Amsterdam may have recently opened its first cat café for kitty lovers, but the real pub cats of the city will claw you up if your cross them.
"Moes is a bitch of a cat, OK?" Rosa of Fonteyn Pub warns me. Good, I think to myself. That's exactly what I need.
Today is the opening of the first Dutch cat pub, where people can spend their time cuddling and hugging furry felines. That's fine, but it undoubtedly has nothing to do with real pub cats—the ones that lie on the bar all day being fat and grumpy. You surely know them. They're an indispensable part of Amsterdam pub culture.
At the end of last year, Smokey, 20-plus years in age and famed in Amsterdam, was forced to leave his Café Loosje. The reason? The Dutch Food and Vendible Authority (NVWA) started cracking down on cats in bars and cafés with kitchens. Does this mean the end of the Amsterdam café cat?
Let's hope it won't. But it's clearly time for a plea for the real bar cats of Amsterdam.
When I ask Rosa if Moes is a real café cat, she laughs uncontrollably. "Absolutely! Moes is opinionated and feisty." He doesn't look like it. Like a fat spoiled cat, he's sleeping on the sofa, while outside on the patio the hustle and bustle carries on. "Most of the time Moes is quite lazy," Rosa admits. "But he can also lash out quite viciously. Once he jumped on top of a dog. I had to intervene, and my arm was covered in scratch marks."
No reason to part with him? "No, absolutely not. He belongs here. His peculiar character makes him so enjoyable. Moes is self-sufficient. We hardly feed him, and he's never hungry. There's no lack of mice here, and I suspect he has several addresses in the neighborhood that will provide him with additional delicacies."
I'm already a fan. Prikkiedik is nine years old, the same as Café Prik itself. "We always jokingly say that Prikkiedik is a grumpy lesbian," bartender Jelger shares. ""She's not always friendly. Customers sometimes pet her, but when she doesn't feel like it she will let them know." Moreover, Prikkiedik has become quite a diva: she only drinks water from a martini glass with ice cubes.
This Aristocat can also misbehave quite intensely. "Once she puked in a girl's hair. It was hard for me to not laugh out loud when this happened. Another time, we had a man visit us with a small dog. She attacked him, fat tail and all. The man lifted the dog above his head in an attempt to protect it, but to no avail: she climbed her way up his body. Hell broke loose once when she brought a live pigeon into the café. There were feathers everywhere." Would he ever say goodbye to Prikkiedik? Not at all—with all the love in the world, Jelger pours more water into the martini glass.
In café Hegeraad, time has stopped. Here, people speak in the Amsterdam dialect the way it should be done. In the back of the pub, under a table, lies Fiep—an obese black cat that confirms all stereotypes. "He's not an easy critter," bartender Gonny tells me. She doesn't have much to share about Fiep. I sometime think to myself, I wish the whole world was as straightforward like this. Fiep sleeps. Fiep is fat. Fiep is black. That's Fiep. When Gonny lifts him up, he looks at me stupidly.
I ask Gonny is Fiep ever does anything funny. "He once brought a mouse to a customer. He was taken aback by this."
Onward to Maupie at café Blaauwhooft. "We got Maupie from the shelter when he was two. At least, that's what they told us," Katya shares. "He's been living here for six years, so he's eight years old. Wait, he's eight already? It's still such a young, youthful thing!"
The young, youthful thing looks a lot like Fiep: massive and black. Maupie is also sleeping, but things are not the way they seem. "He's able to bare-knuckle these cats off his turf without raising a paw," Katya tell us with pride. "I sometimes play with him, but at a certain moment the nails come out. I know that they're coming—I even know when they're coming. I just don't know yet why they come."
"Maupie is a typical pub cat. Very stoic—one has to be if you're petted by strangers all day. And he can always eat."
Katya is aware of the NVWA regulations. "What they did to Smokey is preposterous. I understand that animals have to stay clear from kitchens. But the alternative is much more problematic. Have one of these animals, a generally clean animal, and you never have problems with mice again. If you don't have a cat, you have to monkey about with traps and boxes of poison. Isn't that more unhygienic? You'll have a dead mouse in your kitchen, which is not nice at all."
Cuddling cats should be left at home. In pubs, they should be grumpy, arrogant, and a tad mean. The NVWA should busy themselves with other things. Because when pub cats are away, mice will play.
This article originally appeared in Dutch on MUNCHIES NL in April 2015.