Japan Today

Cat cafes purrfect for lonely and childless people

By Rhiannon Thomas

On the third floor of a rather plain looking building in Ikebukuro, there is a small but busy cafe called Nekorobi. Customers do not come here for the food but for the staff, a sophisticated crew of 12 that are as varied as they are beautiful.

After disinfecting their hands and donning a specially provided pair of slippers, customers can talk to and play with Sugar, Aisha, Anko and the others for as long as they like, if they are willing to pay.

Nekorobi (http://www.nekorobi.jp/english/) is one of Tokyo’s ever-growing numbers of cat cafes. Faced with a high cost of living, long working hours and the realities of life in cramped apartments, many Japanese people are unable to keep pets of their own. In a population that is increasingly single and childless, loneliness is also a rising problem, and cat cafes have flourished to fill this void.

The world’s first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998, but after it became popular with Japanese tourists, Japan’s first cat cafe, Neko no Jikan (or “Cat Time”), opened in Osaka in 2004. There are now at least 39 cat cafes in Tokyo alone, and some are so popular that reservations are required. In order to stand out from the crowd, some cafes specialize in the types of cats on offer. Whether you’re interested in spending time with fat cats, rare breeds or ex-strays and shelter cats, there is certain to be a cat cafe in Tokyo to cater to your preferences.

With the ability to appeal to anyone who loves animals, cat cafes attract a wide range of customers, including elderly individuals and businessmen, young couples on a first date and groups of friends looking for a cute afternoon out. Despite the “cafe” name, many do not offer food or drinks for customers to buy. Instead, they operate on a pay-as-you-stay system: customers pay by the hour to spend time with the cats and use the cafe’s other facilities freely, including taking as much as they like from hot and cold drinks machines and baskets of snacks.

Usually, there are upwards of 10 cats “working” in each cafe, enjoying a range of comfy chairs and climbing frames and a steady supply of humans willing to do their bidding. Customers, in turn, can interact with the cats using toys and brushes provided by the cafe’s human staff, and can sometimes purchase treats to reward their new friends (within moderation, of course). Some cafes even allow customers to bring their own toys for the cats to play with, allowing them to develop a more personal bond with their cat of choice.

Most places also allow customers to take photos of their favorite cats, and visitors’ books are strewn about the place telling customers about each cat’s history and temperament, and giving customers the chance to record their own adventures.

Cat cafes have become so popular that their feline staff members have become mini-celebrities, starring in specialist magazines and coffee table books.

Although the cats are the main attraction, most cafes also offer other activities for customers to enjoy while playing with and watching their feline hosts, including laptops, video games, and manga. In fact, ignoring the presence of strangers, many cafes aim to create as homely a feeling as possible, so that customers can snuggle up with the cats and relax or work for hours, away from the stresses of the outside world.

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I stopped in at one of these cafes right near Ueno Station, just out of curiosity. Some beautiful cats, including several breeds I'd never seen "live" before, and far from "working", they seemed to be living the life of kings... :-) Customers were very respectful of the animals--cats aren't big on forced cuddling in the first place--and the place was spotless, no litter box smells or clumps of hair anywhere.

Of course, 99% of the customers seemed to be women in their 20s and 30s on their way home from work, so I felt a little out of place, but it was indeed relaxing to just sit there and watch the dozen or so felines doing their feline thing.

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99% of the customers seemed to be women in their 20s and 30s.

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Rent a cat.

Who knew?

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Hubby and I are avid cat lovers, so we hit a cat cafe in Odaiba. That one was not great at all. The cats looked like they were drugged half the time, some were in cages and the place smelled like cat pee. I will tell my hubby about this one and hopefully it's a better experience. Wish we could actually keep one,but our building does not allow pets :(

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Most Cat Cafe's I have been to are very nice, usually they provide a small room where they cats can rest, eat, void themselves and retread too if they get tired of human company and attention.

Most cafe's will also limit the number of Human visitors.

Try the one In Shimokita-Zawa very nice and often shown in a CM on TV.

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I do have a bit of an issue with the title. Can't people just like cats ''just because''? It' sounds so stereotypical to lump in cat lovers as lonely and childless spinsters. How about ''purrrfect for cat lovers?'' Just sayin' JT.

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Two and four legged pussy! Meeooowwww!

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For most of my life I could never understand why anyone would want to be a cat person when there are so many wonderful dogs in this world. Then last year I found and adopted an abandoned kitten, and my eyes were opened. Cats bring a calm peace and serenity to life that is the perfect foil for the Hey, let's be mates! attitude that characterises dogs.

Dogs is great. Cats is great, too. Only wish I'd found out years ago.

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The Japanese can make a business out of anything. lol


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Stop off to play with a cat or two on the way home from a busy day at the office? Sounds very therapeutic to me :) I think this may catch on.

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Sadly, the title name was changed by Japan Today and I agree, it does not sound nice!


The Original title is Tokyo Cat Cafes: Meow


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PS - The above is not a complaint because the best intentions were meant by Japan Today.

Cat cafes are not my cup of tea but I know several people who get great pleasure from visiting them and it seems that the cats are well treated and the clients are happy.

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Probably not my cup of tea..... But great idea for those so inclined. Innovative and original Japanese thinking. They're so progressive.

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Hey Japan!! Learn to interact with other human beings. There are what.....? 38 million people in the greater Tokyo area. Stop ignoring everyone around you and try to make some friends. This country has the worst social fabric of any nation I have visited. And more escapist solutions to that problem, like silly Cat cafes, to help people avoid dealing with other human beings.

