Inside of Tokyo’s Cat Cafes

Who wants to see the kawaii-est wide-eyed fuzzy meow-meows? If you said “yes,” venture quickly beyond the cut for some serious Investigative Journalism that I did for you all while I was in Japan. Yes, dear readers, I took time out of my precious vacation to conduct some intensive research into the fascinating phenomenon of Tokyo Cat Cafes. It was extremely taxing work, and I’m pleased to report the results of my findings: fat kitties, skinny kitties, airborne kitties, funnel-wearing kitties, and much, much more.

It’s known that holding or stroking a cat reduces blood pressure and improves one’s general state of mind. For Tokyo residents, the level of everyday stress faced by the average worker, coupled with the fact that most apartments forbid pets, has created a niche industry: a set of cafes where, for an hourly rate, one can bask in the blissful company of felines. Of these cafes, Calico is one of the most popular. An exclusive look, full of kitty shenanigans, after the jump!

Our journey begins at the front desk, where we’re greeted with assorted cat decor. Visitors are instructed to put their belongings into a locker, read an instructional placard (below), and wash their hands before entering the cats’ domain.

The Cat Commandments outline pricing and rules of conduct in proper Engrish (click here to see the placard at a larger size.) “At the leave the cafe, it charges automatically to the most profitable plan.” “Please do not wake up the sleeping cats, suppress them, or act that the cats dislike.” I stayed at the cafe for one hour, which cost me ¥900, or roughly $10.

Oh, the kitties you’ll meet! Placards outline the names of the feline professionals gracing you with their presence.

This gentle fellow looked like he was a regular. The cats gravitated towards him, and he looked particularly at peace.

One of the reasons why this wouldn’t work in America is that dudes would use it as a place to try to pick up girls. “You like cats? I like cats!” But in Japan’s culture of politeness, boundaries are much more defined. The most interaction I had with anyone was the guy in the background mugging for the camera.

Drunk students and cats (see the photo above this one) – isn’t that a bad combination? Not in this place! Attendants are present at all times to make sure that no molestion occurs. The girl in this picture, one of the employees, shows off her ability to keep the cats entertained.

An assortment of cat toys is available for you to choose from. Most cats preferred these gold sparkles.

A middle-aged couple enjoys the company of several cats; refreshments are served.

The cats here have a docile temperment, but they’re not afraid to climb you if given the opportunity.

Kitty jungle gyms fill the room. However, most cats use them to sleep.

This little cat loved closing himself inside the box.

When the cats don’t want to be bothered or need to use the facilities, they can retreat into a private cave.

He’s got a bit of a Kitler vibe, no?

The cats have boxes, baskets and mats for chillin’.

The cats are trained not only to play well with people, but with each other. All the Cat Drama that I observed appeared to be playful in nature. Here, a cat wearing a scratch collar makes a surprise attack while a third cat observes the action.

If you get tired of playing with cats, a library of manga and kitty lore awaits you. Included are scrapbooks and photo albums of the cats you see here as kittens.

Refreshments are served during the day, but at night this window is closed.

Stylish kitty.

Sadly, none of the cats at Calico really clicked with me. Luckily, back at Tama Ryokan, I had a leg warmer/kitty/alarm clock of my very own.

29 Responses to “Inside of Tokyo’s Cat Cafes”

  1. Zoetica Says:

    AAAA! The kitty menu is just like these menus for host and hostess bars in Shinjuku. “Pick your companion right hurr!”

  2. Kate Says:

    MUST….GO…….I would probably die of happiness in that place.

  3. Will Ellwood Says:

    And this is exactly the kind of thing I want to read before I go to bed. :D

  4. Stagger Leah Says:

    This is the best idea ever. I’m far away from my own kitty right now and could really use one…

  5. lilah wild Says:

    It sounds like the world’s most wholesome bordello. All this purring, and snacks too?! Heaven.

  6. Evan Says:

    Nadya, this is wonderful. It’s a shame the US doesn’t try to adapt this in some way. Maybe one day…

    My only problem is that I would fall in love with them all and try to sneak them home with me…

    It would also make a nice haven for reforming strays/unwanteds (maybe they do that, too?)

    Thank you for sharing! I am going to pass this info right along!

