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Coffee and kittens: Cat cafe in Montreal claims to be North America's first

A cat relaxes at the newly opened Cat Cafe in Montreal, Sunday, August 31, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

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A cat relaxes at the newly opened Cat Cafe in Montreal, Sunday, August 31, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL - Would you like a cat with your coffee?

A new Montreal cafe is hoping plenty of people do. The Cafe des Chats, which opened its doors on Saturday, is a lot like a regular coffee house — except it's home to eight cats.

Along with the usual tables and chairs designed for human clientele, the space is filled with scratching posts, plush toys, and a special multi-level window perch for the felines-in-residence.

Nadine Spencer, who helped set up the business along with her partner, said the concept is a big hit in Asia and, more recently, has gained popularity in Europe.

"We thought, 'why not bring this to Montreal?' I think it's a city that could definitely use it," she said Sunday.

"There's a lot of places that don't accept cats these days and there are a lot of students here for a short time. And it's also great therapy."

According to Spencer, the cafe is the first of its kind in North America.

But not for long. There are plans to open cat cafes in several cities, including Vancouver and Toronto. There's even another one set to open a few blocks away in Montreal.

The crowd of people packed into Spencer's cafe on Sunday suggests there's plenty of demand.

Michelle Lau made the trip from Toronto for the opening weekend.

"We're big cat lovers and I can't wait until one opens in our city," said Lau, 24, explaining that she has a dog at home and is reluctant to bring a kitty into the mix.

"I think it's just a nice environment. You sit down, you have a coffee, and you play with the cats."

Part of the goal was to give a few cats a second chance.

They were all adopted from the SPCA and quickly made themselves comfortable in their new home, Spencer said. The cats have their own private quarters at the back of the shop, for when they want some quiet time or need to use the kitty litter.

"Personalities are already coming out," she said.

"There's definitely The Godfather, who kind of oversees everything. There's the big boss, Big Foot, and the Three Little Rascals, as I like to call them. I think they're going to be the ones to be in charge eventually."

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