The world’s first Cat Cafe opened 15 years ago to rave reviews and repeat visits from locals and tourists. Since then the concept has circled the globe, delighting fans of coffee and kittehs alike who enjoy taking a wee paws for stress-relieving refreshment.
Taiwan: Where It All Began
It may be surprising to know that the world’s first cat cafe opened not in Japan but Taiwan, in 1998. The concept of mixing friendly cats with the cozy atmosphere of a coffeehouse was an instant hit! To give Japan its due, tourists visiting Taiwan’s capital city Taipei who discovered the original Cat Cafe and its imitators raved about their experience once they returned, setting the stage for an unlikely boom in animal-themed cafes featuring real animals.
(image via: Iffy’s Life)
Cat cafes not only appeal to those who like cats and kittens, they fill a previously unrecognized function: many modern city-dwellers have found they’re not allowed to keep pets in their apartments or condominiums, and visiting a cat cafe allows them to interact with cats for a while without jeopardizing their rental agreements or homeowner’s association rules.
It wasn’t long before cat cafes began springing up in Tokyo, Osaka and other large Japanese cities. A perfect storm of small, pricy and pet-excluding downtown apartments and a cat-worshipping culture the likes of which the world has never seen has fostered the ideal growth medium for the concept of cat cafes.
(image via: Aljazeera)
Demand or not, rigorous Japanese pet-protection laws and human health statutes make opening and operating a cat cafe a daunting proposition. Much like Maid Cafes, Japanese cat cafes usually post a long list of rules and suggested behaviors customers must adhere to if they want to enjoy interacting with a cafe’s cats. Some cafes don’t even allow patrons to touch their cats though if the cat initiates contact then that’s OK.
Japanese expatriate Takako Ishimitsu, 47, knew that attempting to open Vienna’s first cat cafe wasn’t going to be easy but three years after she applied, the Austrian capitol’s authorities finally granted their permission and Cafe Neko (“Neko” means Cat in Japanese) was a go! The initial “staff” of five cats were all sourced from local animal shelters and the difference in their quality of life must be like from night to day.
(image via: NBC News Photoblog)
Spacious and spotlessly clean, Cafe Neko is open daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm and customers may order a range of light snacks and liquid refreshments while perusing cat magazines. The cats, named Sonja, Thomas, Moritz, Luca and Momo, aren’t saying so but we’ll assume they approve of the cafe’s No Dogs and No Rocking Chairs policies.
Gio Cat, a Cat Cafe with Seoul
Korea has embraced the cat cafe phenomenon about as warmly as a cat-lover embraces a warm cat. Take Gio Cat for example. Hidden away in an alley inside the Hongdae area of Seoul, Gio Cat isn’t all that big but they do have a lot of cats – about a dozen!
(image via: Cat Party)
Visitors to Gio Cat are asked to remove their shoes at the door and are given a pair of cat slippers – slippers that look like cats – to wear. Settled in snugly amongst a forest of multilayer “cat trees”, guests can order light snacks from the human staff and purchase inexpensive kitty treats from a vending machine to entice the felines closer. A thoughtful touch is the sticky “fur removers” offered to visitors as they’re leaving.
Charming Cats Cafe and Pet Shop in Bangkok
(images via: Charming Cats Cafe and Pet Shop)
Charming Cats Cafe and Pet Shop, located at 464 SS Centre on Sukhonthasawat Road in Bangkok, is one of a number of cat-themed cafes to pop up in the Thai capitol. Opened in late June of 2012, the cafe features around 30 cats of various sundry and exotic breeds – and there’s got to be at least one Siamese!
(image via: Where.In.Th)
The “pet” project of Winit and Ratika Chiemsuk, Charming Cats Cafe and Pet Shop began as an ordinary pet shop but expanded to a cafe. Visitors are obliged to order a drink or dessert if they’d like to interact with the house kitties though those with full bellies can get by with paying a fee instead. “This cafe is one of my dreams,” says Winit. “I love cats and want to share a passion with others.”