I see cats in Tokyo almost everyday. There are a lot of stray cats running around. In fact, if you Google the subject you might read that is in an “epidemic”. So why in the world would people PAY money to go sit with cats? Two reasons I can guess 1) you want to actually touch a cat which most strays I’ve seen aren’t very into, and 2) when you do touch that cat, you don’t want to worry that you’ll be stricken with mange or illness. Sadly, most of the stray cats are looking like they’re living the ‘hard knock life’ if you know what I mean. Terribly sad….
Meanwhile, four stories up in a business building in Shinjuku, about 50 cats are living the sweet life. Well, maybe? Maybe it’s really not so sweet. Maybe the stray cats down on the street below are thankful for their freedom? Maybe they think the fancy cats upstairs are being “trafficked”? Weird strangers paying money to come spend time with them, touch them, watch them, and feed them. Or maybe it really is sweet, a place where the petting never ends, the food keeps coming, and the temperature is toasty and warm 24 hours a day.
So what exactly is a cat café? Let me tell you….first of all it’s a busy place, so busy that you better make a reservation ahead of time. Then you pay about $10 for one hour of time “in the café”. Before you go in, you have to take off your shoes, change into slippers they provide for you, then wash and sanitize your hands. Once you’re inside, you can order food or drinks if you want, but if you get food you have to go into a special room (away from the cats) to eat it (so I feel like that defeats the purpose). You can also order food for the cats, which is a small container of shredded chicken that you can feed them from the palm of you hand. I recommend getting the chicken!
When you have the chicken you have the power!!! These cats know what they’re doing, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get that delicious chicken you’re possessing. I sat on the floor with my little container of meat and three cats immediately swarmed me to snag some vittles. They’re sneaky too, a couple times I’d be feeding one while another would grab a mouthful out of the container while I was distracted. Those cats have a well orchestrated little operation going on—you’ve been warned!
The room was about 10 degrees hotter than I would have liked for it to be (great for cats I’m sure and the Japanese too since they always seem like they’re freezing). The place had around 50 cats over two floors connected with a staircase. There are little shelves and nooks all around for the cats to hide/hangout in. Plus lots of bookcases filled with books and manga. My first thought was “why have books here, who pays money to come hang out with cats then reads a book?” I quickly learned who….several people were there basically ignoring the cats. It boggles my mind.
There is a lot of floor seating as well. That is where I saw several men just relaxing, neither interacting nor even looking at the cats…..again, why? One guy even brought his own blanket and seemed to take a nap while we were there (cat nap, lol). It just didn’t make sense to me. It’s like going to a movie to read the newspaper, I don’t want to be judgey, but that’s just dumb.
Of course there were other tourists there as well, but I was surprised by the number of older men who were there by themselves, just hanging out with cats. I was also surprised by the caliber of the actual cats themselves. These were not just your average housecats. Many of the cats were purebred varieties including, Ocicat, Scottish Fold, Abyssinian, Maine Coon, Himalayan, Russian Blue, Singapura, American Curl, Bengal, my favorite–Munchkin, and more! It was a real cornucopia of cats!
It was an interesting place to say the least. Mostly interesting because I was fascinated by the other people inside the café. I wonder if some of these people go there often, what they get out of it if they do. If they feel like it’s a good deal for the money? I wonder if the people who pay to come inside here and hang out with cats are the same people that feed and try to pet stray cats? Who knows?! But what I do know is that I doubt I’ll find myself in another cat café. I’m glad I did it once, but I think my $10 would be better spent if I dropped it in the donation box at the next pet adoption event held by the local pet shelters. Live and learn.