This October (2015), I had the most a-meowzing trip to Japan eating, sightseeing, and visiting a number of Japanese cat cafes!
Cat cafes have exploded in popularity all over the world in recent years. The first cafe was started in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998 and quickly took off in Asia. Japan especially embraced the concept and is now home to (according to the Internet) hundreds of cat cafes. You could call Japan the paw-nicle of cat cafes in the world. (:D) Recently, cat cafes have started to pop up in North America – with a few opening in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, Canada, though adoption (:D) has been a bit slower over here due to stricter health regulations.
Simply put, a cat cafe is just a space people can go to pet/play/observe many cats in one place, typically after having paid an admission/entrance fee, and often where there’s an option to order food and drink.
As a huge cat lover, mother of two cats, and founder of the Edmonton International Cat Festival, visiting as many cat cafes as possible was a natural part of my trip to Japan! It also provided me some great takeaways (I’ll call it research) for the potential to start a cat cafe here in Edmonton. I wanted to recap/break down the five different cat cafes I went to in Japan, highlight their differences, and share some photos from the experiences in this blog post!
Mostly though I felt it was just very im-purr-tant to share cute cat photos on my blog. Hehe.
The first cat cafe we visited was near the Dotonbori/ Shinsaibashi neighbourhood of Osaka.
Neko no Jikan is a cute, quiet space with about a dozen cats. When we went, there was just one other girl enjoying cat cuddles.
Our price of admission 1500 yen ($16) per person included one hour in the cafe plus one drink each, so Mike ordered a coffee and I had an iced chocolate milk.
Along with your typical tabbys, there was an adorable white munchkin cat, some very unique looking flat snout cats, and a massive Maine coon.
Neko no Jikan is the very first cat cafe to ever open in Japan, having been open since 2004.
We had a really nice time here. Compared to some of the other cafes, which felt a lot more frantic/busy, Neko no Jikan was very laid back and relaxing. A great start to our Japanese cat cafe adventure.
Our second cat cafe is actually not a cat cafe as you can’t actually order drinks or food in the cat area, but for simplicity’s sake I’m including it in my cat cafe list.
Nekobukuro Cat’s House is a cat petting zoo in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district.
This was by far the busiest and most chaotic cat cafe we visited. There was so many people, it was hard to get around and hard to actually pet or visit any of the cats.
Nekobukuro admission is 600 yen ($7) per person or if you’re a couple, they have a slightly discounted rate of 1000 yen ($11) per couple.
The set-up of Nekobukuro was pretty interesting, it kind of leads you around in a loop and there are lots of cat walks/perches above you, and some pretty adorable themed rooms where cats who weren’t out on the floor were dozing off in.
They have so many cats that there’s a system where the cats take “shifts” so a lot of cats are in separate rooms sleeping/relaxing and then they’ll cycle through the cats on the floor.
There’s also a pet store attached to Nekobukuro just one floor down, selling a variety of cat (and other pet) items.
Nekobukuro was probably our least favourite to visit, just because of how packed it was.
Cat Cafe Calico was one of our favourite cafes we visited on our trip.
Although fairly busy when we went, the area was roomy enough that it didn’t feel too packed. It helped that it was separated into two floors as well!
Lots of people here were very relaxed – drinking coffees while lounging with the cats.
You could also buy cat snacks here for 300 yen ($4) so there were different clusters of cats surrounding different people with cat snacks.
There were some pretty unique looking cats here as well, including another big Maine Coon, some munchkins, and the fluffiest ginger cat I’ve ever seen.
Cat Cafe Calico, in the busy Shinjuku district, is open year-round (they proudly have a sign that says open 365 days a year!) and costs 1000 yen ($11) per person to get in.
The Nyafe Melange (a cute play on the words Neko which means cat in Japanese, and Cafe) in the Ebisu, Tokyo district was so relaxing and peaceful!
Literally, one visitor was just sitting in a corner next to some cats with his eyes closed snoozing he was so relaxed.
There was a whole row of adorable cats sleeping on the couch as soon as you enter, and two cats nestled into shelves on a bookcase.
We sat down with the row of sleeping cats and they weren’t even bothered, they just curled/stretched out even more comfortably.
The Nyafe Melange had a lot of really cute cat furniture/props. One cat was sitting inside a box cut-out of a delivery truck we had seen several times around town – their logo featuring a mother cat carrying its kitten. Two other cats were sleeping in sections of a bookcase – adorable!
Nyafe Melange was also the first cafe we’d been to that played English music – pretty relaxing ballad type of songs to fit in with the peaceful atmosphere.
