Croque en Bol – Parc : neighbourhood pet store

As an apartment-dweller with a small child, I have discovered the wonderful world of delivered goods. And as pet owner, I am SO GLAD that Croc en Bol delivers, and for a small delivery fee (I also tip the delivery man). No more lugging huge heavy bags of kitty litter, cat food cans, and cat dry food up several flights of stairs while my little one is trying to be carried at the same time. I can even just call them up with my order on the phone, and they will deliver with a credit card number of cash upon delivery. No need to venture outside, or make a detour when you have other things to do. The downside is that you have to call in early if you want delivery, as their delivery slots fills up quickly and then you’re out of luck.

Another huge draw (in my opinion) to this little pet shop (which does not sell animals, so I guess it’s more of a pet supply store than a pet shop?) are the resident cats. I think there’s one or two friendly dogs and bird, there, too, but I’m a cat lady, so I only have eyes for the fluffy, scruffy black and white cats. There’s more than one, but I think they’re all black and white. I could be wrong. The cats who often ignore me when I hold out a hand for a sniff. Sometimes they let me scratch their cheeks, which makes me feel super special every time. I love it when pet shops have free-ranging animal greeters. They are clearly well-cared for, as well, and don’t seem interested in dashing out the door to freedom when you walk in.

The small store has a selection of high-quality cat food, kitty litter, and other cat products. There’s a selection of rodent bedding, food, and toys, as well. Friendly staff, clean store, and sometimes-friendly cats. And they deliver! What more could you want?

There are other Croc en Bol stores throughout the city. I’ll discuss each individually. This one is on the edge of the Plateau, close to Outremont and Mile End.

Parc

4889, av du parc
Montréal, QC H2V 4E7
514-273-6889

Lundi à mercredi 9:30 à 19:00
Jeudi et vendredi 9:30 à 21:00
Samedi & dimanche 9:30 à 17:00

croqueenbolparc@videotron.ca

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Cafe Chat Heureux – cat cafe in the Plateau

As a small business owner, I recently had a BRILLIANT idea to support other local pet-oriented small business owners by blogging about them. As I’m just six months into starting my pet sitting business, I’m regularly trekking all over the city to pass out business cards and put up flyers. I’m discovering so many great pet shops, groomers, cat cafes, and more on my urban vaunts. This is such a wonderful, pet-friendly city. I’m happy to share my finds with my clients and readers.

 

First up: Cafe Chat Heureux!

I visited this Plateau gem just this week. I’ve been dying to visit a cat cafe ever since reading about them. A friend of mine raved about it, but was hesitant to suggest it to me since I have cats of my own, and why would I want to go to a cafe just to hang out with more cats? Au contraire, mon amie! I am all about the cats.

This is a cozy cafe that unabashedly celebrates a love of cats. Two large flat-screens rotate pictures of the cafe’s menu and their adorable feline hosts. Cat walkways line the ceiling and walls. Cat art is for sale, the cafe sells socks with their logo on it, and there’s even a fake fireplace with some comfy chairs you can nestle into while you enjoy the company of cats. You remove your boots when you enter (perhaps that’s why they sell socks? But the socks aren’t required – they’re just available for sale), so it feels very homey inside. A guest book by the door is often filled with adorable cat drawings.

And then there were cats! The eight resident cats were all adopted from the greater Montreal area and have pictures and profiles of their personalities on their website. The pictures might need an update, though, because I scratched Luzerne’s cheek just before he settled down for a nap, and he was much bigger and fluffier than his profile picture. Actually, all the cats save one petite tuxedo were asleep when I arrived around noon for lunch. Some of the other patrons tried searching the area for a friendly cat to play with, but alas, they were all tuckered out and indisposed. I noted the lack of cat activity to my server as I paid my bill, and she suggested coming right at opening next time, when they are their most playful. After about an hour, they go into play overload and sleep.

