In the past five years, cat cafes in Japan have sprung up in popular cities like Tokyo. Over the years, the number of available cat cafes has continued to increase.
There are over 50 cat cafes in the city of Tokyo and it’s estimated to be over 200 cafes across the entire country of Japan with numbers increasing annually.
Cat cafes (猫カフェor Neko cafe) are a variety of coffee and snack cafés where visitors may interact with cats running free inside of the facilities. Cat cafés may be found in most major cities across Japan, although they are sometimes isolated on higher floors of highrise buildings and are easily found thru their websites along with photos of the current cats they are housing.
Cat cafes are spots where you can grab a premium coffee and hang out with a dozen or so feline friends. Most have quite a few furry friends that will circle or nap around you while you enjoy your time lounging or petting the cats. They are a paradise for any cat lover.
Cat cafes are also known as Neko cafes – this is the Japanese word for cat. Each cat cafe location has a different theme. When visiting, you may find one decorated with a train theme or more elegantly decorated.
Over the past decade, these cafes are have expanded to other locations worldwide. Cafes are opening up in California and Austria following this same concept. It’s only a matter of time before you can find one in almost every country that commonly have cats as a cherished pet.
Why are there cat cafes in Japan?
There is a good reason for these types of cafes are popping up in Japan. While cats are allowed as pets in Japan, many small apartments have strict rules that prohibit both dogs and cats. This can be a disappointing situation when you’re living in Japan without a pet or even just an animal lover.
Initially, cat cafes were created to help with loneliness and provide relaxation to those who visit. The first cat café opened in Taiwan. It became wildly popular quite quickly, causing Japan to jump on the cat cafe train. A few years later, Japan opened its first Neko cafe.
Cat cafés first appeared in Taiwan in 1998, with one in Taipei. The café was well-liked by both Japanese tourists and locals, who appreciated the opportunity to engage with feline friends. The idea was brought back to Japan by one of the Japanese visitors, and the first Japanese cat café was launched in Osaka in 2004.
What To Expect When Going To A Cat Cafe In Japan
When looking for a cat cafe to visit in Tokyo or beyond, it is essential to note that most cafes are not on the ground level. They often sit at least a few levels off of the ground in large skyscrapers. Having cafes on upper levels can cause issues with finding the location for anyone unfamiliar with the area.
Reservations are sometimes needed for the most popular cat cafes and need to be made ahead of time. However, walk-in visitors are also accommodated at many locations. If you’re planning on heading to a cafe in Japan that is known for being busy, it’s best to call ahead to reserve a time.
Upon arrival, you’ll notice that all the cats have complete freedom to roam around the cafe. They can walk where they desire and nap in any spot they please. Most cafes have hanging shelves or little nooks for the cats to hang out.
Most cat cafes in Japan have a time limit in place and charge customers by the hour. This time limit is to help rotate customers so as many people as possible can enjoy their time in the cafes.
Due to their popularity, these cafes are pretty full every day. There is generally more foot traffic and participants on the weekends for each spot.
Upon leaving, you will have your total time calculated by staff. You will receive a bill that you can pay before leaving. Not all cat cafes have time limits. However, all of them charge to spend time with the cats. Expect to pay around 900 yen per hour, especially at larger establishments.
Where can you find cat cafes in Japan?
When searching for cat cafes, Tokyo often is listed in the search results. It provides some of the best cat cafes as well as some of the largest cat cafes found in Japan. Most larger cities like Osaka also have similar establishments.
With many available cat cafe options around Japan and their continued popularity, they will likely expand into other smaller cities and towns.
When entering each cafe, take note of the rules (posted near entrances) to have the best experience possible. Below are some standard rules to follow when visiting Japan’s Neko cafes.
1. No outside shoes in the cafe.
Most, if not all, require you to remove your shoes before entering. There is typically an area filled with cubbies or lockers in which you can keep your shoes. Slippers are sometimes available to be worn around the inside of the cafe.
Removing one’s shoes is customary in Neko cafes and when entering Japanese households, restaurants, and multiple other locations.
2. Don’t catch the cats or cause them stress.
It is essential at these establishments that the cats are treated well. It is not allowed to corner cats, forcibly hold, or agitate them during your visit. If a furry friend lays on your lap, you can let it be. However, generally, it is not permitted to pick up a cat.
3. Outside food and drinks are not allowed.
Many cafes offer limited food and delicious drinks (often coffee, teas, or sodas) to enjoy while spending time with the cats. Most, if not all, cafes have outside food banned.
Primarily because the cafe wants to prevent cats from eating foods that might be toxic to felines or as cats commonly have their digestion upset when eating outside of their common diet.
4. Avoid using flash photography when taking pictures.
Most cat cafes will allow you to take pictures during your visit and videos as a way to remember your time there. However, it is not permitted to use flash in these instances. Using your camera with flash on can hurt the cats’ eyes over time.
5. Don’t feed cats homemade cat treats.
You are not allowed to bring your treats or store-bought ones to feed the cats. Often, there are treats available for purchase at the cafe for a small extra fee. Treats are typically limited to avoid overfeeding the cats and, in general, have a cost of 500 yen.
Many cat cafes provide small snack items along with drinks like tea and coffee. Expect an average cost of 200 yen or more for drinks and food items. Some admission prices also include one drink per visitor. It’s best to check the website of the particular location for more details before arriving—this aids in understanding what the admission cost includes.
Menu items include snacks like traditional Japanese sweets. Most do not serve full meals, though some prepare the drinks and snacks fresh upon ordering.
It is common for cafes only to offer drinks and food from vending machines.
Some cafes do not provide food at all. Luckily, with most residing in major cities, it is easy to find local food shops to have a meal before or after the experience.
What else can you do at a cat cafe?
Besides petting the cats, many people head to these cafes for a peaceful environment to do schoolwork or general work on their laptops. Free WIFI is included at most cafes prompting people to bring their laptops and stay for more extended periods.
Some visitors head to the cafes specifically at feeding time. The 10-30 cats available at the shop are often fed at the same time.
This feeding spectacle occurs twice a day and is an exciting way to see all cats as they are often rotated to avoid overstimulation. Feeding times are listed on most cafe websites as they can change daily or weekly.
Cat cafe websites encourage reading manga or reading in general as an additional activity that one can partake in during your time here. Beyond this activity, you can chat with friends or other cafe visitors, and of course, play with the cats.
Additional Notes on Cat Cafes in Japan
Cafe owners ensure that cats are not seen after 8 pm each day due to a recent law. As noted above, cats are swapped out during the day to allow each feline a break from over-socialization with customers. These are key measures taken to protect the overall health of each cat.
Each cat has its own bio listed on the specific cafe website detailing its name, date of birth, and additional fun notes on occasion. One example is the bio section for Cat Cafe Mocha. While it may be tempting to arrive when a particular cat is in circulating at a specific location, it is not advised as they may be taking a break from the main room.
Cat cafes are growing across the world, and it’s easy to see why. The number of visitors that stop in daily for relaxation or as a cure for loneliness only proves the point in popularity.
Neko cafes are an excellent experience to add to a bucket list while visiting Japan, along with dog, owl, bird, and other types of animal cafes popping up in Tokyo. You might even find one available in your city or town when you arrive home from your travels.