So there’s this episode on HBO’s Girls (a series which I never really understood) where Shoshanna works at a cat cafe in Tokyo. Ever since I saw it, and being an animal lover, I really wanted to go to one. My wife Lily and I finally got our chance a few weeks ago, when we were in the always-pleasant San Diego and saw that there’s a cat cafe there.
It was not what we expected, in both good and bad ways. Here’s how that went.
What Is A Cat Cafe?
I had no idea this even existed ’till I saw Girls. Basically, it’s a cafe where they have free-roaming cats. In the Girls episode, it looked like a place where you could have some froufrou coffee and play with some friendly felines. Like this place in Japan, which certainly seems like a cool cat cafe:
How can it not be? After all, even Japanese zippers and toilets are world-class.
The San Diego Cat Cafe
So with this in mind, we went to the cat cafe in San Diego.
The cafe was set in a small, unassuming space, with two separate areas. One was where you got your food and drinks. They had an assortment of pastries and other edibles, as well as water, coffee, and other drinks. You had to pay $6 per person, which included one of those items (you got to choose). Once you got your food and drink, you would take it to the other area.
That was a sealed room with a young dude that would meet you right as you walked in. He explained the rules, which basically were to speak softly and not harass the cats. One seemed like a particularly grumpy cat, since we were told that he could only be pet in certain areas (like specific spots on his head and back), lest he get moody.
Hanging Out In the San Diego Cat Cafe
Sorry to say, but it was an odd experience.
First, it smelled. Like a pet shop, but far stronger. It did not make you want to eat or drink. I mean, I understand that animals smell, but maybe some air freshener or a ventilation system would help?
Second, most of the cats were like the grumpy cat. They were not friendly, approachable, or wanting to play. They basically slept or sulked around, and would only slightly react if you tried to tempt them with a toy.
Here’s Lily trying to play with a black cat:
And with another one:
They barely reacted to her, and were not at all affectionate or playful.
And this is where I’m conflicted and confused.
Let me start by saying that I know very little about cats, and have a general impression that they can be standoffish. However, there are some cute felines that live in my neighborhood, and I wanted to learn more.
This place in San Diego wasn’t really what I expected. It was more of an animal shelter, since their cats seemed to be rescues, with past trauma and with health issues (some were blind). And that’s why I’m conflicted.
I think rescuing cats and other animals is a noble mission, and I’m glad they found a home at that cat cafe. I’m also happy to have supported the business. However, it’s not what I expected, based on what I had seen on TV. It was not a particularly happy or upbeat place; it wasn’t really a cool cat cafe in the sense of being “fun”.
Did I Have the Wrong Idea?
So I’m just trying to do two things here. One is to let you know what to expect at some cat cafes. The other is to try to understand if this is what they are supposed to be, or whether the one we went to is different from the rest. Or maybe I just don’t understand cats in general, just like I don’t understand Girls.
What has been your experience at a cat cafe? Was it more of an animal shelter, was it fun, how were the cats? Did I just misunderstand what I was getting into?
Tom @ Dividends Diversify says
I had never heard of the cat cafe concept until just now. It is interesting, but I probably won’t be seeking one out anytime soon. Tom
The Rich Miser says
Yup, it was a new thing for us too. We went out of curiosity and because we like animals, but the vibe was different than what we had seen on TV.
I visited the cat cafe in Vancouver and absolutely loved it. The setup was very much the same, but their cats were rescues looking for homes, which I think is a great idea. They basically have a steady stream of cats arriving there then being rehomed by people who’ve visited the cafe. In the hour I was there four cats got reserved so it seems to work great for finding homes. Some of the cats were sleeping, others kinda sat and watched, and there were a few that were playful and wanting fuss. Cats can get burnt out from human interaction quite quickly, so maybe that’s why they weren’t very interactive when you visited.
The Rich Miser says
That’s awesome. I think it’s a great thing when cats and other animals that don’t have a home can find one where they will be well taken care of. I didn’t know that cats got burned out from human interaction; that explains a lot.
Thanks so much for helping me and others understand this topic 🙂
I visited my first Cat Cafe in Greenville, South Carolina today. I thought it would be a fun experience since my cat passed away a few months ago and I am currently living with someone that owns 2 cat hating pitbulls. The cafe has 32 resident cats and does not seem to be hosting any adoptable cats. At first, the place seemed cool with its cat themed decor, cool multi-colored lighting, and new age vibe music. The cats however seemed oddly zoned out. They were approachable and would let you pet them, but they acted completely bored out of their minds or possibly even sedated with calming supplements. In the hour and a half I was there, I petted at least two dozen of them and never once heard a single purr. I find that strange. So much so that I got on the internet to try to find answers and still don’t know why. I do think that this place is a better alternative for those 32 cats then a shelter, but I don’t know if I will be back.