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Themed cafes are a common sight in Asia. In Korea and Japan you’ll find cafes with free-roaming cats, dogs, parakeets, racoons, sheep, and even meerkats! Not only are animal cafes available, you’ll also find cafes where you can dress up like a princess or eat foods shaped as poop. It’s not hard to believe why themed cafes are so popular!
Animal cafes seem like the quintessential cutesy thing you could find in Asia, but they have actually sprung up in cities across the world (even in America).
If you’ve seen an animal cafe in your hometown you may have some questions about what goes on behind closed doors of Cat Cafes. We did, too, so we decided to ask the owner of one of the founding cat cafes in Seoul! We talked to her in native Korean so we were sure to get the clearest answers.
Here’s what you should know before visiting a cat cafe near you:
Where do the cats at a cat cafe come from?
Cat Cafe: “The cats come from a variety of places. Some are brought in as kittens to grow up to be service cats at the cafe, while others have been rescued from families who abandoned them.”
Where do the cats go to the bathroom?
Cat Cafe: “The Cats have access to another room with litter boxes through a cat door in the wall [shows us the door]. The litter boxes are cleaned multiple times a day.”
*We observed that the cat door was easy to access and large enough for any of the cats to use. We also never smelled the litter boxes, which either means the room is very far away (unlikely) or that they truly are cleaned often.
Can the cats leave the Cafe if they want?
Cat Cafe: “Yes, the cats are free to wander around the cafe room or to leave through the cat door.”
*We never saw any cats leave the cafe. They had access to everything they needed in the room except litter boxes, and seemed fine to hang out around people.
Do the cats see a veterinarian?
Cat Cafe: “Yes, the cats all see a vet before being admitted to the Cat Cafe and are checked again throughout the year. If a cat ever seems in need of medical attention a vet is called for right away.”
*We observed that one cat had been in an accident and appeared to have scars on it’s face and back which had completely healed. We believe the cat would not have healed as it did without prompt medical care.
Do the cats get along with each other?
Cat Cafe: “Yes and no. Like all cats, these ones each have distinct personalities. Sometimes they get along well and sometimes they fight. The fights never last long, though.”
*We saw cats interact with each other but never saw cats fighting.
Do the cats have a caretaker at night?
Cat Cafe: “No, the cats stay at the Cat Cafe unsupervised at night. Although no employees are in the rooms, we do have a few infrared cameras around which records the cats at night. We are able to check in through the internet whenever we feel the need, or check the footage if something seems wrong the next day.”
*We did see two security cameras in the ceiling of the Cat Cafe.
How do you keep the cats safe around people?
Cat Cafe: “Anyone who wants to enter the Cat Cafe first takes off their shoes and has to use a special hand cleanser. This helps us lower the germs the cats become exposed to from the outside. Once inside, guests must follow a set of rules when interacting with the cats. If they are in violation of these rules we reserve the right to ask them to leave.”
*We were made to leave our shoes and use the special cleanser before entering. We were also shown a laminated paper with the interaction rules in multiple languages which we had to agree to before seeing the cats. Some of the rules were no yelling, no picking up the cats, and no waking up sleeping cats.
How we felt at the Cat Cafe, Seoul:
It was a strange experience to visit a shop dedicated to having a cafe drink and petting cats. I wasn’t very excited to go, at first, because I was worried I was playing into some malpractice scheme. I’ve heard horror stories of animals being mistreated for human recreation around the world, and I considered myself too much of a conscious consumer to get sucked in to the trap.
But curiosity (and my son who loves cats) won out and I joined my family at a Cat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea.
I was immediately impressed at the attention and care I observed before even entering the room. Plaques with pictures and information on each individual cat lined the corridor to the cafe, and we were treated to a lot of requirements before getting around them. It was obvious that these people really do love their cats.
Once inside the room was very peaceful. It was designed to be comfortable for the cats. There were multiple play ladders creeping along the walls with plenty of hideaway places for the cats who feel shy.
I expected the room to be scratched, lined with cat fur, and smelly, but it wasn’t. The room was in great condition and kept incredibly clean. We never saw an employee sweep, so I’m not sure how they do it! I didn’t notice, but maybe they close temporarily during the day?
The room had around 10 patrons already visiting the cats, and all were very loving to the animals. Even if they hadn’t been, we saw four employees circulate the small room keeping constant vigil in case any guest mistreat the beloved animals.
We were even reminded of the rules (in a kind way) when my son began to pick up a cat, which I appreciated.
I am so glad that the owner was kind enough to answer the many questions we had. She was very transparent about the process and seemed genuinely concerned that we understand exactly what this was.
I can now say with confidence that a Cat Cafe is a loving atmosphere where people of all ages can escape the stresses of the day by petting a cat.
It’s an expensive cafe to order a drink, but it’s cheaper than therapy!
If you’re interested in visiting a cat cafe near you I hope you ask the same questions to make sure it treats the cats just as well!
If you have any other questions about visiting a cat cafe please ask in comments!