Usually, when writing about a coffee shop, we start off by describing the look of a place, we give a short round up of the menu, hash out the vegan and lactose-free options, and, well, talk about the coffee. But not this time. This one is all about the cats.
Summer and Jon opened Café Venosa ten months ago, and it has been all about the cats ever since. Summer, who used to work at the SPCA, always knew she “wanted to help animals, rescue animals.” Inspired by this work and cat cafés in Europe and Japan, the couple saw an opportunity to help reduce the overpopulation in shelters, and to give neglected rescues a chance in the adoption process.
Now, Café Venosa is usually home to eight to ten cats at a time. Tarquin, Nishka, Buzby, and co were all adopted from Montreal shelters where Summer and Jon “always try to find the oldest cats, the cats that are black, or the cats in care.” In other words, the cats that are least likely to be picked up for adoption at a shelter.
“You can’t judge an animal’s personality based on how they act in a shelter,” says Summer. In her long experience in socializing rescued animals, she finds that cats that seemed unsocial or even aggressive at first, “ended up being some of the friendliest and most appreciative cats.”
At the café, the cats can roam freely (with exception of the kitchen), interact with guests, or enjoy some privacy in a secluded back room and on their very own outside patio. “The nicest thing here is that people can experience the cats’ actual personalities,” says Jon.
And while the patrons get to know the animals, Summer, the adoption counsellor, has a very close look at hopeful pet parents. “Summer’s test is pretty rigorous,” laughs Jon, and for a good reason. Summer knows, “these cats have been traumatized already once, if not more, and that’s enough. They don’t need it ever again.”
Equipped with her questionnaire, Summer assesses the applicant’s way of life, personality, home situation, and, most of all, their willingness to be in it for the long run: “People don’t seem to understand that it is 20 to 25 years of this animal’s life that they are looking after.” Summer and Jon continue to keep tabs on all of the adopters, providing information and help, whenever needed.
This process is essential and allows them to go beyond what shelters can do. And their system works: Over the last ten months, 19 cats have found new and loving homes. At Café Venosa, guests fall in love with cats that are usually overlooked at a shelter.
If you are not looking to adopt, Café Venosa on St Denis Street is a great place to hang out with your friends and to enjoy some downtime with Tarquin and co. The all-vegan eco-café also hosts events and local art exhibits. Even more importantly, it serves some of the mightiest vegan pizzas in town! Just a little tip though, always keep an eye on your straws.
4433 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC H2J 2L2
Featured image by Chantal Levesque. Photos by Chantal Levesque and Isabella Luna Gadbois.