Follow us into the cute and fluffy world of Hanoi’s cat cafes.
How many pet cats are there in Hanoi? While this is a seldomly asked question, it’s interesting to know that there is an entire “ecosystem” for cats in this city, including cat cafes. The number of cat cafes has grown to dozens, proving that cats are worthy of th
A SLEEPY CAT IN MY ARMS
Hanoi has approximately 460,000 pet dogs and cats, with cats accounting for approximately 40% of the total. Cats are second only to dogs in popularity in urban areas, with nearly 200,000 individual felines. They are an ideal choice for households living in small apartments or townhouses. The popularity of these small pets is growing every year for various reasons, including the shrinking household size and increasing stress of city living. A pet cat serves as a friend to cuddle and play with after work or school, and is even an honorary family member. Like their owners who must live in enclosed spaces, cats must find places to play and interact with other animals. As a result, cat cafes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people.
In addition to amenities such as veterinary hospitals, pet food and toy stores, grooming spas, and beauty salons, pet cafes are places where owners can relax with their pets. Since cats do not easily interact with other species, most cat cafes are more “selective” than other pet cafes that accept dogs or birds with their owners. At first, cat cafes were established to support stores that sold cat food, supplies, and toys. They have since evolved into an important amenity. The Lizzy House Cat Café is one such establishment, located at 160 Trung Phung, Dong Da, in a simple attic above a cat shop on a newly expanded street leading from a small alley. The majority of the cats here are British Shorthairs. The shop’s owner, a young man, stated that he opened this venue for personal reasons rather than profit. O Meo (translated: Cat Nest) Tea House at no.3, 52 Giang Vo alley, Dong Da, on the other hand, is quite busy, with a play area for cats to cavort and space for young people to relax and study. There are even signs instructing guests how to play with the cats that read: “Treat cats with care.” Young people playing with cats evoke images from contemporary romantic poetry, “And please smile again, my dearie/Dreary as a sick mutt you are not/Nor a sleepy cat in my arms” (Nga – Nguyen Sa). I wonder if couples are predisposed to express their affection indirectly via cats.
The ancient Egyptians were well-known for their worship of animals, including cats. Thus, the Sphinx (a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion), a symbol from this ancient civilization, was used to name a mutant cat breed that appeared in the 1960s: the Sphynx. In Hanoi’s cat cafes, they are known as hairless Egyptian cats and are among the most expensive breed. Sphynxes are uncommon in cat cafes, but feline aficionados can interact with them at Geisha Cat (23 Nguyen Hoang Ton, Tay Ho), an eye-catching cat cafe in the new West Lake neighborhood. As the name implies, the café’s style is profoundly Japanese, including a cobbled garden where guests can relax. Siamese, Ragdoll, and Persian cats are also popular thanks to their striking appearance. The cats are called “geisha” to evoke images of feudal Japanese performers serving wealthy patrons; however, customers at the cafe must instead pamper these “cat geisha.” The most basic and straightforward method is to stroke them correctly.
Other cat cafes, such as Bastet’s Home (34 Trung Nhi, Ha Dong), are notable for their high density of different breeds of cats. Meanwhile, Meo’s House Coffee (Alley 33, Chua Lang Street, Dong Da, and Alley 104, Le Thanh Nghi Street, Hai Ba Trung) caters to students from large universities, as well as neighboring high schools. Visitors can bring their cats here to socialize with and develop new relationships with other “servants” of their “cat bosses.” Cats and cafes are two aspects that add to the city’s stories. Combining these two factors creates an interesting side of Hanoi, like the lyrics of a lovely song, “Does the street know of aimless love as if a gentle cat nibbles my hand” (Goc pho diu dang (translation: Tender Street Corner) – Tran Minh Phi). Are the young people talking about cats, or are they using cats to talk about love?
Cat cafes, after all, are rendezvous points for people who own cats or enjoy playing with these perplexing animals. Although these soft-haired creatures have been around since ancient times, their mystery is what draws young people to keep and love them. While their role as mouse catchers is now less prominent, the meows of these amusing animals connect us to the natural world. Cat cafes are places where we can broaden our ability to communicate with the world and touch things that force us to calm down and slow down.
Mèo và quán cà phê là hai thực thể làm nên những câu chuyện trong thành phố. Hai thứ kết hợp với nhau ấy tạo ra một khía cạnh thú vị nho nhỏ cho Hà Nội, như lời một bài hát dễ thương đã kể: “Phố có biết câu chuyện yêu vu vơ, như thể con mèo dịu hiền thường hay cắn đôi tay tôi” (Góc phố dịu dàng – Trần Minh Phi). Nói về mèo ư? Thực ra các bạn trẻ đang nói chuyện với nhau, và có chuyện gì của tuổi trẻ ngoài chuyện tình yêu?
Cuyện gì của tuổi trẻ ngoài chuyện tình yêu? Xét cho cùng, cà phê mèo là nơi gặp gỡ của những người nuôi mèo hoặc thích chơi với loài vật vẫn bị xem là khó hiểu với con người này. Sự bí ẩn của loài vật có bộ lông mềm mại này dù đã có mặt trong đời sống nhân loại từ xa xưa lại chính là thứ có thể quyến rũ các bạn trẻ nuôi và yêu chúng. Vai trò của việc bắt chuột như trước đây có thể không còn rõ nét, nhưng tiếng “meo meo” của những con vật ngộ nghĩnh đem lại cảm giác về sự gắn kết của chúng ta với thế giới tự nhiên. Các quán cà phê mèo chính là nơi ta có thể mở rộng khả năng giao tiếp với thế giới ấy, những thứ mà phải tĩnh tâm, sống chậm lại một chút mới có thể chạm vào được.