What’s the Deal with Cat Cafes?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Sarah Poe)

Heard about cat cafes? Well, if not, then you’re about to. Cat cafes are pretty much what they sound like: cafes with cats. Lots of cats.

No, this is not the place to take your feline friend for a coffee break. The point of cat cafes is for those that are cat-less to cozy up with a sweet, purring four-footed animal. The concept hails from Taiwan, who got its first cat cafe in 1998, but the idea quickly caught on in Japan, who has embraced the cat cafe trend. In this country alone, more than 150 cat cafes have opened over the last decade.

What is it about cats in a cafe that is so alluring? In Japan, where many people live in small spaces, pet ownership isn’t always an option. But some people want the comfort and companionship of a kitty, plus cats have been proven to have many health benefits for their owners, like lowering stress levels as well as blood pressure. A cat cafe provides the option to get all the benefits of a cat without actually having one.

(Image credit: Nokton)

There’s nothing the Internet loves more than cats, so the cat cafe trend has taken off in a big way, and nowadays there are cat cafes all over the world, from Paris to New York City to Melbourne, with funny names like Meow Parlour and Crumbs & Whiskers, opening up later this month in D.C.

America’s first cat cafe was in Oakland — Cat Town Cafe — which opened last fall. Since then, several have followed in Portland, Denver, New York City, and beyond. Cat Town Cafe works with Oakland Animal Services to help at-risk cats, and since they opened, more than 600 cats have been adopted by their cafe customers. Come in for a coffee, leave with a cat.

The trend is growing globally too. Just type in “cat cafe” on Indiegogo and you’ll find a whole variety of people raising money for their new feline friendly hangout space.

Cats are, of course, known for sleeping a lot, which makes one wonder if the combination of the caffeine buzz of coffee and kitties is in fact the best combination. Maybe other animals would make for a better fit? The cat cafe concept has worked so well in Japan that cafe owners have started branching out in terms of animals. Nowadays you can find owl cafes and even a falcon cafe.

It’s not just in Japan; there’s now a sheep cafe in Seoul, and earlier this year in the US, America’s first dog cafe opened up in Los Angeles. There are some who view this exploitation of animals as inhumane, a trend we would be better off dropping.

Regardless of how you feel about cat cafes, and animal cafes in general, for now, they’re here to stay. Let’s just hope that a simple coffee without a purr, meow, or woof doesn’t become a thing of the past. I for one don’t want to be a crazy cat lady, much less a crazy cat cafe lady.