The cafe has clear rules on cat-human interaction, and even has a hole in a door they can dart into if they don’t feel up to being petted and adored. Taken from their website, the rules are:

Do NOT:

  • Wake up a cat
  • Feed a cat
  • Take a cat on your lap
  • Use a flashlight taking pictures
  • Let kids without surveillance

You can:

  • Play with cats (toys will be provided)
  • Take pictures with our cats and share them!
  • Give a lot of love to our cats

General Rule:

Cats are expressive, if they do not want to be pet or play anymore, let them be, otherwise just like humans, they will let you know they are unhappy!

In addition to the whimsical ambiance, you can enjoy nicely presented hot sandwiches, salads, smoothies, juices, and a lip-smackingly good dark hot chocolate with a massive amount of whipped cream on top of it. The whipped cream was extra… but it was so worth it. I got the Cat Lady sandwich (of course), which was hot, gooey, and wonderfully satisfying and enjoyable on a cold winter’s afternoon.

There’s a sweet joy to this place, which will bring me back again. It was neither crowded nor empty when I stopped by during the week. I sat by the bookshelves, which was packed with random books in both English and French. Service was friendly and attentive, prices were reasonable. Gluten-free and vegan option available. The cats seemed friendly and well-cared for; it looked like a nice home for them. Next time, I might even bring my toddler, as it’s child-friendly, as long as they are supervised and aren’t pestering the cats.

Cafe Chat l’Heureux
438-333-1505

info@cafechatlheureux.com
172 Duluth Est, Montreal H2W 1H3

http://www.cafechatlheureux.com/en-ca

Monday : Closed
Tuesday to Thursday : 11 am – 8 pm
Friday, Saturday : 10 am – 10 pm
Sunday : 10 am – 8 pm

Be prepared for your pet sitter

The client is responsible for providing all necessary cat and cleaning supplies. It is awkward for me as a pet sitter to be unable to tidy up cat messes if the client runs out of paper towels or garbage bags. Or if they run out of cat food. Or if I need to use the bathroom and find there’s no toilet paper. All of these scenarios have happened to me.

Before leaving, please make sure there is a generous supply of the following:

  1. Payment.
  2. Paper towels!! *
  3. Medication and all medical supplies.
  4. Cat food.
  5. Kitty litter.
  6. Garbage bags and poop bags.
  7. Toilet paper.

*If washable rags/towels are preferred, kindly have a generous stack of them available, as well as a washing machine or laundry bag they can be placed into once used. I cannot describe the horror of having nothing but toilet paper and one reusable cloth to clean up vomit or litter box accidents.

*I am happy to provide missing items with a $25 concierge fee plus the cost of the items. I cannot guarantee the store I visit, the cost of the items, or the brands or quantities purchased. I normally get Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet paper, and Glad Force-Flex tall trash bags. Kitty litter and cat food will be your usual brands/types to avoid stress to the cat.

In which I go on and on about my hamster

That’s right – he gets his own post.

When Vladimir, my little Russian dwarf, went to the big hamster wheel in the sky, I scoured Craigslist and Kijiji for available hamsters to fill the little hamster-sized hole in my heart. Alas, none could be found. I think I might have even emailed the SPCA, and the ones there were waitlisted. So I reluctantly turned to pet shops.I’m not a fan of getting hamsters from pet shops, as the pet shop-bought ones I’ve had in the past have all been either aggressive or sickly. Or both. My longest-lived, healthiest, and most tame hamsters have all come from online ads posted by people who deliberately bred their hamsters and raised the baby hamsters until I came to get one. Plus, they’re often free online. Two of them came from families who were using the breeding project as a way of teaching their children about pet care and commerce (those hamsters were both free). At pet shops, you often see the rodents neurotically trying to dig their way out of glass aquariums. Over and over. All day. It makes my heart sink a little.

At one pet shop, they had a clear sexing problem because there were actually not just one, but two mommy hamsters with litters and as I looked down into the bin, I saw the daddy and mommy making the next brood (in case you’re unfamiliar with hamsters, females become fertile right after giving birth, which is why males stick around to help out). So it was a no to that pet shop. I considered trying out rats, as I hear they are quite affectionate, but I was warned they have a lot of health problems and plus the ones I saw in the pet shop were not tame at all. I think they were probably used as feeder rats. This was the same pet shop that had the breeding hamsters.