You can visit for just 30 minutes here for 600 yen ($7) or an hour for 1,000 yen ($11). There’s also discount packages if you order snacks for the cats and drinks for yourself.
The last cat cafe we visited in Japan was Cat Cafe Mocha in Shibuya, Tokyo.
It was our final full day in Japan and we were actually walking back to the station to get back to our AirBnB when, as luck would have it, we passed a building with a cat sign in the front! (How could we resist?)
Cat Cafe Mocha was by far the trendiest cat cafe we stopped at on our trip.
It was very slick and very hip, with really nice furniture, pillows, and an incredible cat tree and cat bird cage-like perches hanging from the ceiling.
It also played some pretty uptempo jazz music which made the ambience totally different than the other cat cafes.
It also gave you shorter visit time options – 200 yen ($2) for every 10 minutes, or 1200 yen ($13) for one hour, add 350 yen ($4) for all-you-can-drink from their drink dispensers.
And unlike the other cat cafes, Cat Cafe Mocha featured a lot more kittens!
Cat cafes overall
In Japan, cat cafes really thrive because most people live in buildings that don’t allow for pets, and it can be quite costly to have a pet, so the need for an outlet for cat lovers is big. Cat cafes let people satisfy that cat cuddle craving.
While most cafes operated similarly, there were some differences that made a few stand out including:
- Cost (some cheaper than others)
- Time spent (some places give you the option to do a half hour, others are one hour minimum, others do that couples rate or snack discount packages)
- Overall feel (some more chaotic than others – either too tight a space or too many people in at a time)
- Cafe options (some you get a very limited dark selection, some offer unlimited drinks from a dispenser, others you could order food for yourself and cat snacks to give to the cats)
- Rules (some places let you pick up/hold the cats, other places ask you not to pet sleeping cats, some have you wear slippers, some you go barefoot, etc.)
- Even variety of cat items for sale (I loved browsing cat-themed items like scarves, shirts, notepads, pens, and jewelry! Some places had a great selection, others had nothing you could purchase, which I think is a missed opportunity!)
I found it so interesting that the cat cafes were typically high up (3 floors, 6 floors, 8 floors) inside a building within a very busy district. It might be so loud and busy outside but as soon as you get into the cafe, it can give you a completely different vibe, and you forget that you’re stories up in the centre of some very busy area.
You can tell the cats come first in all of these places (which is obviously the way it should be). I think all of the cats looked very comfortable and happy, and it’s nice they can get lots of love throughout the day! My only concern would be if the cafes got too crowded which you would think would be stressful or alarming for the cats, but even at the busiest place – Nekobukuro – the cats all seemed pretty chill (I assume they are used to the crowds at this point).
Most cat cafes in North America also feature adoptable/rescue cats, which wasn’t the case at Japanese cat cafes – these cats just lived in these cafes. I do think it makes a lot of sense to tie adoptable cats in with a cat cafe (for future Edmonton cat cafe reference), but again, because most people can’t actually have cats as pets in Japan, having adoptable cats doesn’t work as well for them. I think most visitors to the cat cafes really spend their entire hour there, getting all the cuddles in that they can before times up – you can tell it really is an outlet for them because they don’t have pets.
Most cat cafes in North America also have to separate their cafe/food/drink area from the actual cat cuddling spots which I think can make the experience less fun. It really depends on the rules per state/province/city but I read an article that the rise of cat cafes are forcing officials to take another look the current laws and see how it could be revised.
If I were to rank/recommend cat cafes (out of the ones I visited) for your next trip, it would go in this order:
- Nyafe Melange
- Cat Cafe Calico
- Cat Cafe Mocha
- Neko no Jikan
- Nekobukuro Cat’s House
based on overall feel/ambience and experience, though they were all pretty great, and I know there are also countless other cat cafes we didn’t get to visit that I’m sure are all a-meowzing in their own ways too.
Basically all I did was google “cat cafe _____” and filled in the blank for the district/area we were in, in order to discover what cat cafes were nearby.
I joked throughout my trip that it was literally another day, another cat cafe – because in the later half of the trip we were doing a cafe a day and it was glorious!
As a side note, we also visited a cat cafe in Portland, Oregon over the summer and it definitely paled in comparison to the Japanese ones – just not the friendliest staff and more rules. I would love to visit the fairly recently opened Canadian cat cafes to compare as well! Really, wherever I go now, it’s generally a rule of thumb to look up whether the city has a cat cafe we can visit.
So have you ever been to a cat cafe? What did you think!
Have you been to any of the ones I’ve mentioned in this post? Leave a comment below!