cat, cafe, travel

Visiting One of Japan’s Cat Cafés

Remember those old cartoons where someone is making a decision, and there’s a devil whispering in one ear, and an angel in the other? That’s how I feel every time I’m presented with the opportunity for an up-close animal experience. One shoulder creature is screaming “YASSS! Touch it! Touch it!” and the other is poking me with my MA in Animal Behavior saying “Does the animal want to be touched or is it sad inside because people keep touching it?” This is followed by fervent Googling until I emerge with a somewhat clearer picture of whether or not I should do the thing. Sometimes the whole process happens backwards: I do the thing, and then afterwards it occurs to me to check if the animal had as much fun as I did. This is generally accompanied by some sort of guilt-ridden anxiety attack, making me wonder if I should forfeit my animal lover badge and go sit in a hole.

cat, cafe, travel
The face of realization and anxiety.

Usually my research brings me to the conclusion that no animal encounters are perfect, but neither am I and we’re all (hopefully) just doing the best we can.

Such was my experience with Cat Cafés. In the interest of telling the story properly, I will start with my experience first, followed by conclusions. Also the experience is in Haiku form, because, Japan.

Cat Café:

Where is the café?

In the nondescript high-rise

Weird elevator


Welcome to Cat Land


Now you may touch cats

cat, cafe, travel

So many fat cats

I want to touch all of them

Some do not like me


Squish face cat looks mad

That must be it’s resting face

Or it’s really mad

cat, cafe, travel

Ooh this cat likes me

That cat jumped onto Kate’s back

That cat owns Kate now


This place is so clean

Must purchase cat merchandise

I don’t want to leave.

cat, cafe, travel

During my visit, I didn’t personally notice anything amiss (although one visit, with a language barrier, during a slow period, is certainly not sufficient to make a judgment). The café seemed clean and there were lots of rules. Although there were lots of cats, they appeared to have a good amount of space, both to get away from humans and kitty brethren. I tried to do some research on Neko Maru Café but given my inability to read or speak Japanese, I wasn’t very successful. There were plenty of signs all over the café, and I imagine they had relevant information on them.

cat, cafe, travel
So many signs, I can’t read any of them.

My internet investigation lead me to the ultimate conclusion that Cate Cafés can be a source for good or evil, depending on the humans in charge. Since people can’t be trusted with nice things, some will use café’s as a profit-machine and exploit cats in stressful, cramped conditions to make a buck. Good people, on the other hand, will use them to help provide comfortable homes, socialization, and adoption opportunities for cats in need. It comes down to the purpose of the café, and the owner’s concern for the health and welfare of their animals. Here is more info on what to look for if you are planning on checking one out.

I wrote another Haiku already because I can’t stop. So stay tuned for my next post on Tsukiji fish market!

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