Fortunately, my search ended at a nice pet shop in the Rockland Mall. Or, Rockland Centre (because Canadians seem to like to call everything a centre). There was a docile young Chinese hamster, but the poor thing just trembled and trembled. And then there was a big whitish-grey Syrian hamster that screamed and flailed around on his back when picked up. Of course, I had to have that one. I saw it as a challenge that he wasn’t tame. He didn’t bite; he was just terrified. And I was on maternity leave, so I figured I had the time and patience to work with him. The sales clerk tried to gently steer me in another direction, but that white warrior hamster was mine. I took him home.

Fortunately for this story, my mighty mite settled in after just a day or two. The first day, I left him alone. When I got close to the cage – a glass aquarium with a metal wire mesh lid to deter felines – he would rear up on his hind legs and flail his tiny paws in the air. Like he was challenging me to battle, shaking a fist, and totally standing his ground. So I dubbed him Maximus Decimus Meridius, after Gladiator. Maximus is so courageous. And even-tempered – to this date, he’s never bitten me. After the first couple days of screaming – the likes of which I have never before heard from a hamster – and flailing when approached, he calmed down and was relaxed being handled. By relaxed, I mean not trying to sprint out of my hands. I regularly drop him treats like unsalted peanuts, unsalted stove-popped popcorn, hunks of celery or carrot, or the occasional raisin. My husband, who only interacts with hamsters when I place them on his shirt as he’s working on his laptop, is even able to hand feed him treats, as well. He no longer screams or flails and is calm being carried around for short periods of time.

I’ve never seen his colouring before in a Syrian hamster. He’s a light grayish white with a few little darker gray hairs. Very handsome.

Just joined Pet Sitters International, a professional pet sitter’s association!

PSI Member Logo-PPPS Tagline2

I’ve been spelling it petsitter. Looks like I was wrong?

In which I go on and on about my other cat

I’m convinced that Olaf is at least part Norwegian Forest Cat. He’s got that triangular-shaped head, common markings, went from being a lanky shorthair to being a burly longhair, and carries his fluffy tail high up in the air like a banner proclaiming “I will pillage your village.” He’s very athletic and can leap nearly five feet onto the top of a small bookshelf in a single bound. At one point he enjoyed diving off of a ceiling-high hutch onto the nearby bed, causing the hutch to shake, but fortunately he’s stopped doing that now.

He’s very much a cat, but has some doglike behaviours. He used to determinedly lick our faces and arms, which hurt since his tongue is very rough. Now he just occasionally licks our hands. When the mood strikes him, he will play fetch and retrieve toys over and over again until he gets tired and pants. Particularly if they are circular, like hair elastics. He greets you at the door with an excited meow and tail waving, often jumping up on you. Somehow that’s acceptable for cats, but not for dogs. He will greet visitors with an excited meow and tail waving and jump up on them, too. He likes being picked up and carried around. His adorable fluffy face and cheeky charm means that almost every visitor in our home has sneaked him food. He used to put his paws on the table when we ate, always searching for a weak spot to strike, but I don’t feed my cats from the table so he stopped. Now he’ll just lounge on the table alongside the food like Jabba the Hutt. If you pet him long enough he will drool.

When we lived in our previous apartment, he’d race out the door as soon as you opened it, and you’d have to chase him back and forth in the hallways. He liked crouching behind a support beam, and then dashing back to the door, only to dart back out when you got too close. My husband and I both admitted that we would hurry back home from work in anticipation of seeing him. He doesn’t do the chasing game in our current place. Maybe he’s too old and dignified now.

His SPCA papers said he was about 3-4 years old, but I think he was younger when we adopted him. He was long and lanky, shorthaired with a magnificent fluffy tail. Then he kept getting bigger and bigger and fluffier until he became the 13 lb. longhaired beast that he is now. He ate twice as much and twice as fast without putting on fat. His paws were big for his size then, and he had a puppy’s clumsiness – lots of running around and trying to jump onto chairs and tables…only to misjudge and fail. He had so much energy. He is still energetic, but not as go-go-go as he was four years ago.

