By Rachel Newman
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at Starbucks, sipping a latte, and you think to yourself, “Man, what I wouldn’t give to pet a cat right now.”
Ok, so maybe most of us haven’t had that thought. But for those who would love to start off the day with a cat-puccino, Japan has an answer: cat cafes.
We visited Cat Cafe MoCHA in Tokyo to find out what this trend is all about.
Cat cafes are coffee shops where customers can enjoy beverages with a side of cat cuddles. Cat Cafe MoCHA is located across the street from the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine and popular tourist destination in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood.
Cat Cafe MoCHA customers pay ¥200, or about $1.75, for 10 minutes of cat-petting time. They must pay for a minimum of 30 minutes.
There’s a real focus on cleanliness. Customers are required to wash their hands before entering the cafe. Shoes must be removed. Personal belongings are placed in a locker.
There are other rules customers must follow. Flash photography is prohibited. So is chasing after or picking up the cats.
Some cat cafes serve food, but Cat Cafe MoCHA only serves drinks dispensed from a machine in a back room. Customers can buy unlimited drinks for ¥350, but you can tell that’s not the focus of the excursion for most of the cafe’s patrons.
What’s the focus then? Petting cats!
The history of the cat cafe dates back to 1998 when Cat Flower Garden opened in Taipei, Taiwan. The idea took hold in Japan, where many apartment dwellers aren’t allowed to keep pets. There are nearly 60 cat cafes in Tokyo, Yahoo News reported. Japan is home to nearly 150 cat cafes total, according to the BBC.
Cat Cafe MoCHA is home to 15 unique cats, including this adorable Special Scottish Fold.
Japan’s cat cafes attract visitors from all over the world. This map on the window of Cat Cafe MoCHA shows the hometowns of cafe customers.
The popularity of Japanese cat cafes has sparked a wave of new cat cafes across the globe. The first cat cafe in North America, Les Café des Chats in Montreal, opened in August 2014. Since then, many cat cafes have opened, or made plans to open, in the United States and Canada.
Many American cat cafes are affiliated with animal shelters and humane societies. The pets on display are often available for adoption. This isn’t the case in Japan.
Tree House Humane Society has plans to open Chicago’s first cat cafe in West Rogers Park. The project, which is over budget and behind schedule, is likely to open to the public in summer 2017.
Japanese cat cafes came under heat after Neko no Te cafe in Tokyo was shut down due to alleged animal neglect and unhygienic conditions in April 2016. The cafe housed 62 cats in a space meant for 10, Yahoo News reported.
The cats at Cat Cafe MoCHA are fed everyday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Additionally, customers can purchase cat treats to feed the cats between meal times.
Cat Cafe MoCHA customers eagerly photograph the cats having their breakfast.
Whether in Tokyo or Chicago, cat cafes are great for relaxing with cute cats–and maybe getting a new profile picture along the way.