No wonder people are unhappy, drink so much and 30,000 a year do away with themselves. People would rather socialize with cats than learn to deal with other human beings.

A smart and better business would be "Friendship Cafes" where people can hand hold others through the process of making human friends.

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People would rather socialize with cats than learn to deal with other human beings.

Sad that some people think social interaction begins and ends with those only of their own species.

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Cats are so underrated - many people prefer dogs. I myself am a big cat person - I have lived around cats for more than 20 years. I still live in the USA, so I'm able to have my precious little cat with me. But once I marry and move to Japan, I may not be able to have a cat. So sad...

I went to this Cats Livin in Odaiba many years ago. It was so relaxing. I wanted to take those babies home with me.

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As an American living in America.. studying Japanese with my JP best friend.... This is CRAZY!!.. Paying to play with cats because you are lonely???... How about making some human friends.. go on a date... get married and make some babies??.... Having to pay to play with cats?... is this how sad Japan has become??????

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This is CRAZY!!.. Paying to play with cats because you are lonely???... How about making some human friends.. go on a date... get married and make some babies??.... Having to pay to play with cats?... is this how sad Japan has become??????

People either can't, or choose not to make friends easily, for all kinds of reasons. Telling someone they are crazy for not doing so merely exacerbates the problem, it doesn't solve it.

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I go to a neko cafe with my wife- we are searching for her perfect kitten in other places. There is far too many cats in that place compared to cat litter trays- I saw the cat's storage room- its the size of the large closet. People could easily go to a neko cafe so they can experience cats when they aren't allowed cats in their rented home as a lot don't.

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This is, in a tragic way, genius. Somebody's managed to identify probably the only developing market in this burg, namely sad and lonely spinsters with no social skills but more money than sense, and figured out a way to bill them for a venue in which to squeak " kawaii". And they will pay, and go home alone to a sterile room filled with their own childhood toys, pink things and regrets, eat cake and cry.

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cloa513 - has your wife tried looking here? Lots of kitties looking for good homes nationwide.


(Every kitty is purrfekt in its own way)

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interesting how they have things like this =3 excellent cat cafe's to where you can just snuggle up and relax while playing with mr. kitty kitty. Thou this does make me wonder... if There is a dog version of it.... puppies are always fun and adorable.. or rent a dog for a few hours and take him to the park for fetch XD

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Tamarama: Innovative and original Japanese thinking. They're so progressive.

The article states this idea was copied from Taiwan.

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"And, just by the by, cats are rubbish. When I do nothing at all but lie around until I'm hungry then demand food even when I can see someone preparing it, I'm rightly called a selfish lazy sod. But when a cat does it, it is suddenly a laudable life skill. Like Cleo said above, a dog is your friend. A cat will take what it can, looking down on you all the while. I don't understand why the socially-inept spinsters of the article choose to spend good cash money and their leisure time seeking out something else that doesn't give them a second thought.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Try the rabbit cafe in Shimokita! I have a Netherland Dwarf and went to check it out. Small little place with about 15 rabbits. Fun for a short visit and we even bring our own for a play around with others

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Didn't know about that place, Thx.

We got fairly easy access to Shimokita and and our miniature rabbit would love to play there. He is called Fiver(hint) and very affectionate and loves to share my bed.

Right now he is curled up in my lap.

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Lonely single men take note the possible love of your life may be found at the moggy cafes.

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Lonely single men take note the possible love of your life may be found at the moggy cafes.

it is a good point, i found my last boyfriend at a cat cafe like this .. . word of advice, bring an interesting cat toy, like fuzzy balls or something colorful to get the cats moving.

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I love going into places like this to stroke some fluff i love the long haired ones

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Steve on a final note from me not everyone can can everyone can afford to do ..i take my hat of to you for what you have accomplished well done

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sorry 2 windows open

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How sad:( sounds to me like somebody needs to find a hobby, get a boyfriend/girlfriend... or something. Nothing worse than cat hair clinging to you.. The most selfish of all animals, they only come around when they want something.

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Nothing worse than cat hair clinging to you.. The most selfish of all animals, they only come around when they want something.

What a sheltered life you must lead, Believe me, there are lots of things that can stick to you that are much worse than cat hair.

My kitty must want a lot, 'cos she's virtually a velcro kitty.

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We're fortunate enough to have a timeshare cat - Molly lives next door and is fed by her humans there, but she comes to visit us frequently. All the enjoyment of a cat without any of the responsibility :-)

There's a tobacco shop south of the station in Niigata, which hubby used to frequent, which had two or three gorgeous cats of the Maine Coon / Norwegian Forest variety (=very big). You'd walk into the shop and suddenly realise you were being watched by these cats draped languidly across the counters....

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I wonder would this work here ..i have 7 pussies and they all love attention when i get visitors there is never a lap empty and the noise from all the purring is a harmony to listen to ..also have 5 shiatsu's maybe i can get customers to give them a trim while they visit it would save me £25 per dog on grooming costs and as for my 2 Persian pussies £35 ..but if they were to scratch and draw blood i'd probably have health services on my back

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Great places to watch people who have no idea about how to treat animals. I go once a week and enjoy.

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Hello ,i'm assistant of the cat Photographer ,who will be visiting Tokyo this spring.exclusively for taking Pictures of cat real or not he will be looking about any place with cats ,café ,park ,cemetery ,temple with living cats (and amah ?) but he will be also looking about statue cats statue from any size,will be looking about the tallest maneki neko and Hello Kitty you can also tell me if you know blog or website about cats ,animal protection ,shelter thank you very much about your help


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