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Meow! Montreal’s Café Venosa has gone to the cats

Stray into Café Venosa and you’ll likely find yourself with at least nine additional lives.


By Julie Gedeon

Photography by Brandon Gray

“It’s great to watch people arrive in a rush for coffee, see the cats, and end up relaxing with one on their lap for the next 45 minutes,” says owner Summer Geraghty. “We have everyone from moms with babies to people in their eighties and nineties becoming regulars – all delighted when a cat is adopted and a new one is arriving.”

The café is named after the kitty that Geraghty adopted 15 years ago. Venosa’s companionship prompted Geraghty to volunteer and later work at the Montreal SPCA. “I wanted the café as another way to find cats good homes,” she says.

Becoming vegan nearly four years ago after some 20 years as a vegetarian, she noticed there weren’t very many café options for vegans in the area. “I thought most people would just want a little something with their coffee, but a lot of customers are coming for our great food.”

Café Venosa has quickly earned fans with vegan twists on a Caprese sandwich on ciabatta bread featuring pesto, tomato, basil, spinach and a brined tofu instead of mozzarella. The vegan soups, salads, wraps, and tropical smoothies are likewise popular. Desserts featured from Montreal vegan pastry company Sophie Sucrée are always available to tempt you. Some of the favorites are the almond brioche, the warmed chocolate banana bread, the chocolate tart and of course the cupcakes.

Several cats roam and rest in the café or the enclosed rear terrace as they please. Or they sneak off for a snack and nap in a back room all their own. Double doors ensure they don’t run out, although every cat to date has been too content to contemplate escape.

People interested in adopting a cat fill out a questionnaire and make several visits to ensure they aren’t acting on impulse and can provide a good permanent home.
Café Venosa is also striving to be as local, sustainable, reusable and/or biodegradable as possible. “We only serve organic, fair trade and bird-friendly shade coffee,” Geraghty cites as an example.
Spent grinds are being sent to friends who make body scrubs, and Geraghty is looking for a place to compost the rest.

It’s still early days, but Café Venosa’s story is finding a new home on average for one cat per week.

Café Venosa’s top cat café tips:
• Employ a rescue specialist. Have someone on staff or as a regular consultant who has years of experience working with rescue animals and their adoption/placement.
• Verify health and food safety regulations. In Montréal, a partition is required to ensure the cats are never in contact with food while it’s being prepared.
• Provide a quiet room where the animals can retreat whenever they want.