Dog, cat cafés melt hearts in Ho Chi Minh City

Some children will not leave the coffee shops unless they are allowed to bring home one of the cuddly pooches

Girls are pictured petting a fluffy cat at a café on Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City.

Are you a pet lover? If yes, why not visit a café where you can pet fluffy dogs and friendly cats while sipping at your drink?

Among other novelty cafés including anime and book coffee shops that have popped up across Ho Chi Minh City over the past few years, dog and cat cafés featuring an array of canine and feline friends for customers to play with have emerged as favorite weekend retreats for young urbanites.

Recently, one Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter dropped by a shop on Pham Van Hai Street in Tan Binh District, the name of which arouses passers-by’s curiosity; ‘Dogs Café-Café Cho.’

An imposing Alaskan breed of dog with a shiny coat slowly ‘showed’ him upstairs, suggesting that ‘surprises were up there.’     

As the door popped open, a pack of pooches of a variety of breeds barked noisily and wagged their tails to mark a friendly welcome for their new client.

Though not shy with dogs, the male reporter was slightly spooked after being surrounded by so many large dogs.

No sooner had he put his backpack down and started a conversation with the shop attendant than one of the pooches sneaked toward his bag and peed on it, seemingly to mark territory.

As the attendant was about to clear up the mess, another dog put his hind leg on the bag for one more welcoming pee.

As the reporter settled down at the low table, the dogs continued to linger.

One Golden Retriever tenderly held the reporter’s calf with its soft snout to keep him from leaving, while an all-white, fuzzy Samoyed, introduced as the friendliest pooch, sat nearby, with its glittering eyes seeming to say, ‘Please caress me!’

The Alaskan guide dog was meanwhile basking on the floor, while the sheep shepherd and hare hunter frolicked raucously with the dozen other dogs.  

The sleek, snow-colored Samoyed refused to leave the reporter, vying for his attention and trying to keep his eyes away from other dogs by repeatedly poking at his arm with its front leg.

Drinks are available for VND50,000-100,000 (US$2.2-4.3) apiece.

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Young visitors fondle cuddly dogs at a canine café in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Across the city, cat lovers can indulge in refreshing drinks and fondle fluffy cats at such places as Tokyo Pets Coffee on Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street in Phu Nhuan District.

The venue is home to a wide array of feline breeds such as Persian, American, British, Russian and Siamese cats.

Unlike the frisky dogs, most cats slink around, purr contentedly, or bask in sunshine.

Guests may not be surprised to find chubby cats with downy fur curling up peacefully on their rucksacks left on the floor.

The animals are raised in air-conditioned rooms with wooden floors, given showers often to avoid becoming smelly, and have regular health check-ups to prevent diseases.

Visitors must also comply with the shops’ rules such as having their hands sterilized to avoid passing on diseases to the animals.

They are not allowed to feed the animals, grab their tails or take flash photographs as that may do harm to the cats’ eyes.

Invaluable bonds

Shop attendants at Café Cho on Pham Van Hai Street have revealed that their clientele are mostly school students.

While her friends were playing with the dogs, Minh Thu, a student from a school nearby, cringed whenever the pooches rushed toward her for some fun.

“It’s the first time we have visited a dog café. I felt scared but fun,” she shared.

Thao Chi, a 19-year-old student who is training to become a teacher, was a customer at another canine café named Hachiko on Hoa Sua Street in Phu Nhuan District.

She can sit for hours with her canine buddies of various breeds there including an Akita, Golden Retriever, Alaska, Husky, Samoyed and Chow Chow.

Her clothes are usually covered in dog hair.

Chi said that as a student, she cannot keep a dog herself, so she frequents Hachiko and other dog cafés to fool around with her four-legged friends for hours. 

Likewise, Tran Minh Tan, a 30-year-old baker, and his girlfriend drop by pet cafés in District 3 and Tan Binh and Phu Nhuan Districts once or twice a week.

As soon as he entered the Hachiko shop, he called out the names of each of its 30-plus pack.

Shop owners divulged that their shops are normally packed on weekends, with no seats left at times.

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The pooches are adorably friendly. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Parents also take their young children there to safely familiarize them with animals.

Dang Xuan Tung, Hachiko Café manager, said that many children recoiled in fear during their first visit, but were soon bewitched by the adorable dogs there.

“Many cry when it’s time to leave. Some insist their parents take one of their favorite dogs home,” Nguyen Thanh Do, owner of Café Cho on Pham Van Hai Street, noted.

“Canine cafés are currently in vogue. As far as I know, four shops in the vicinity are all crowded.”

He switched from trading in pet reptiles such as iguanas, turtles and snakes to open his canine café, which usually brims with school and university students.

According to Tung, his customers are mostly dog lovers who cannot afford to keep one of their own due to a lack of space, or university students who live away from home.

“There are some who visit my shop five to six times a week. Many love all of my dogs, but some just come for their one favorite pooch,” he explained.

“What they treasure most is the priceless friendship, affinity and raucous welcomes that are unique to dogs,” Tung noted.

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