Imagine you are sipping a warm cup of coffee and a fluffy cat just snuggles on your lap. Other cats wander around while soft, mellow music is playing in the background. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, these heavenly places are called cat cafes. Cafe cafes have taken the world by storm. They are constantly growing and expanding their community worldwide. It’s a therapeutic and unique experience where you can hang out and play with cats for a fee. The global influence of cat cafes is so profound you can probably find one at least 15 miles away from you! But how did these cafes come to be? Let’s take a little international trip, shall we?
In 1998, the world’s first cat cafe opened in Taipei, Taiwan called “Cat Flower Garden” (貓花園). According to an interview with Vice, family-owner Tracy Zhang believes they weren’t the first to have cats in a cafe but they were the first to have global attention from it, giving them the title. The idea for a cat cafe sprung from Zhang’s childhood habit of bringing in stray cats from the street to take care of. Zhang’s family wanted to be set apart from all the other cafes then, and started with five cats when they opened. Zhang described early business being “horrible” yet it all turned around when a TV station featured them. What started as a small business grew into a global phenomenon and adorable concept.
Not long after, Japan had its first cat cafe in Osaka called “Neko no Jikan” (literal translation: Cat’s Time) in 2004. Japan is believed to have the most prominence and fame with cat cafes. A year later, Tokyo had its first cat cafe called “Neko no mise” (Cat’s Store). The popularity of Japan’s cat cafes can be due to the general urban infrastructure. Many residents in Japan, especially in large cities, live in apartments or condos that don’t allow pets. Thus, the cat cafes helped to fill the void in many cat-lovers’ hearts. Other Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and more followed closely behind this cat cafe momentum. 2010 and onward then consisted of cat cafes popping up all over the world! USA The first cat cafe in the United States finds its place in Oakland, California. “Cat Town Cafe” was founded in 2011 by some passionate volunteers at Cat Town, a non-profit organization and shelter for cats.
The first cat cafe in the United States finds its place in Oakland, California. “Cat Town Cafe” was founded in 2011 by some passionate volunteers at Cat Town, a non-profit organization and shelter for cats. Other famous cat cafes include “KitTea” in San Francisco, California, “Cat Cafe Lounge” in Los Angeles, California, and “Denver Cat Company” in Denver, Colorado. While all cat cafes have the same concept, each have their own quirks and unique cats! Some cat cafes in places such as New York, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, serve wine or sake instead of coffee or tea for a more luxurious experience!
Benefits for Humans
Cats? Coffee? Wine? How can someone not be happy?
Of course, if you have a cat, you can attest to the therapeutic benefits they provide. Everywhere, there are apartments or complexes that don’t allow cats. Many people long for a cat companion to ease all of their worries. The flexible nature of cat cafes allow people to enjoy the comfort of a cat’s presence without any commitment. And if you do end up falling hard for a particular cat there, most cafes host cats that are 100% adoptable!
The overall social environment of cat cafes is just wonderful. Everyone in a cat cafe already has one thing in common: a mutual love for cats. Therefore, just like any other cafe, cat cafes are also a place to easily meet new friends (and not just the furry ones!).
Benefits for Cats
As mentioned, many cat cafes have adoptable cats. Cat cafes are essentially a cozy, interactive foster home for cats. According to San Francisco KitTea’s website, they “foster and feature cats from rescues in order to socialize and find them homes at each cat’s own pace. Whenever possible, we go outside of the area to shelters to rescue high-risk cats in euthanasia shelters.” In a comfortable and open space, you are able to see each cat’s personality and their natural behaviors. Rather than keeping them in cages or separated facilities, cat cafes allow the cats to be authentically themselves.
There is definitely an overall ethical issue to address with cat cafes. Some say with the constant rotation of humans, it can stress out the cats. Cat cafes often lay out strict ground rules for patrons to ensure everyone is happy, including the cats. While the regulations vary from cafe to cafe, most cafes make a genuine effort to make the cats feel as safe as possible.
All cats vary in personality. For cats who need constant attention and cuddles, cat cafes are just the right place for them! Regardless, with some ups and downs, cat cafes have the potential to become safe havens for cats to socialize and get adopted if done right!
Basic Etiquette When Visiting a Cat Cafe
So say you finally booked that two-hour appointment at your local cat cafe. Congrats! Now how exactly should you behave at a cat cafe?
Cat cafe employees usually conduct a small orientation before you meet the cats. Again, some may be stricter than others depending on the kind of cats they host. But here are some common rules to prepare you in advance!
1. Do not pick up cats or roughhouse with them; be gentle and patient when petting them!
2. Do not pursue or chase after a cat when they walk away or seem disinterested.
3. Only play with cats using the provided toys.
4. Do not wake or bother sleeping cats.
5. Do not use flash photography.
These are just the most common rules that we see in cat cafes. Today with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, things such as capacity and contact can vary as well. If you follow the rules and enjoy your beverage, you are sure to have a swell and cozy time during your visit!
The Success and Impact of Cat Cafes
Cat cafes have seen huge success in recent years worldwide. The wholesome thing is that there is no one reason for their success. They are simply a calming and relaxing environment for cats and cat lovers alike. Ever since the first cat cafes in Taiwan, other animal lovers have taken the concept and opened similar cafes too! There are dog cafes, and even raccoon, hedgehog, sheep cafes, and more! Cat cafes have, no doubt, brought people and animals together.