Cat Cafés: Coffee and Cats

By Bailee Noella October 13, 2018

Where can you relax with a cup of coffee in your hand and a cat in your lap? Surprisingly, there is a place for that. Cat cafés combine the best of both worlds for animal lovers and caffeine fans alike. Stroll in, order your favorite drink, and be surrounded by cats!

What Can You Do At A Cat Café?

Most of us are familiar with the typical café protocol.  You hop in line, recite your order to the barista, wait to hear your name called, and then cozy up in a booth with your beverage. But what are the expectations in a café filled with cats?

While some cafés do enforce a strict “no-petting” policy, that isn’t typically the case. In most cat cafés, felines and humans are completely free to mingle as they please. People are encouraged to interact with the cats as naturally as they would in their own home. Don't be surprised if a Persian jumps onto your table to inspect the contents of your glass or a Siamese curls up in your lap to be stroked.

Other cafés take it a step further.  If you fall in love with a kitty, you can take her home! While many cat cafés are comprised of anywhere from two to twenty cats that were taken in by the owners of the business, other cafés, such as Le Cat Café in Philadelphia, are established by rescues looking for a new interactive method of adoption. Patrons are able to relax into a comfortable chair with a mug of hot coffee the same way they might at home, and watch a selection of kitties display their uncaged personalities. Everyone is invited to enjoy the company of some seriously sweet cats, and those looking to adopt have the rare opportunity to get hands-on to determine which one would make the perfect addition to their home.

Whichever place you decide to visit, it’s important to research the expectations before you go. The rules of each cat café may vary, but you can always expect to be treated to two of life’s greatest pleasures: cute cats and cups of coffee.

Where Did Cat Café First Start?

As with many of humanity’s greatest inventions, it’s difficult to determine who the first person to come up with the concept of cat cafés really was. While there may be some disagreements about who originally hatched the idea, the Cat Flower Garden in Taipei is frequently referenced as the first one. Established in 1998 in the capital of Taiwan, it’s a family-owned business consisting of a group of siblings who grew up rescuing stray cats. Upon deciding to open a café, they decided to set themselves apart by including their feline friends in the business venture.

Cat Flower Garden wasn’t always the booming tourist attraction it is today. In fact, passersby might have mistaken the building for abandoned at one point. It wasn’t until a television station reported on the business that people began to flock in for their daily dose of coffee and cats. What started out as a risky business move became a staple of their brand. Nowadays people from all over the world travel to Taipei to deliver international cat treats to the furry residents of Cat Flower Garden.

How Are Cat Cafés Spreading?

Cat cafés may have originated in Taiwan, but the concept really took off in Japan, a country well-known as the hub for all things cute and where the number of pets has boomed in recent years. Cats have become increasingly popular in Japan for a multitude of reasons, and with more people than ever accepting pets as members of their family, implementing them into cafés seemed to be the logical next step.

As animal lovers and tourists of both Taiwan and Japan caught wind of the idea, cat cafés began popping up all around the globe.  In Europe, where many people are as committed to high tea as they are to their work, the concept was met with open arms. Cat cafés in both Paris and London were flooded by hundreds of people the day they opened, and now require reservations if you want to ensure a spot in kitty and pastry heaven. Nowadays you can find cat cafés sprinkled across many European countries, including Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Why Are Cat Cafés So Popular?

There are many reasons these quirky companies have gained traction in recent years. Besides the novelty of the idea, the comforting combination of sipping a cappuccino while being surrounded by cats is too hard for some to resist. It doesn't hurt that animal companionship is proven to be beneficial to both our physical and emotional health.

For those living in housing with strict pet regulations or living with a roommate plagued by allergies, cat cafés are a fantastic way to get their feline fix. The fact they can also pick up their morning cup of Joe only sweetens the deal!

Rescues are also finding the café dynamic incredibly helpful in their mission to find forever homes for as many cats as possible. Le Cat Café proudly claims that their adoption rates “skyrocketed” after the opening of their business, and they aren’t alone. Many similar shelters refer to their cafés as having "revolving adoption doors". Some cats are rescued by a loving family the same day they come in!

The concept of turning cat cafés into adoption centers was originally an American twist on the idea, but in recent years rescues around the globe have been following suit. Instead of taking cats off the street and putting them into cages to await adoption, strays go straight into a warm, cozy environment surrounded by people who adore them.

Where Are The Cat Cafés In The United States?

Americans really like cats. In fact, roughly 47 million households in the United States have at least one, so it comes as no surprise that cat cafés are on the rise. The first permanent cat café in America was established in Oakland, California in October of 2014, and since then they’ve been showing up across the nation.

In April of 2018, there were reportedly 72 cafés in the US. Today, there are 118, with more on the way. They're scattered all throughout the country from California to Ohio, New York to Tennessee. Thanks to cat loving entrepreneurs, it’s easy to find a cat café near you.

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