Alex Ward and Geneva Marcelino are running cafes that work with local animal rescue shelters to help stray dogs and cats find their new homes.
When Alex Ward and Geneva Marcelino came to Vietnam and realised that there was a missing link between the great work that the local animal rescue shelters were doing and the understanding about rescuing and adopting animal in Vietnam, they set out to open cafes that would help in dogs and cats adoption.
The journey began three years ago.
Geneva, who came from the Philippines, started to work and open an animal rescue agency named Pawfect Match in 2019 to work with local shelters and help stray animals in Vietnam to find their forever owner and form a sustainable rescuing process.
Alex, who came from the US, and Geneva, also wanted to create a visible space to support the rescuing and adopting process without having to rely much on donations. Hence, R House, a dog cafe, was opened in 2020.
And after gaining a good amount of experience from the cafe and the agency, recently in March, they opened a new spot. This time, the place was created for cats, a cafe named “The Meow House by R House'' or Meow House for short.
The Meow House by R House is a cat cafe, which is also a foster home for cats. All the food and drinks on the menu are vegetarian and vegan, and the revenue from the cafe will be used to take care of cats as well.
So far, out of the 15 cats that have been staying in Meow House, two were already adopted in May and June and the couple are going to welcome eight more cats coming soon to the cafe.
The cafe was opened in District 2, but it was planned to be moved to a new location on October 5 at 266 Dien Bien Phu Street, Binh Thanh District.
Building “The Meow House by R House” was not easy even with all the experience that the couple has.
“The biggest challenge with the cat cafe is keeping the cats super healthy and ensuring no diseases are coming in or spreading, and maintaining the health of the cat each day,” Alex said while stroking Re, one of the cats at the cafe.
Forming a strong and professional model of cat rescue like this and making people believe in their work are big obstacles when you are not a native person.
Luckily, the couple had the help of not only the shelter's staff from Pawfect Match but also their Vietnamese friends.
Together, they have been working on showing everyone that the model that they are building, including the agency and cafes, is legitimate and people can trust and adopt cats from them.
Le Ngoc Chau Anh, a guest of Meow House who lives in HCM City, said that after seeing the information about the cafe on Facebook, she had come to experience the place and was very happy because all of the cats are very friendly and are not afraid of humans.
Tight and careful procedures
When someone comes into the cafe and wants to adopt a cat, the adoption process is carried out very carefully.
“The first step of this process is to identify the cat that they feel the connection with that they would like to adopt,” Alex said. "From there, they will message our partner agency Pawfect Match. Pawfect Match has a very comprehensive interview or questionnaire in which every individual will get asked about their current work status, living status, their history with animals and having pets”.
“So, if they complete the interview or the questionnaires, the questionnaires will be given to the shelter and the shelter has the final say if it was a match for the adoption or not," Alex said. "And then the adoption process starts out with a two-week adoption trial.”
Even after the cats are adopted, Meow House will check on them every six months and will always ask their forever owners for the animals' pictures and videos for updates on them.
The cats will always be fully vaccinated and sterilised before being adopted.
An adoption fee will then be included for each cat and will be used for sustaining the cafe.
No matter if it is a shelter or foster home, there are cats that have a hard time finding their matching owner. To Meow House, this is not a problem, and cats can stay in the cafe until their matching owner arrives.
Geneva and Alex are also careful when it comes to bringing a new cat to the cafe. In order to make sure that all the cats are healthy, every cat that comes to stay at the cafe will have to have a good health record to help form a sustainable environment.
A deep love for animals
With all of the above work and obstacles, some might think that Alex and Geneva are tired of taking care of all of that. But on the contrary, after three years of taking care of cats and dogs, the love that they have for the job right now is even bigger.
“The rescue effort for animals grows bigger because every day there are more connections with them, and every day we get to know them better, and it is one big family,” Alex said.
Geneva told Viet Nam News that when she was a small child, she would always take care of stray cats around her house by giving them scraps of food. By feeding the cats, she had learned to cherish and love all life that exists on Earth as much as a human.
“Loving is always hard, right? Whether it is human or animal. But, even though it is hard, because of the love, it keeps us going. We keep it going for the cats and now, we can see more cats have their lives changed thanks to the model,” Geneva shared.