Unless you live under a rock, you have probably read or heard about the new pet craze, Cat Cafés. Cat Cafés are essentially a small coffee shop that also houses resident cats for you to interact with while you sip your latte. The first one of these opened in Taipei in 1998 and was named "Cat Flower Garden". Since then, they have spread throughout the world, including the United States.
There are fewer of these cafes in the US due to stricter health regulations regarding animals in places that serve food. In April of 2014, a “pop-up” cat café was opened in New York with adoptable pets from the North Shore Animal League. This was only a temporary café but meanwhile, two cafés opened on the west coast, KitTea opened in San Francisco and Cat Town in Oakland, CA.
One of the obvious reasons for the popularity of these café’s is the opportunity to interact and play with cats and kittens. Most of the café’s also partner with local shelters and rescues so that the cats in the café are available for adoption. Finding good homes for these cats is an added benefit of these fun spots.
Hanging out for an afternoon is good for your health says a recent study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317329/. You can find cat café’s in many major cities now – a google search for cat cafes near me should turn them up.
Be aware that most of them require reservations. Yes, they are so popular that reservations are required. Many of them will also rent out their facility for cat parties, so if you have friends that need a cat fix, you can consider that option.
To address the health department concerns, most of the café’s in the US are set up with a restaurant area where you can eat and watch the cats through a glass partition and a separate ‘Lounge” area, behind the glass where the cats interact with customers. Most allow you to play with, pet and hold the cats, and ask only that you be respectful, i.e. don’t wake them from a nap. They usually prohibit feeding the cats and while you think it might be fun to bring your own cat with you to play with the cats in the café, that’s also prohibited.
There has been some push-back on the cafés from various animal advocacy groups. The main complaint centers around how the cats are cared for and the issues that might arise for them with a constant stream of new people to interact with. There’s no mandated oversight of these facilities, but you can be sure cat lovers that frequent them will be watching out for the well being of the residents.
If you are a dog lover, you might be wondering if dog cafés are on the horizon? Good news, they are already here. While not as widespread as the cat cafe, there are a few throughout the US, including one of the first to open a few years ago, The Dog Café in Los Angeles, CA.