He has such an outgoing personality that I tried leash-training him several times to take him out for walks. As soon as I put the harness on him, his ears would go back, and he’d crawl around under tables and chairs, getting the leash caught and tangled. The harness wasn’t a total waste – my daughter sometimes puts her Pete the Cat doll in it for…walks.

I also considered trying to enter him into a cat show under the house cat category. He’s so beautiful. Then I had my baby and I abandoned that idea. I cannot fathom the grooming needed to make him show-ready, and also devoting an entire day to a cat show instead of doing other fun things at home like laundry and cleaning up play dough.

He’s gentle and doesn’t use his claws when playing with people.

If he gets something particularly yummy – turkey skin, liver – he will growl and drag it under the table or to a private corner to feast in private. Mighty hunter. Actually, our old place didn’t have window screens, and he caught butterflies and ate one before I could save it. I can set him after big spiders; the little ones he ignores. But he’s too much of a housecat to eat a chunk of meat or whole chicken liver without it being chopped up first.

Olaf is the dominant cat. When he came home, it looked like he was trying to befriend Ethel, but she just hissed at him and ran away. He wasn’t neutered until we got him, so perhaps he was trying to be more than just friends. Anyway, when his overtures went unrequited his put his mighty paw down and established himself as the alpha cat. Ethel is not allowed to even touch the scratching post. About once a month Olaf will chase Ethel around and reaffirm that he is supreme cat. If I interrupt, he meows piteously like he’s the one who’s been beat up. He also sometimes tries to mount Ethel, even though they’ve both been sterilized. She puts up with it for the most part. I’m considering getting a hormone spray to make her smell male to protect her from unwanted advances. She’s an elderly cat and too old for that kind of harassment. No means no!

Unlike Ethel, it was impossible to get Olaf to stop jumping up on the counters and tables. I’d say no. I’d move him to the floor every time. I got frustrated. I gave up. Cats are now allowed on the counters and tables. You can tell he hears you saying “no!” but he chooses to ignore you. When he does something he shouldn’t, like drink my daughter’s milk when she’s not paying attention, you can’t get him to stop unless you physically pick him up and move him away. And he’ll just keep coming back for more. You’ve got to admire that kind of determination. I was so sure that my baby’s first words would be “Olaf, no!”.

I think our move and subsequent baby did a lot to traumatize Olaf out of his energetic youth. Since she came back from the hospital, Olaf has been afraid of my daughter. So far, he’s hidden from all babies and toddlers. Now that she’s a toddler and can chase him, I guess the avoidance is totally warranted. Ethel isn’t quite as fast, unfortunately.

In which I go on and on about one of my cats

Ethel, aka Kitty, is my elderly 16-year old cat. The majority of her teeth have been extracted due to periodontal disease; now her tongue regularly sticks out. I did try to brush her teeth for a while, but it didn’t work for us. Fortunately, she adapted and eats quicker than my other, younger cat. She finishes first, and then sits and stares at him while he finishes, or tries to steal his food.

Ethel is arthritic. She’s always been a floor and sometimes bed cat. But now when she wants to get on the bed, she needs to be lifted onto it. She’s very strategic about it, too. As soon as I get near it, she’ll appear and meow until I move her onto it. Sometimes she’ll even go there and meow and meow until I come over and boost her up. Then she’ll lie there all day until dinner, curled tightly into a ball. Or press herself against the radiator. Or haunt the kitchen when the oven is on. On warm days, she likes lounging on the window, but also needs to be air lifted onto it. I offered her a microwavable rice heating pad a couple of times, but she wasn’t interested. Sometimes she crawls under the duvet with me at night, but then she unleashes her claws as she kneads me, and neither my skin nor my sheets can take much of that.

