Written by Hadley McCollester (Bowdoin College) Student Correspondent CET Film in Prague, Fall 2018
To preface this post, it is essential to know that I am a self-proclaimed cat lady in the making. I have always loved cats and at home I currently am the proud owner of 4 cats. When I was preparing to live for a semester abroad in the beautiful city of Prague, I figured that getting my cat-fix (for those of you who are not avid cat lovers, a “cat-fix,” is the necessary dosage of cuddles with a cat that a cat lover must receive every month or so to remain sane) would be no problem. I had recently seen the documentary Kedi about the stray cat population in Istanbul (a great documentary, I would highly recommend it), and assumed Prague, like many European cities, would have a substantial stray/outdoor cat population that I could use as a kitty crutch.
Therefore, when I first arrived in Prague, I was very disappointed and confused to find a serious lack of cats on the streets, alleyways, and riversides. To my horror, it did not take long to come to the realization that Prague is a… a… ugh I can’t even say it… a. Dog. City. *shudder* Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy dogs and their panting and slobbering and barking an jumping and wagging, but where there is a dog, there is the empty space where a cat should be.
And Prague has a lot of dogs. Apparently in Prague, it is common for dogs to walk around with their owners without a leash. Like little shadows, the dogs in Prague obediently follow after their owners on busy streets, wait patiently outside stores, and ride the subway. Honestly, it is quite impressive how well trained the average dog in Prague is. Nevertheless, where there is a dog, off a leash, there is rarely a cat. I can’t blame the cat population of Prague, assuming it actually exists, for hiding in the safety of their homes and gardens.
For the first couple of weeks, my desperation for cat contact escalated to dangerous levels. I explored sleepy suburbs, side alleys, and sunny courtyards to no avail. My salvation came when I stumbled across a café called “Kavarna Kocici.” Now, I am not expecting anyone out there to know much Czech, so I will go ahead and translate for you. That, ladies and gentleman, means “Cat Café.” My life was changed forever.
Within the 10 Prague districts, there are two excellent cat cafés. Rarely busy (because, as I said, this is a dog city), always cozy, and manned (catted?) by a clowder (that is the word for a group of cats, the more you know!) of friendly little furballs, these cafés became my homes in Prague. The best method to truly enjoy a cat café requires a little preparation:
Step 1: Finish everything that you need to do for the day, or set time aside later, this is not a café trip to ‘get things done’, this is time for the cats.
Step 2: Put on your comfiest clothes (bonus points if you have a soft scarf or coat to entice the cats with for optimum cuddling) that will either hide cat hair, or will show it off proudly.
Step 3: Save room to order something yummy. Although you are NOT ALLOWED to feed the cats, the best way to lure a cat in your direction is with the presence of food. It is just a fact.
Step 4: Finally, release any guilt you have for cuddling/playing with/ or cooing at a cat that is not your cat. As much as it feels like cheating, you need to keep up your kitty social skills for when you return home to your cats! Imagine, it’s been 4 months since you’ve pet a cat and your hand can’t even remember the proper amount of pressure to apply and the right way to get the best chin scratch! Your cat would be appalled. SO let go of all guilt, it’s good for all parties.
Jokes aside, the cat cafés really helped me to manage my homesickness and anxiety. Being able to relax and take time to feel somewhat ‘at home’ is important, and being in the presence of cats is the best way I know how. If you are studying in Prague and find yourself suffering from cat-homesickness, get yourself over to one of these cafés. Your cuddly friends are waiting for you!