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The secret lives in pet cafés 

August 29, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

When one man’s passion for his pets turns into a business venture, he makes sure that his “employees” are treated with care.

That’s why television show creator and co‑director Don Michael Perez brought Bengal Brew Cat Café to life at Manhattan Parkview in Araneta Center, a stone’s throw away from Cubao’s busiest malls and entertainment centers, and a convenient location for someone who has to be at a TV network’s studio for most of the day. An ample place for his Bengal cats to roam and be pampered by café guests, this was eventually followed up by Wolf & Bear Dog Café next door for his large dog breeds.

“I have too many pets,” Mr. Perez said during an interview with SparkUp in the middle of Bengal Brew, where his cats would casually walk past and rub against their master. We tried holding the interview at Wolf & Bear at first, but the dogs were more excited by the visit of their beloved owner. “Before my pets were either in our home in Antipolo or in our home in Batangas. I needed a place to go where I can visit them at once and it just happened to be that there was a pet café explosion two years ago.” That was when he decided to put up a cat café, which was inspired by his trips to similar establishments in Japan, knowing that the market was finally ready for it.

Initially a dog person, particularly of large breeds like the Alaskan Malamutes and sheepdogs that can be visited in Wolf & Bear, Mr. Perez eventually change alliances because of Bengal cats. The large domestic cat breed still has a lot in common with its wild ancestors, from its leopard-like fur to its sleek physique. Bengals are a highly intelligent breed that needs to keep active, and they have no shortage of places to roam in the café, which has walkways on the ceiling for them to climb and rest if they get too tired of socializing with café guests. Still, they’re not anti‑social. Dealing with them can be an exercise in patience, experience has taught this reporter that they’re more likely to come to you if you don’t chase after them, and then you’ll end up with a cat massage followed by hours of having a cat on your lap who doesn’t seem to want to leave any time soon. The cats in the café are named after royalty, such as Amir (Arabic/Hebrew for “prince”), Rasheed (Arabic for “counsellor”) and Hari (Filipino for “king”). They also have two Serval cats, a breed of African wildcat, named Lucas and Gabriel who grew up with the Bengals and have taken a Bengal kitten under their wing, letting it curl up in its bed with them and letting it follow them around the café like its one of them. (Interestingly enough, servals can breed with Bengals despite the size difference, which leads to the Savannah cat breed.)

#serval #bengal #f1 #wild #love via ripl.com

Posted by Bengal Brew / Wolf & Bear on Friday, June 2, 2017

“A visit to Bengal Brew is like taking a walk in the wild side. It’s like interacting with wild cats that you can pet,” Mr. Perez said with pride. On the other hand, Wolf & Bear has the exact opposite theme as the warm atmosphere of Bengal Brew. “A visit to Wolf & Bear is like a visit to the Arctic,” he added. “This is where you can interact with dogs that you can’t find in the streets of the Philippines.”

He joked that at least with the dog café, the dogs can at least help in paying for the electric bills that are definitely high when air conditioning is a must with their thick fur. “As far as dogs I really like arctic dogs like Alaskan Malamutes, huskies and Akita, dogs that you’d be foolish to keep in this country,” Mr. Perez said. “They’re cold weather dogs and because I’m a foolish hobbyist I’ve been keeping them in a place where you never turn off the air conditioning. At least now with the dog café I have help with paying the electric bills.” Initially he didn’t have small dogs in the pet café, but because smaller dogs are what customers are looking for he added dogs such as a teacup Pomeranian that loves getting picked up and will use you as leverage to pick fights against the other dogs, a frisky greyhound with surprising jump power, a lazy Pekinese that loves sleeping on laps, and a very excitable black poodle pup. The smaller dogs are on the second floor while the large dogs are on the first floor. The wolf‑like breeds, which can get territorial by nature, get their own respective pens until it’s time to take them out for a walk. (You might have seen them if you’re drinking outside Today x Future after midnight.) Or you can chill with the bear‑like breeds like the Newfoundlands, the St. Bernard and the sheepdog, in a more contemporary café‑like space, also in the first floor.

With that said, how does he keep his pets healthy? When cats and dogs need at least 16 hours of sleep a day, and with most of the serious pet care happening after store hours, it’s easy to judge that the sometimes unresponsive and lethargic nature of the pets, and their size compared to their location, means that they’re unhealthy. Mr. Perez stresses that they’re not and that they take great care in taking of them. “We have a resident vet that makes weekly visits, and I have strict orders to my stay‑in staff that I be alerted for any sign that something might be wrong with my pets,” the lifelong pet hobbyist explained. “We’re open eight hours a day, while the rest of the time is dedicated to grooming, feeding, and pet care.” For food, Mr. Perez is an advocate of natural raw food diet, so the cats (which are obligate carnivores) are on an all meat diet while the dogs are on a mostly meat, grain‑free diet and occasionally get root crops and saba banana as treats.

Wolf & Bear VACATION VIDEO featuring our Alaskan Malamutes & Siberian Husky 🐕

Posted by Bengal Brew / Wolf & Bear on Saturday, April 15, 2017

As for space concerns, Mr. Perez believes that its more important that the dogs get exercise. “The theory is that it’s not really the amount of space that you’re willing to provide that’s important, but the amount of exercise that they get. If you go to Alaska, these dogs spend most of the year hibernating and are kept in small kennels until summer, when it’s time for them to pull sleds.” And it’s not like the dogs are kept in the café all their lives. “I have a farm in Batangas where I keep the Alaskan malamutes, they’re rotated seasonally or when we feel that some of them become agitated in the café.” (His favorite dog is also in Batangas but I was told not to say who, in case the other dogs get jealous.)

He also urged café patrons to observe basic ground rules in the café, which are listed in a waiver that you have to sign every time you visit. This includes wearing café‑provided slippers instead of shoes to prevent the spread of disease, washing your hands before and after visiting the café, and his number one rule: “Let the pets come to you, don’t force contact with the pets.”

“Cats and dogs need 16 hours of sleep a day, and they’re nocturnal,” he explained. “That’s why sometimes when you enter the café they’re just sleeping.” It some café visitors do not let sleeping cats and dogs lie, waking them up in hopes of getting that perfect pet selfie, which is why the café felt the need to stress that pets, just like people, also need personal space.

BEYOND THE SELFIE Pets are just like us They have good and bad days To earn their trust Respect their own space How would you feel if a stranger grabbed you? Get to know them Let them get to know you Enjoy their company... beyond the SELFIE. DMP

Posted by Bengal Brew / Wolf & Bear on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“I opened this place for people who really love pets and who are willing to spend time with them, and not for people to take selfies,” Mr. Perez said. “I hope that within the year or maybe next year I’ll get to open a branch outside the city where the pets can get a lot of space. Then you can get to run and frolic with the dogs and the cats can get more sunlight and fresh air.”