Kitty and tea

An hour at Tijuana's cat café

“The Persian one, that’s Zed,” says Elizabeth Barajas, the founder of Bastet Cat Café, pointing at a napping kitty. “Zed is the house cat. He is always here and welcomes all the newcomers. More than 50 cats have been adopted since we opened. Zed, however, is not up for adoption.”

Following the global trend of the cat café that Taiwan started (and Japan popularized), Bastet Cat Café opened in August in downtown Tijuana, the first one of its kind in the city. More than two cats have been adopted each week.

I visited Bastet on Friday afternoon (January 15th) with my friend Claudia (whom I adopted my cat from two years ago).

The café is located in an alley between 8th and 9th streets, in between Revolución and Madero. It consists of two rooms: the café area and the cat playground (with a small sanitation room in the middle). I ordered a guava tea for $2.50. The purchase included time with the cats (you can also pay $2). Time is limited to 20 minutes if it's busy; since it was not, Claudia and I stayed for an hour.

“We have nine cats right now; we had up to thirteen at [one] time,” Barajas said, joining us in the playroom, the barista behind her with my tea. “Those two cats over there we rescued from maquilas. It takes time for cats to adapt — sometimes a few hours, other times more than a week.” The cats that Barajas pointed out were perched up on a cat tower looking around nervously. The rest of the cats were napping, except the smallest kitten who greeted us playfully.

“Anubis was one of the first cats to be here when we opened the café. He was born without a tail and no one wants to adopt him.” Anubis is a small black cat with a stumpy short tail. As if Anubis knew we were talking about him, he woke up and climbed on my lap.

“We have a long waiting list to accept rescue cats, plus we need them to be clean, dewormed, and vaccinated. If they are older than four months, they need to be sterilized. Right now we don’t have enough resources to provide this type of service, as we are barely covering costs of the café. Pet Place supports us with discounted prices on baths and other services.”

Barajas’s sister, a pet lover as well, opened Pet Place, a hotel and beauty salon for dogs and cats.

“We organize campaigns for sterilization and we try to educate the people about proper pet care. There are a lot of organizations that help dogs for adoption, but cats are considered secondary. Many rescuers contact us, sometimes while they are waiting for us to take them in; they either find them a home or adopt it themselves. To adopt a cat we require an ID, proof of residence, to fill out an application, and pay a 300 pesos quota [around $16.50]. We also accept food donations or kitty litter and other cleaning supplies.”

Like other cat cafés, there are certain rules while in the play pen. Only two children are allowed at a time, you are not allowed to carry them, wake them up, feed them, or use flash photography. The coffee shop, besides offering a menu of hot and cold beverages, snacks, and cheesecake, also sells many cat-related gadgets. As of now, they do not sell cat trees or toys, but Barajas is on the hunt for a good carpenter since Petco can be pricey.

Bastet Cat Café is open Thursday through Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Sundays they close at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesdays they are closed for cleaning).

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