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:
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?