This is an impromptu review resulting from an impromptu trip to Purrfect Cat Café , Lebuh Muntri, George Town, Penang. I made the spontaneous decision to download the KindMeal voucher only upon touching down at the Bayan Lepas International Airport for a business day trip. I shall henceforth stifle the temptation to write a review that reads entirely like this: "Meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow. Meow meow."
I had only a couple of hours to spare before my flight back to KL, but I knew Lebuh Muntri to be within walking distance from where I had just attended a meeting. There is always so much to see in George Town, and every street is filled with delightful gems like these to be spotted by the observant:
In retrospect, it would seem odd that I would pay to visit a cat café. Every mealtime in my home is a veritable cat café experience -- laps occupied and kneaded while you wait, small whiskered faces investigating the contents of every plate and mug. But I am a Crazy Cat Lady, and I do Crazy Cat Lady-ish things.
It didn't take me long to find the café, housed in a heritage shophouse painted white. It was, I read, officially opened for business in January 2014 and has even received a visit from the Honourable Chief Minister of Penang, who I admire greatly and had not realised was a cat person. But then again, all great people are cat-and-dog persons. Dictators like only dogs because they hope to be worshipped and obeyed unconditionally. Introverts, recluses and existential poets like only cats because the gregarious nature of puppies and dogs scares them. But truly great people love cats, dogs and all animals and embrace the diversity of appearance and personality of all animals (* This is a tongue-in-cheek assessment, mind, so please don't start accusing me of sweeping generalisations and bullshit pop psychology. On the other hand, you can start offering me vast sums of money to write absolute rubbish for Popsugar and Elite Daily).
Cakes and other goodies gleamed invitingly from illuminated glass dessert display cabinets. Bold hipsterish typography announced "Purrfect" and "Meow". Cat-themed artwork and vignettes adorned shelves and walls. I purred and squinted my eyes in appreciation.
As you can see, this place is an Instagrammer’s dream. Guests also get to leave their mark – not by way of rubbing their cheek pheromones all over the furniture, fortunately – but by leaving messages on neon post-it notes on a cat-shaped cutout on the wall. I declined to do this in the interest of conserving resources and trees. A blogpost would suffice.
I informed the affable, bright-eyed young staff that I would like to redeem my KindMeal voucher and they offered me a selection of sweets and savouries to choose from. The cakes look delectable, but as I am making my best effort to go fully vegan, I had to forgo the cakes and opt for air-fried fries and a fruit soda instead.
A variety of cakes, most of them bearing an edible Hello Kitty cutout on each slice, were available as part of the KindMeal deal. I don't know if it is just me, but I find it hard to reconcile a love for Hello Kitty with a love of real cats. People love Hello Kitty because she is cute, feminine, subservient and anthropomorphised. She is like an inoffensive puff of marshmallow with cat ears and a ribbon, and therefore presents no threat to human dominance. Heck, she doesn't even have a mouth to argue out of. Real-life cats, on the other hand, have strong, clever personalities and will let you know very clearly and audibly if they are displeased about something. Real-life cats would shred ribbons and aprons and pretty clothes to confetti. Real-life cats make badassery an art form. And that is why I love them. But I digress. As I am wont to do.
The original price of the drink+snack set is in the range of RM19.00, and with the Kindmeal 10% discount voucher, the price is discounted to RM17.70. I was informed of the very reasonable House Rules ("No picking up cats, no feeding human food to cats, no food and drink in the cat area, no taking cats out of the cat area, no flash photography, no harassment of cats, no unkind behaviour") and then guided upstairs to the dining and cat area.
My food arrived soon after. There isn't much I have to say about it. Fries are fries. I usually call them 'chips' but this confuses many people who call 'crisps' chips, so fries they will have to be for this review. These fries were air-fried and therefore crispy and not greasy. There was a lot of it, heaped into an attractive bowl. Ketchup was served to me in a fish-shaped ramekin, which amused and delighted me. It was a nice touch. My passionfruit soda consisted of a flavoured syrup topped up with soda water. Italian soda, yum! Very refreshing and not overly sweet.
However, everyone knows that you don't go to a cat café for the food, or to talk about whether it was value-for-money to pay RM17.70 for fries and a soda. You are paying not merely for the food or the experience, but also for the cost of maintaining the hygiene, health, safety and comfort standards required of operating a cat café. You are essentially chipping in for the cats' food, vet and grooming bills, and paying for someone to clean the cat litter regularly and keep an air ioniser and purifier running so that you won’t end up eating Pommes Frites à la Cat Poo.
To complain about paying more for a cat café experience would be like going to Carcosa Seri Negara or Majestic Hotel for afternoon tea and then moaning that you could get better kuih at Mak Jah Corner for RM3.
I munched persistently through my heap of fries, while staring wistfully at the dozing cats in the cat area, like a child who had been told that she couldn’t go out to play until she has cleared her plate. Still, even the dining area is very tastefully decorated, with low coffee tables and floor-level seating, and cat face-themed cushions in an orderly row. The cat-shaped placard holders and other cat-themed artwork added to the charm and whimsy of this café.
Once I had finished my tea and washed my hands, it was time to enter the cat area and play with the ten resident cats. They seemed very relaxed and contented, and habituated to human handling. The cat area is what my dream cattery would look like – with lots of places for the cats to climb, play, sit, hide and retire from human contact once they have had enough.
These shelves are pure genius, although they would probably need daily dusting or wiping down.
The cats are cuddly and healthy and did not mind taking a ‘wefie’ with me.
This lovely Bengal-tabby kitty commandeered the Director's Chair for himself.
A scratchy wee couch for this little beauty.
Asleep in the sun -- every cat's favourite pastime.
Everything was so clean and comfortable that you couldn’t help but realise that the cats are receiving excellent care. I wonder if the cat café would have room for a rescue cat or two?
I stayed for almost an hour before cabbing it back to the airport for my flight home. From the number of walk-in customers, I foresee that this endearing little place will remain in business for a long, long time. The wide variety of cat-themed merchandise in the lower floor is enough to make any Crazy Cat Lady swoon. I must confess that my minimalist tendencies were temporarily abandoned as I picked up cat-themed merchandise for myself and 3 friends.
Would I recommend a visit to the Purrfect Cat Café in Penang?
If you are an animal/cat lover, by all means, yes. It is a good place to cool down with a well-made Italian soda after exploring George Town in the midday heat, and the cutesiness of the cakes and snacks will offset the fact that the café does not have a very extensive menu. The cats will help you relax and decompress, and leave the heat and bustle of the outside world behind.
☆☆☆ 3 stars out of 5 for food.
☆ 4.5 stars out of 5 for ambience and service.
Purrfect Cat Café,
53 Lebuh Muntri, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 604-261 1197
Business Hours: 11.00 a.m. - 9.30 p.m.
GPS: 5.419947, 100.335707
On Facebook: www.fb.com/penangcatcafe