I adopted her when she was already an adult, and she has never been very playful. In order to get her to play, I have to wave the cat toy right in front of her several times. Then there’s a 20/80 chance she’ll move a paw.

One cool thing about her is that she’s polydactyl, which means she has six toes on all her paws. She can actually catch a ball and hold it in her paw.

Another thing is that I swear she could talk when I first got her. Every morning, she would very clearly say “cat food” in a soft voice right by my ear. She’d say it over and over, with each repetition becoming less enunciated. Unfortunately, she kept trying to wake me up earlier and earlier each morning, and I think she gave up speaking after I decided that I was not going to wake up at 4am to feed her.

She’s very much a lady, with impeccable scaredy-cat manners. She’s not very athletic, but she is more agile than my other cat. She can dart across a shelf with a bunch of things on it, and not disturb a single tchotchke. As she’s grey on the top and white on her belly, I’ve always thought of her as shark-coloured. But mighty hunter is she not. And here she goes meowing, so I’ve got to go feed the cats now.

I read to my daughter a lot. One of our favourite books is Tabby McTat, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. We first found it at the library, and checked it out a couple of times. Got some overdue fines for it, too. And as with many of our favourites, I’ve got most of it memorized. So I bought our own board book. You have to be judicious about buying toddler books, because you end up reading them a million times in rapid succession. Hence, the memorization. I didn’t try to do it; it just happened. The book makes a great present for toddlers, beginner readers, and just about anyone.

The picture book has very detailed illustrations with a gentle humourous touch. In one, you can clearly see the buskers merrily making music next to a “No Busking” sign. In another, the two nice women who take in our protagonist are clearly crazy cat ladies, complete with cat statuettes by their door, walls covered in cat pictures, umbrellas with cats on the handles, cat mugs, and cat books.

…though just so my clients know, 90% of my cat paraphernalia were gifts by loved ones who assume that having cats means that you need to have lots of things with cats on them. And once someone sees that you have something with a cat on it, they feel inspired to get you more stuff with cats on them. Why does this assumption not apply to dog owners? Hmmm?

Anyway, as with just about all of the Donaldson books, the story rhymes and is clever and charming. The ending isn’t stiflingly moralistic or overtly feel-good, though [SPOILER ALERT] you do feel good at the end.

One of my other favourite Donaldson-Scheffler books with a super catchy refrain? Superworm!

Superworm is super long!

Superworm is super strong!

Watch him wriggle, see him squirm!

Hip hip hurray for Superworm!!

I was tempted to mention this in my About bio, but decided to save the geekiness for the blog. Aside from the Star Trek reference, that is.

My husband introduced me to Neko Atsume, the cat collecting app, and I’ve been playing it for months. On two devices! You put out food and after the cats have eaten their fill and played with toys, they leave you money in the form of fish and sometimes a little gift, like an old toothbrush or bottle cap. You can use the fake money to buy a variety of toys, a home renovation, and premium cat food for your beloved fake cats. It’s one of those passive games that’s best if you check it a couple of times per day and turn it off the rest of the time. When I first started playing, I got so excited and impatient at building my cat colony that I forked over real money to buy fake money to buy stuff for my fake cats. I think it was about $3 for 200 gold fish, the game currency. That topped up my coffers enough to buy a massive scratching post cat gym and expand my home to welcome in more cats. $3 well-spent.

The cats only come if you have the right combination of fun toy with their favourite food. If the food bowls are empty, the cats don’t meow at you or headbutt you until you fill them. They just don’t come. I guess they’re all feral cats, since you can’t pet them. The plus side? No litter box issues or vomit!

I’ve got all the rare cats, all the mementos, all the toys, and am close to getting all the renovations. I guess the phone wallpapers will be next, though I don’t intend to use any. A girl has to draw the line somewhere.

I cannot WAIT until it snows, which is a once in a blue moon special feature all Neko Atsume fans anticipate. The music changes, there’s snow on the ground, and it has nothing to do with worldwide weather at all. I’ll break out the big blue sled, the warm little stocking, and of course the heaters and hot pads. My fake little cats must be comfortable!