With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Cambodians are scrambling to buy flowers and heart-shaped chocolate boxes for their loved ones.
For those wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day by doing something slightly different, Ministry of Cat, Phnom Penh’s only rescue cat cafe, is holding a special adoption event from February 14-16.
Ministry of Cat is the passion project of Australian national Georgia Murphy and Spaniard Adolfo Perez-Gascon’.
“What better way to mark the ‘holiday of love’ than by bringing a new family member into your home?” asks Perez-Gascon.
Guests will be able to meet and play with adorable cats that are up for adoption. These are former stray cats that have been rescued from the streets of Phnom Penh and rehabilitated by Ministry of Cat’s partner organisation Animal Rescue Cambodia (ARC).
“With this event, we aim to find a permanent home for some of our cafe’s adorable residents. If you are looking for a furry companion to give you endless love and cuddles, don’t miss this event!” says Perez-Gascon.
There is no fee to adopt but donations are encouraged and will be shared with ARC.
To make this three-day event even more special, Ministry of Cat is offering high tea with plenty of scrumptious sweets and savoury snacks. The regular menu – full of vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine – will be available as usual.
Adopt, don’t shop
Ministry of Cat’s mission is to promote the adoption of former street cats. They want to find homes for as many homeless animals as possible.
To do this, they work in partnership with ARC, which rescues and treats the cats that you meet at the cafe. ARC’s work rescuing, de-sexing, vaccinating and nursing street animals back to health is making a huge difference in the community.
“We couldn’t be more proud to work with them,” says Perez-Gascon.
So, why adopt instead of buying your pet at a store?
“First, think about your community – your streets. How many stray cats do you see roaming around every day? Probably a lot. Phnom Penh has a huge homeless cat population,” says Perez-Gascon.
Thousands of cats are immersed in a daily struggle for survival on our streets. Many die every day because they cannot find food or water, are hit by vehicles or killed by humans to be sold for their meat.
If you adopt from Ministry of Cat or any other rescue organisation or shelter, you are giving these animals an opportunity to have a good life.
Not only that, but you are freeing up invaluable space at these shelters so that they can welcome new animals. When you adopt from a shelter, you are supporting their relentless effort to improve the lives of these animals.
The alternative to adopting is to shop at a pet store, says Perez-Gascon.
“But did you know that a lot of the animals at pet stores come from mills?” Perez-Gascon asks, explaining that puppy or kitten mills are purely profit-based entities that aim to breed as many animals as quickly and cheaply as possible.
“Of course, these can only be achieved if the animal’s emotional needs are completely ignored,” says Perez-Gascon.
Kittens or puppies at mills have little to no contact with humans, as the owners aim to cut costs as much as possible with minimal staff. The animals are crammed in small spaces, often trapped in cages with wire flooring that hurts their paws. They are fed only the cheapest food.
Moreover, farmers at these mills breed the cats repeatedly, even up to the age of 10, which is very old for a cat. Once the animal is no longer able to reproduce, she is sacrificed or sold inexpensively.
What is a cat cafe?
Originating in Taiwan in the 1990s, the cat cafe concept was first fully embraced by Japan, eventually conquering most of East Asia. Now, cat cafes can be found around the world, from the cobbled streets of Europe to the busy roads in Asia.
Cat cafes are places where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the company of a cat. For many, petting or simply being in the company of a cat is a deeply soothing experience.
Many people go to cat cafes because they love cats, but cannot have one at home. Cat cafes are very popular in Asia and are quickly getting a foothold in Europe and North America.
Ministry of Cat: Their story
Ministry of Cat is different from most cat cafes. In most, you will find only purebreds which are often imported. At Ministry of Cat, all their residents are Cambodian cats that have been rescued from the streets of Phnom Penh and rehabilitated. Their mission is to find them a permanent home.
To be sustainable, Ministry of Cat taps on multiple streams of revenue. On top of offering drinks and food, they also sell cat supplies like cat toys, collars and carriers. Ministry of Cat has recently opened a space for cat boarding, so if people go on holidays they can leave their cats with them.
Although Ministry of Cat opened last year, the idea for this social business was conceived more than 10 years ago.
“I didn’t just want to start a regular cat cafe. I wanted a cat cafe where all the residents are former street cats that can be adopted.
“I wanted to do this for a long time, but never did it because I was concerned about it not being financially sustainable,” Perez-Gascon says, explaining that everything changed about two years ago.
During a trip to Bali, he stumbled upon a cat cafe that was just what he had in mind for his own. The name of this cafe was The Odd Cat Bali, started by French national Julie Le Saux.
“I went into The Odd Cat and loved it. It was beautiful and clean, and all the cats seemed very happy.
“After talking to the owner, my fears about sustainability were abated. I realised: ‘Someone has done this already, so it can be done.’ I went back to Phnom Penh and, together with Georgia, got to work,” he says.
Today, Ministry of Cat is not just a thriving business, but one that is indeed the owners’ passion project. Most importantly, it provides lots of joy to those who visit, and the hope of adoption to its furry residents.