  7. Ed Autumn Says:

    Adding this to my ‘Reasons Why I Want To Go To Japan’ list. Coincidentally I need not much persuasion but much more money ^_- Thanks for this delightful recap!

  8. Io Says:

    Awww, this looks very much like the awesome no-kill kitty shelter I worked at.

  9. A Dude Says:

    “dudes would use it as a place to try to pick up girls.”

    My first thought, exactly

  10. mildred Says:

    Nadya Lev – asking the important journalistic questions, like ‘he can has cheeseburger?’

  11. Dave C Says:

    This is the best idea ever! Cats rule!

  12. Allie Says:

    OMG I love Japan!!!!! This place is definitely on the future itinerary. I would happily suffer through my allergies to hang with these kitties. I lurvs them!

    @Evan, I have seen in recent years that places are using animals/pets in a therapeutic way, as companions for senior citizens and others, and horse therapy for disabled children is kind of popular. I even saw a news piece about a plush/robotic baby seal that was making the rounds at a senior housing facility. Maybe pet cafes is your next business venture…?!

  13. Sporky Says:

    What a cozy place!
    I have two silly cats of my own and Tokyo’s cat cafes are giving me an idea… A profitable idea.

    Did you really bring your cat with you on your trip?

  14. Yume Ninja Says:

    hooray for pictures! i am actually going to tokyo in a month and cat cafe was already on my list but now i know exactly what i’m in store for! This has only upped the excitement for me. Thanks so much.

  15. Lo Zephyr Says:

    EEP! *scribbles* Just making a note of where heaven on earth is…

    This is RAD!

    “One of the reasons why this wouldn’t work in America is that dudes would use it as a place to try to pick up girls. ‘You like cats? I like cats!'” So true! It would be an epic fail.

  16. Vivacious G Says:

    That place looks so fun!

    MY kitty likes you.

  17. maggie Says:

    This is the most awesome… thing… place… everything. God do I want to start a cat café right now. Aww aww aww.

  18. Nadya Says:

    I’m glad this post brought so much joy to so many people. :)

    Sporky, that cat, Luna, belonged to the ryokan (a kind of hostel). She wandered all over the house as she pleased, but took a liking to me and my roomate, Stephanie. Every night, she’d crawl under the blanked and snuggle against my chest. And in the morning, she’d wake me up by meowing at the exact hour that I’d been thinking I wanted to wake up. One day I needed to be up at 8 am, and she was there to wake me. Another day, I wanted to sleep in, so she didn’t wake me ’til 11. Remarkable cat.

  19. rubyredshoes Says:

    While in Tokyo why have just a cup of coffee when you can enjoy the company of cats, maids, butlers, school boys, school boys that are really women and maids that are really men? I live in Tokyo and am always discovering a strange assortment of cafes and restaurants

  20. Sardonyx Says:

    That was one sort of place that I didn’t make it to my last trip! Definitely will next time! Thanks for posting this!! Your pictures from the Alice cafe in your flckr are awesome! I tried to go alone when I was there and my friends were all tired and back at the hostel but I didn’t realize that most of those theme restaurants require minimum of two guests!

  21. Emera Says:

    Just looking at this post lowered my blood pressure.

  22. Steff Metal » Blog Archive » Linking Horn for 21 Feb, 2010 Says:

    […] Inside Tokyo’s Cat Cafes.  Pinkie and Pony's kick-ass wedding attire […]

  23. Mishka Bloglin » Blog Archive » Mreeeoww! The Cathouses of Tokyo Says:

    […] recently took a visit inside one of these Tokyo Cat Cafes and has a great rundown of this very surreal experience that was filled with highly trained cats […]

  24. Elanor Says:

    I love my motherland.

  25. antoinette Says:

    I loved this will post it on twitter

  26. kmcorby Says:

    My lord, it’s a like a cat brothel. I’m sure they have regulars. It’s cute, but it also strikes me as sad. I thought the Japanese loved nature and animals. Why won’t The Man let them have any pets in their apartments?

  27. Ana Droid Says:


  28. Hank Says:

    It has that.. whorehouse vibe. But less sex and more purring. I am confused but strangely interested.

  29. Le cafe des chats | Mein Kat Says:

    […] blog Coilhouse (A Love Letter to Alternative Culture) has an article on Tokyo’s cat cafes. Sadly, Coilhouse has ceased publication, but their attractively-designed pages remain on the web. […]