?That is the question! ?
I’ve always wanted to go to a cat cafe. Despite knowing that cats can sometimes be assholes I went to venture forth. I was puzzled too. How do they work? What’s it like? Are they as cute as the videos make them? I had visages of quietly writing my blog from a comfy chair while petting a purring lap cat.
My first venture was to The Cat Cafe. I walked in immediately sensing I wasn’t going to be having the wonderful giggly fun time I had imagined. There was a huge divide between where the cats were and where the people sat. One couple trying to engage with the cats were met with disapproving stares. It was awkward trying to approach the cats, and one of them was sleeping on top of the bag of toys. They seemed unwilling to engage and their body language was a huge blaring “NOPE” sign. I sat next to an orange tabby, and attempted to play it cool since animals need time to figure you out. I went in for a pet about 20 minutes later but the cat sensed me coming in, actually got up so it could turn around and face a direction that didn’t include my face. Should I be surprised? No.
All the cats are strays. The money you pay to get in is put towards food, shelter, and medical checkups for the cats. You can also adopt the cats too in The Cat Cafe*. It’s a nice trade off in thought. But in practice being in these cafes kind of made me feel like I was contributing to an animals=accessories mentality. Everyone was taking pictures with the cats instead of trying to get to know them or letting them approach you. I felt bad and gave up trying to interact with them. The orange tabby finally came onto my lap for the briefest of moments and I actually pet it. I immediately texted my husband about how giddy I was.
I texted my mom that evening about how cats were still assholes. “Congratulations! You’ve crossed the globe and rediscovered redundant information!” I had to laugh. I wanted to see if my bad experience was just the cafe itself. I went to Chinatown to a cafe called The Company of Cats. I got a pot of tea which for the record, was perfectly brewed. Hooray! Many of these places offer a complimentary drink with the purchase of your entrance. There is an entrance fee that is sometimes flat, or for a certain amount of time. This place included one hour, and then you had to pay more.
This place had a friendlier vibe, and when I got in the area after taking off my shoes I could see the space between cats and humans was much more conjoined. They even tolerated me petting them! I still felt bad though. I think I had taken for granted the relationship I had with my own cat in high school. I tried to stay away from the other cat lovers, followed a cat to a quiet part of the room, and sat down to eat. I took a selfie and managed to pet the beautiful fluff ball within five minutes. It didn’t purr or lean in to my touch, but it didn’t try to pretend I wasn’t actually existing either. This was a win in my book.
Immediately spotting my success, two other women came over, sat down next to the cat, and started posing for pictures messing with my vibe. House rules generally ask you don’t pick up, wake, or play with cats in a designated “no human” zone to give them some space so they weren’t breaking any rules. But it was obvious I was sharing a moment and they came and crashed the scene. I think many of the patrons took my aloof approach to interacting with them for disinterest.
I didn’t feel so bad for these cats. But I did roll my eyes as one woman took picture after picture with a cat firmly tucked under her arm. Even as she left, she passed me playing with one of the cats, took the toy I had by my side, got it to pay attention to her instead, and pulled out the phone camera she’d put away seconds earlier for one last photo shoot. It was really frustrating.
Finally everyone’s time had come up and they left the cafe. One of the workers in the room was playing with the youngest cat, and she gave me the toy encouraging me to take over. I talked with her for a few minutes, then she left. I sighed, sat in a chair and took in one of the many lovely books sheltered around the area. I felt silly paying for time in a cat cafe and not playing with them, but I just had no interest after watching the way they got handled.
I’m not sure if I’d give a cat cafe another shot. The idea is cute, but sitting in a cafe constantly getting friend zoned as you pine for furry attention is a poor substitute for the real thing. The experience could be better if you can go multiple times and build a relationship with one of these creatures. If you plan on visiting one however, consider going in later hours when cats are more active, or see if they have some that are younger who might be more active and playful. There are good cat cafe experiences out there which seem to include kittens. As for me, I am just no longer puzzled.
*This article was updated to reflect the adoption policy. The Cat Cafe provides a chance for adoption, while The Company of Cats keeps their furries close at hand