I love cats. I mean what’s not to love. The animal that is the coolest and knows it’s the coolest. The animal that receives our love and affection only on its own time and gets away with it. Mankind, master of the natural world, but still asking nicely if you can stroke the kitty under its chin. But, as many of you will know, I’m a travelling English teacher. It’s basically like being a gypsy with coursebooks. It doesn’t lend itself well to cat owning (or belonging to a cat, I suppose).
As it happens, my love of Lisbon, life in Portugal, my job, and meeting the love of my life here means I suspect I will indeed have my own cat before too long. But until now, it’s been almost unfathomable. So how then, does one get over this ‘cat saudade,’ save for hassling your only 2 sets of friends who actually have cats in the city? Aqui há gato! might just be the answer.
Situated on the monstrous hill leading up from Santos into Estrela, on Calcada de Estrela, Aqui Há Gato is a cat café. Not too dissimilar to the ones you might have seen on TV from Japan, the concept is frightfully simple. There’s a café where you can go in and do café things, like drink coffee or tea, read a book, buy and eat a sandwich or a cake, but with one crucial difference: half of the café, sectioned off behind doors, is inhabited by a small colony of cats.
When you go in, you’re asked if you’d like to go in and see the cats. If you would, you pay a 3 euro entry fee, which grants you one hour of cat loving time and a free beverage, be it coffee, tea, water, ice tea or whatever. On coming out of the little cat sanctuary, should you decide to stay and have a bit of cake, or lunch, if you spend over 5 euros on food and drinks, your cat visit is free. With my not having too much time, I just took a bottle of water and headed in to the cat zone. The first thing I saw did nothing to deter me from exploring as I encountered this dozing ginger beauty:
After giving the sleeping kitty a little fuss, which generated not so much as a flinch from its sleeping form, I decided to have a good look around. You can see immediately that they invest in the place. The cats wants for nothing, with toys, water fountains maintaining a cat friendly level of humidity in the room, as well as drinking water, tunnels, platforms, hiding holes and a little private area, off-limits to human visitors, in case of the cats taking a disliking to an individual or kids getting a bit too grabby. The cats are in luxury cat heaven. The space is also set up as a library. There are a number of books in there, but I found myself too distracted to pay much attention to it.
Perchnig on the sofa opposite the cat scratching/sleeping posts, I met up with this little guy and basically fell in love, so much so that I hardly noticed when my friend arrived to join me, a bit later.
We spent close to our full hour in there, stroking and playing with the cats with some of their toys when they became more energetic. It was a lovely experience. The best thing of all though was, on the way out, discovering that all the cats in the cat café are rescue cats from the shelter and, as well as those there in the café, you can also browse the catalogue of cats which are currently up for adoption. I think I’ve found where I’ll be picking up my cat from!