Japan's new cat cafés

Thanks to the phenomenon of cat cafés, Japanese feline aficionados can visit with resident kitties while relaxing with a cup of java.

Japan is a cat-loving nation. In 2007, the country’s Pet Food Industry Association stated that it was home to around 13 million kitties – that figure is undoubtedly much higher today. And it would be higher still if the country’s biggest cities were not densely populated areas where many landlords prohibit their residents to have animals. Enter the phenomenon of cat cafés, venues that fill a void for many feline lovers by allowing them to visit with resident kitties while relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea.

Cat cafés have really taken off over the last five years or so, especially in Tokyo, where there are around 40 of these venues. Just two examples are the Curl Up Café and the Lie Down Cat Café. They’re warm and comfortable spots, with soft lighting and brightly colored play areas where cat lovers can bond with felines. Most cafés have a selection of about 20 cats of varying breeds, ranging from Persians to Scottish folds, which roam the interior of the venue.

You pay around the equivalent of $8 for half-hour or hourly sessions with the cats, and can learn more about individual kitties through booklets and photos showing their names, and a paragraph or two about their personalities, ages and genders. You are then given an ID tag to wear around your neck, and are informed of rules that must be adhered to. For example, no cat food or toys can be brought into the café, and no cats are to be disturbed if they’re sleeping. As well, not all the cats are to be picked up. Even with these rules, Tokyo’s cat cafés are so popular that a weekend visit requires a reservation to avoid disappointment!

Only time will tell if cat cafés catch on in North America, but in the meantime, it’s an increasingly popular way for Japanese residents who aren’t able to have cats at home to interact with their favorite animals.


Nadia Ali is a freelance writer who was born in London, England and now lives on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. She is inspired by Cici, her family cat. Her work has been published online and in print.