Old McDonald had a cat café, E-I-E-I-O. And in this café he had lots of kitties. With a nom nom here and a purr purr there. Here a rub, there a yawn. Everywhere a nyan nyan. Old McDonald had a cat café.
First started in Taipei in 1998, the cat café industry has grown tremendously, especially in Japan’s metropoles* like Tokyo. Here in this vibrant and populous city, people predominantly live in small apartments or condos – most of which have pet restrictions. And, as you may already know, Japan’s dwindling inclination towards the traditional family unit, along with extreme work ethics, leaves many young professionals stressed and no time for relationships. It’s no surprise that after the opening of the first hugely successful cat café in Tokyo in 2005, the proliferation of more neko (Japanese for cat) cafes took off. There are at least 40 cat cafes in Tokyo alone. And cat cafes in Japan could breach the 200 mark soon.
Japan isn’t the only country with a growing cat café industry. Here in the Puget Sound where I hail from, the first cat café (Seattle Meowtropolitan) is set to open at the end of this year! But it’s not the first cat café in America. Cat Town Café, the first cat café in America, opened its doors in 2014. Since then, numerous other cafes have welcomed customers looking for meows. The phenomenon is taking place all over the world.
While in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit such a cat café (Cat Café Calico in Shinjuku). It was an interesting experience. The first of which was having to find the place. I learned that in Japan, you have to look up as stores and restaurants are often stacked on top of each other. The entrance to Cat Café Calico is on the 6th floor but the café extends to the 5th floor as well. As you come in, you have to take off your shoes and pay a cover fee of 1,000 yen (about $8) for the first hour. Each subsequent hour was 500 yen. If you want to feed the kitties, come around 5 PM. You can purchase a small container of white chicken for 300 yen each. Trust me, you’ll be a popular target for the throng of kitties that will flock towards you. I suggest coming earlier than 5 PM so you’ll have more space to play with the kitties, then feed them and go. After 5 PM, the café become so crowded you’ll have no place to relax and you’ll be competing against the influx of people on their way home from work. People often stop by cat cafes to de-stress before heading home.
The rules are pretty simple: don’t pick up the cats, don’t play rough, and don’t feed the kitties wearing a red scarf because they have dietary restrictions. Other than that, you are free to pursue the cat of your choice, to pet him, play with him, feed him, and take pictures with him. Toys are bountiful, and there are seating areas for you to relax. A small TV and game console are also available for you to get your game on. You can also read one of the many books they have stockpiled on their shelves.
Being my first time in a cat café, I was more interested in the kitties themselves, but I could tell that the regulars who come to the café are there to relax around cats and not necessarily to play with them. Many were content just reading books and petting kitties as they come by. The majority of the patrons were young women.
So while it was mostly a novelty experience for me, people who regularly come to these cat cafes are finding real comfort and peace. These slow-paced places are a stark contrast to the chaos outside. The first couple days in Japan were dizzying to me. Being packed like sardines in the subway, getting hurried by the herd of people calmly rushing to the next subway train, and breathing down food to allow the long line of hungry businessmen/women waiting to eat were exasperating, to say the least. After 2 exhausting days in Tokyo, the cat café was a haven for me. Now imagine what these cat cafes represent to people who live there.
I found this experience really rewarding and am looking forward to going to the cat café in Seattle once it opens. The future wife and I are on board the cat café express. If you have the opportunity, give these cafes a chance.
*It took me 20 minutes to find the plural form of “metropolis.” The best explanation I found was a comment from Ryan Blaine Brown (wherever and whoever you are, thanks): “Most often you see “metropolises” for the plural. More properly the plural is “metropoles,” third declension, as the word comes to English through Latin. Don’t force a second declension masculine (long “i”) or neuter (short “a”) ending here, or everyone will know you are trying too hard and don’t know Latin. And though the word was originally Greek, no one will understand what you mean if you go for the Greek plural “metropoleis,” so avoid it, too. You can either go English plural or Latin (III declension) plural.” I just thought you might appreciate this little nugget of truth. Or not. Meow.
Also… Neko Samurai!!! Look it up. Watch it. Be amused.
Finally, below is a collection of pictures from Cat Café Calico. Enjoy.