me imagine what that is meant to convey except perhaps a perfume ad.

But Vanilla Moon is not important. The only establishment in Vanilla Moon that is open is the cat café, which is named Cara Meow Cat Cafe. As you can tell from the name, it is Italian themed. It has a slogan, which is “All About ‘Meow'”. This makes slightly more sense than Vanilla Moon, so I won’t worry about it.

Since we are exciting people leading exciting lives, we went to visit Cara Meow on Saturday night. Well. The first thing about this cat café is that it’s in the basement, which maybe makes sense? The cats aren’t tempted by birds, as was the case at the other place. The second thing about this cat café is that it’s smaller and generally less splendid than the other cat café. It is extremely difficult to count up the number of cats they have at a cat café, but they seemed to have about a dozen, maybe half what they have at the other place. Also less cat paraphernalia but who cares about that.

What matters, of course, is the quality of the cats. The cats here are considerably less fluffy than the cats at the other place, being as they are mostly of the short-haired persuasion. Some are of the variety that have stubby ears. I was not sure about the pedigrees of the cats but I was assured they were very fancy indeed. I am not an expert. These cats did generally seem smaller. They were also a bit more skittish: probably because being cats at a cat café is new to them and it takes time to grow into the position. Harriet seemed reasonably pleased with them. There were not threats of thousand-baht fines for picking the cats up, which made me worry less.

The distinguishing feature of this cat café would appear to be that it allows you to bring your own cats. Wikipedia has nothing to say about this, but I expect if someone were to subscribe us to Cat Fancy we would learn that all the up and coming cat cafés are doing this. Some people brought in a pair of astonishing beasts. One was a gray long-haired cat who had been given a lion cut with a fluffy tail – I’m sure there’s a technical name for this haircut but I am not a cat groomer so I don’t know – and the other was white and with a roughly similar haircut, though it was wearing a Christmas sweater and may in fact have been a ferret. They appeared to get along with the other cats. I was not quite sure of the ethics of taking pictures of someone else’s cat in a cat café but here is a picture of one of them:


The cat in the foreground is one of the regular cats. And here is a picture of the rest of the cat café:


Also they serve Italian food because it is an Italian cat café. Harriet was extremely pleased with her spaghetti carbonara, which the cats did not appear to be interested in.

Tuesday at the Cat Café

Oi, our nanny, is upcountry on business, which means that I am once again in charge of Harriet’s entertainment during the day. After running some errands, we went off to visit the Purr Cat Cafe Club, which is exactly what the name suggests, a café full of cats. I had assumed that cat cafés were a Japanese invention, but Wikipedia insists they are Taiwanese and goes on to theorize that they are forms of pet rental, which is illegal in Boston. This is not actually the case at the Purr Cat Cafe Club, as they don’t charge you anything to go in, though you are expected to buy drinks. It was maybe not so much a café as their coffee machine is broken but this is a quibble and honestly no one goes to a cat café for the coffee. Wikipedia also claims that cat cafés are heavily licensed, which seems unlikely in Bangkok, where anyone could presumably charge admission to a houseful of cats (and fireworks, if so desired) as long as you were paying off the police.

Harriet is of the opinion that it is one of the finest establishments in Bangkok and is aggrieved that we have not been visiting regularly since we’ve arrived. We can make up for lost time, I guess. The café has a large number of cats, twenty or so, which are reasonably friendly and more fluffy than is usual for cats. I suspect they were not found on the street, though it is interesting to imagine what kind of a Bangkok cat café could be staffed that way. There is the difficult rule that the cats may not be picked up, which is always Harriet’s first impulse; but she did an admirable job of restraining herself and we were not thrown out. Here are a bunch of pictures.