Two Men and 60 Paws
As I walked into Galleria 2000 in Salmiya, Kuwait, I wondered which floor the cat cafe – Gatwa W Gahwa – would be on, as I slowly realized I had forgotten to check. While reaching to take my phone out to send a message to the owners, I looked over the railings and something downstairs caught my eye. I did a double take, wondering, “Did I just see a cat clock?"
I looked back and it turned out my eyes hadn’t failed me. There was an orange and black cat clock on the wall, and right next to it was a giant “MEOW” sculpture. I put my phone back because I knew exactly where I was headed.
Walking up to the glass door, my eyes scanned the inside of the room and I immediately began counting the cats, jumping up and down in excitement – on the inside, of course. My eyes landed on the couch where a young man, Abdulrahman Al-Houti, was sat next to an orange and white tabby cat, who was nestled quite comfortably, it appeared, and fast asleep.
Abdulrahman, 29, together with the co-owner of the cat cafe, Fahad Al-Refaei, also 29, recently opened up Gatwa W Gahwa after sitting on the idea for a very long time.
The infatuation with cats began about five years ago when Abdulrahman found a stray kitten that had been hit by a car near a shopping mall. He asked the security guard how long the cat had been there, to which the guard replied, “Around eight hours.” Abdulrahman was confused as to how this kitten had been lying there for eight hours and no one had done anything, so he took matters into his own hands. It was ironic because Abdulrahman was terrified of cats before this incident.
After visiting Japan and several of its cat cafes, the pair finally came across one they loved. “We were a little overwhelmed, it was like 10 cats on top of you,” Abdulrahman said. “It was a nice feeling and I said, ‘This is an experience we can do.’”
What really drove them to make it happen was the idea that it could be more than just a cat cafe. “To me, what pushed me, was the fact that we could work with a shelter,” Abdulrahman said. “If we could provide these cats a home, it won’t feel like a job anymore. It feels like something more than that.”
Before starting the business, they had to find out how they could legally open a cat cafe in Kuwait, as licensing and regulations are known to be tricky. According to Fahad, the first step was a mess and entailed Abdulrahman going from place to place for four months, asking what they needed to do.
Unfortunately, the government entities didn’t understand the concept and would not even give it a chance, so Fahad decided to work around it. They opened two businesses side by side – a cafe and a pet store – put a glass barrier in between, and voila! A cat cafe.
Although the two areas will be separate, the cafe will be cat themed, with cat mugs and cakes, as well as framed pictures of the cats, so the experience of a cat cafe remains.
Through their agreement with Ks Path – an animal shelter in Wafra – they agreed to always have a supervisor watching over the cats, making sure guests follow the rules. The rules are simple: don’t feed the cats human food, don’t pull their tails, don’t wake them up if they’re asleep, don’t carry the cats, no loud noises, and don’t rub the cat’s belly unless you want to be attacked.
They are also taking the adoption process seriously and will always ensure the person is more than 100 percent sure they’re capable of taking home a cat before allowing them to. They would rather a cat stays at the cafe than goes to a temporary home only to be returned after a year. Oftentimes, they’ve noticed, people see cats as products, forgetting they are living, breathing creatures.
They came across one person who walked by, saw one of the cats, and simply said, “I want this cat, give it to me. I want it now.” They said no, naturally, as the person only wanted it because she or he had a similar looking cat at home.
After hearing him tell me that he doesn’t see them as cats because they’re like his children, I asked if he worries he will get too attached and he admitted he’s already attached, while Fahad confessed that Abdulrahman has three favorites already.
“I don’t see a difference between a human and an animal,” Abdulrahman said. “Both have souls, that’s it. So the amount of respect you give to a human, I expect the same towards the animal.”
For more information visit their website: www.catcafeq8.com.
A shorter version of this article appeared in our print Issue 28 #Surge. To order it click here.