5 min read

What is a Cat Cafe?



Love coffee and cake almost as much as you love cats? You’ll feel right at home in a cat cafe.

Cat cafes offer a unique twist on the traditional cafe experience. They combine everything you love about visiting your favorite coffee shop — great coffee, yummy food, and a chilled atmosphere — with the chance to enjoy cuddle time with a collection of cute cats. And if you think that sounds absolutely wonderful, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that cat cafes are increasingly “pawpular” in the United States and right around the world. 

But how do cat cafes work, how did they even become a thing, and where can you find the world’s best cat cafes? Keep reading to find out.

What is a cat cafe?

No, a cat cafe isn’t a place where cats go to sip coffee, enjoy a sweet treat, and catch up with friends. It’s also not a place where pet parents can take their cat to enjoy pet-friendly dining.

Instead, a cat cafe is just like a normal cafe — except with cats. While you sip a lovely latte or refreshing cup of tea, you get to pat, cuddle, and play with the cafe’s resident cats.

Sounds like fun, right? But what's the purpose of cat cafes?

If you don’t have the time or space to care for a pet of your own, or if you just love any excuse to spend time with cute kitties, a visit to a cat cafe is a fun and relaxing experience. It's a great date night idea for cat lovers too, and a calming escape from the stresses of everyday life.

How do cat cafes work?

The resident cats in cat cafes are often rescued animals, but some cafes showcase purebred kitties or even focus on a specific breed. Some venues also partner with local animal shelters and rescue groups to encourage the adoption of homeless cats. So while you enjoy a hot drink, you get a chance to meet and greet a host of adoptable kitties and maybe find yourself a new fur-baby!

The setup also varies from one cat cafe to the next. Some have special cat play areas where you can get up close and personal with some cuddly kitties, while others have more of a living room-style arrangement where you can enjoy your coffee in a comfy chair and let the cats come to you.

Of course, caring for these resident cats means extra costs for the cat cafe owners. You may need to pay an entry fee at some cafes, which will entitle you to a certain amount of play and cuddle time (such as 1 hour) with the resident kitties. Other cat coffee shops don’t have a cover charge, but will instead charge a little extra for food and drinks.

orange cat sitting on a person's lap in front of a cafe table

The history of cat cafes

Japan is the country that most people think of as the cat cafe capital of the world, but the origins of cat-friendly cafes can actually be traced to Taiwan. It was there in 1998 that the first cat cafe was created in the capital, Taipei.

Word soon spread to Japan, where the country’s first cat cafe opened in Osaka in 2004. Not long after that, the cat cafe revolution really started to gather speed. Dozens of cat cafes soon appeared in Japan’s major cities, but especially in Tokyo, where small apartments and long working hours make it difficult to be a full-time pet parent. Interacting with cats is also a cure for loneliness and isolation, making a cat cafe visit a relaxing and calming experience.

If you’re ever in Japan, it’s well worth taking the time to explore the best kitty cafes the country has to offer. But you’ll also find hundreds of cat cafes in countries all around the world. Many of them are in Asia, but they’re also in Australia, France, Austria, and the UK.

Does the US have cat cafes? The answer is a resounding yes. The first US cat cafe opened its doors in Oakland in 2014. With stricter food service regulations than some other countries around the world, the US has been a little slower to become a part of the cat cafe phenomenon.

But the good news is that animal lovers nationwide have been quick to catch on to the wonders of the cat cafe. Who knows? There might even be a cat cafe near you!

Cat cafe etiquette tips

Visiting a cat cafe for the first time? Avoid making any embarrassing “faux paws” by following the simple etiquette tips below.

  • Don’t wake a sleeping cat 
  • Never pick up or try to carry a cat
  • Don't make any loud noises
  • Don’t chase any cats or force them into an interaction they’re uncomfortable with
  • Taking a picture? Make sure your flash is turned off
  • Only eat and drink in designated areas 
  • Don’t feed any cats
  • Don’t bring your own cat (or your dog, for that matter)
  • If children are permitted, they’ll need to be accompanied by an adult and supervised at all times

Of course, each cat cafe has its own rules and guidelines, so research them before you visit. You may also need to make a booking before visiting. Finally, many cafes have a minimum age requirement, so call ahead first to find out whether you're OK to attend.

5 “pawsome” cat cafes from around the world

Ready to explore some of the world’s best cat cafes? Here are 5 must-visit cat cafes to get you started.

Brooklyn Cat Cafe, Brooklyn, USA

Where better to start your cat cafe adventure than right in the heart of NYC? This non-profit cat cafe is run by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, so the felines you meet when you stop by for a coffee here are adoptable animals.

You’ll find cats of all shapes, sizes, and colors here — check out their profiles on the Cat Cafe Brooklyn website — along with events like game nights, kitten parties, and even Stretch & Snuggle (yoga).

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London, UK

Established in 2014, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is the longest-running cat cafe in the UK. It’s also one of the best. Step into the peaceful basement forest to mingle with an assortment of cute and cuddly felines, including permanent furry residents as well as some foster animals.

The in-house menu includes high tea favorites like scones with jam and cream, as well as cheese boards, paninis, and even cocktails. So order an Es-purr-esso Martini and treat yourself to an afternoon or evening of cat capers!

Temari no Ouchi, Tokyo, Japan

It’s hard to pick out just one from Japan’s huge range of quite diverse cat cafes. But if you only check out a single cat cafe in Japan, there are lots of good reasons why you should visit Temari no Ouchi.

Marketed as a “relaxation space”, this Tokyo cafe feels like an enchanted world out of some sort of fairy tale. The menu includes coffee and herbal tea, desserts, alcoholic drinks, and full meals, and there are more than 20 resident cats to play with and cuddle.

Catmosphere, Sydney, Australia

The next stop on our round-the-world cat cafe odyssey takes us down under to Australia. Tucked away in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, Catmosphere offers a host of unique experiences for cat lovers.

It’s home to the Cat Lounge, where you can enjoy some zen time with rescued adult cats, as well as the tiki lounge-style Treehouse and the downright adorable kitten residents of Kittyland. Even better, Catmosphere is partnered with local rescue groups to showcase adoptable pets to an adoring audience.

Crazy Cat Cafe, Milan, Italy

Milan may be best known for fashion, finance, and history, but it’s also the location of a “furbulous” cat cafe. Opened in 2015, Crazy Cat Cafe is home to 9 gorgeous felines who are well and truly in charge of this haven for animal lovers.

There’s plenty to enjoy on the menu too, so why not tuck into an Ameowricano or a Catpuccino or sit down for brunch or lunch surrounded by these cute kitties?

Got a favorite cat cafe you want to share with the world? Tell us about it in the comments below or on Instagram @wag!

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