For two weeks, a friend from the States came to stay in Japan with me for the holidays. She’d left most of the travel planning up to me, but there was one thing that she said she absolutely had to do while in Japan: go to a cat cafe.
Cat cafes are, well, just that – cafe’s with cats. For a small service fee, guests can watch and play with the cats for as long as they want. These themed cafes are super popular in Japan, and have inspired the creation of a number of other small animal themed cafes, like hedgehogs, and even owls! Apparently, cat cafes have become so popular that several have begun popping up in the States, though I’ve never been to them myself. In fact, I hadn’t been to one in Japan yet either despite their popularity, so this was my first experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since I’ve never owned a pet cat before – and never planned to – but I was curious to see what all of the fuss was about.
Luckily, I found out that there happens to be a popular cat cafe in Minoh, just outside of the train station. So the first weekend that my friend arrived in Japan, we packed our bags, ensured our phones were fully charged to prepare for the many pictures we were bound to take, and headed to Cara Cat Cafe.
We arrived the minute that the cafe opened – the owner had just come downstairs. She unlocked the front door for us with a wide smile and invited us to seat ourselves. As we moved toward the back of the cafe to sit at a table, a lovely white and tan striped cat walked between our legs. The other cats were still in their beds, some just waking up for the day.
After taking a seat, the owner handed us a list of pictures of the cats and general information about them to help us get to know the cats a little better. For example, underneath the picture of Daru (see below) are facts about him, including: “He likes snacks. He does not like being touched. He likes playing with the ゴム紙 (one of the many toys available to play with.) There were 5 cats in the cafe on the day we went, two male and three female, and theirs ages ranged from a few months to a few years old.
We were also given a list of rules, in English, for how to behave while in the cafe to ensure the cats’ – and guests’ – safety as a precautionary measure, like, “When being moody, treated in an unpreferable way, and/or over-excited, cats might scratch or bite you…”After reading the rules, my friend and I ordered our drinks – a latte for her and an iced coffee for me. The owner prepared our drinks in the kitchen and brought out our drinks on a tray within a few minutes. Alongside our drinks was a little sticky note which indicated the starting time of our visit, since the total service fee is calculated by the amount of time spent in the cafe.
Once our drinks arrived, we were free to roam about the cafe and play with the cats at our leisure. Luckily for us, the cafe was completely empty during the length of our stay, so we had the whole room – and all 5 of the cats – to ourselves.
Every one of the cats was friendly, affectionate, well-behaved, and very calm. One of the cats, named Beemo (who, by the way, was the softest cat I’ve ever petted in my life), did nothing but sit in one place and yawn occasionally throughout our entire stay.
The younger ones, named Daru and Tsururu, were a bit jumpier and not too fond of being petted or touched, but they were more active than the older cats and were more easily distracted by the toys, which made it easier to play with them. Because they were livelier though, luring them to our table at the back of a cafe was nothing short of a challenge. If we wanted to be close enough to the cats to pet them, we usually had to stand up and roam around the cafe ourselves, following in their footsteps, since they rarely came to us.
Behind our table were a few shelves nailed to the wall that the cats could jump onto. Occasionally, the younger cats would climb onto these shelves, giving us a chance to tease them with the toys the owner gave us to use. Though, they usually lost interest within about 30 seconds and set off to meander around the cafe again, forcing my friend and I to follow after them with handfuls of cat food – which we didn’t mind, since it kept us entertained too!After an hour of petting, teasing, and feeding the cats, and sipping our freshly brewed coffee, my friend and I decided it was time to say goodbye – mostly because we weren’t interested in paying more than the initial 500 yen service fee.
I’ve never been especially fond of cats, but after an hour in the cafe, I loved them! I even found myself tempted to take Beemo home with me. But I’m pretty sure the owner would do a much better job at taking care of Beemo than I ever could, so I suppose I’ll just have to plan a return visit to the cafe to see him again… which doesn’t sound all that bad to me.
For directions to Cara Cat Cafe, click here.