LIFE&STYLE

[Weekender] Special cafe for rescued cats offers chance for adoption

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : Aug 4, 2017 - 15:09
  • Updated : Aug 4, 2017 - 17:04
As the number of cat owners in South Korea goes up, so does the number of abandoned cats. Some 250,000 cats were abandoned or lost in 2016, according to the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency. Only 30 percent of them were adopted by new owners.

The reason for the low adoption rate is the persistent prejudice against abandoned cats. People assume that rescued cats were abandoned for negative reasons, such as mental or physical issues. 

Earth Cat Cafe, located near Ewha Womans University in Seoul, houses 33 rescued cats and provides visitors with a chance to adopt a feline companion. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

“I want to break the prejudice that many have against abandoned cats,” said Cho Ah-yeon, 39, who opened Earth Cat Cafe to take care of rescued cats and also raise awareness about the often neglected responsibility that goes with the adoption of a cat.

Earth Cat Cafe, located near Ewha Womans University, offers a unique experience to those looking for furry companions.

Kim Jung-hee, a 48-year-old mother, was looking for a new feline family member at the cafe. “I am here to see which kitten to adopt,” Kim said. “I will meet it two to three times and see how we get along with each other.”

At the cafe, visitors can spend time with cats while having drinks. On the surface, it’s a typical cat cafe. There are around 100 cat cafes in Seoul that allow people to enjoy feline companionship. But Earth Cat Cafe is different because patrons can adopt cats there. It is one of two such special cafes set up for the adoption of rescued cats.

Cho, who runs Earth Cat Cafe, used to care for stray cats at home, offering adoptions online. However, there were limitations, so she opened the cafe four years ago to provide a venue where people can easily meet cats and perhaps consider adoption.

Her efforts have been paying off. The adoption rate has tripled compared to the period when she arranged such opportunities online. In addition, customers tend to recognize the gravity of the problem involving rescued cats.

Han Do-kyung, a 22-year-old student, said the cafe helped her to consider adopting a rescued cat. “I happened to drop by the cafe one day and I realized that so many cats were being abandoned,” Han said.

Adoption is selectively granted under strict guidelines. Only 2 in 10 patrons finally bring their new companions home after going through a screening process that includes multiple interviews to identity their level of commitment, capability and willingness.

“I am not in a hurry to send away the cats. Animal shelters tend to increase the number of adoptions because the only other option is euthanasia,” Cho said. “This is resulting in the increase of irresponsible cat owners. We cannot have our formerly abandoned cats getting abandoned yet again.”

All profits from the cafe are spent on veterinarian bills or buying necessary items for the rescued cats. Any shortfall is covered by the income from another store that Cho runs.

Earth Cat Cafe is also a place where cat lovers can just have a cup of coffee or tea at a price of 7,000 ($6.3) won and play with 33 adorable cats.

“Even though I am a cat person, I am not so sure about adoption. I am not financially able to care for a cat,” said Kim Young-jin, a 27-year-old student who is a regular at the cafe. “So I just come here. Now that I visit often, the cats recognize and greet me.”

All drinks at the cafe are served in a cups with special lids, as cats wander all over the cafe. Visitors are required to take their shoes off and wear slippers to maintain a clean environment for the cats.

“When we first opened the cafe, all the cats were uncomfortable with humans, since they had bad memories of them,” Cho said. “Now, they know that people love them. They approach visitors and ask to be caressed. They like people.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)