Passersby can’t seem to help but stare up at the swings hanging in the pocket garden on the second level of 299 Katipunan Avenue, especially when they notice at least one pair of feline eyes staring back from various perches next to the floor to ceiling windows. And then the pointing and smiling begins.

Welcome to Uchi no Neko (roughly, “Cat of the House”), a new relaxing haven for cats and cat lovers. The journey begins with a climb up a brightly-lit stairwell, walls covered with artwork in the distinctive style of café owner Charlene Laxamana. Café visitors first enter a mud room where they are asked to leave their footwear in the shoe cabinets provided. Atop the shoe cabinets are bottles of hand sanitizer, a basket of foot socks (should you prefer to enter wearing socks), and a gentle reminder of the house rules flanked by colourful metal cat sculptures.

Food and drinks are ordered right by the entrance. The Php300 cover charge includes a bento meal with a drink and mini cupcake dessert, and a two-hour stay in the company of the resident cats. Those who need or prefer a cat-free environment for reading, studying, or just hanging out can place a la carte orders at the counter then ask for seating on the third level. The main floor of Uchi no Neko is bright, cheery, warm, and welcoming. It is a clear reflection of the owner’s personality, as she meticulously selected every item in the café, from the murals which she designed and painted herself, the cat photo collage showcasing her feline babies, each of whom she rescued herself, to the minute details in the presentation of the food. As the name implies, the cats are the true stars of the café and they know it.

All points of the dining area have a clear view of the three different cat play and interaction spaces, and the overhead catwalks. Diners can be hard-pressed to resist going straight to the nearest play area occupied by a cat once they’ve selected a table to sit at. While the decorations reflect the personality of the owner, the ambiance is a reflection of the cats themselves: serene yet whimsical. There are cats who shamelessly parade across the café floor and meow for attention while others regally beckon their visitors to approach their sleeping baskets with their silent gaze. All the cats are local breeds—commonly known as Puspins or Pusang Pinoy—and are adoptable. Each has rescue stories to tell and these are what lie at the heart of Uchi no Neko and its existence.

“My life pretty much revolved around cats ever since I started involving myself in animal welfare…so when I ventured into business, I still wanted it to have something to do with cats. I also wanted to extend my advocacy in rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming cats, but balancing it with a sustainable business,” says Cha. Potential adopters are personally interviewed and screened at the café. They are not charged any adoption fees though donations for the maintenance of other rescued felines still residing at the café are always welcome. Sometimes there are cats under the care of welfare organizations, so interested adopters will be directed to the said organizations, with adoption or processing fees paid directly to the organization involved. Everyone at Uchi no Neko is fully aware of the advocacy behind the business.

Their dedicated cat handlers, in particular, are expected to know each resident feline well and make responsible calls on the management of their wards’ health and welfare. This same care and attention is what cat owners can expect their beloved pets to receive should they need a place for their cats to stay when they travel or have other concerns to take care of.

The Uchi no Neko Cat Hotel has nine suites available for rent. The fee for a single cat is R 450 per night, with a maximum of two additional cats per suite for Php200. Owners are required to provide bedding and ample food for the duration of their cat’s or cats’ stay. This is to ensure that any dietary requirements are perfectly fulfilled and no possible infections can be passed between cats belonging to different clients via direct contact. “What we want to provide at Uchi no Neko is the total cat experience. We want to provide a cozy, light, airy venue for people where they can enjoy the food, hang out with their friends, maybe look for their next adoptable feline friend… So we hope that’s what we give [guests] when they step inside Uchi no Neko.”

Uchi no Neko is located on the second and third levels of 299 Katipunan Avenue, between HSBC Savings Bank and National Bookstore. Uchi no Neko can also provide space for events and parties; just send an e-mail to [email protected]. Cat Hotel guests may inquire through [email protected].

This appeared as “More than Food and Coffee” in Animal Scene’s October 2015 issue.