A Brief History of the Cat Café

Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty Images
Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty Images / Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty Images

What starts with a C and wakes you up first thing in the morning?

If you said coffee, you’re half right. But the other half you may not have considered. Cat cafés are popping up all over the world, giving guests a chance to partake in warm beverages and pastries whilst communing with feline friends in a public environment. No litter boxes to tend to, no paws kneading on the bedposts in the morning, but all the psychological benefits that go along with the company of a good kitty. Here's what you need to know about the new trend that's meowing its way around the globe.

Early Cat Cafés

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The world's first cat cafe, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. Soon, what began as a venture to provide young urbanites the chance to unwind after a hectic day became a favorite tourist destination. But cat cafés truly took off when they made their way to Japan.

At one of Toyko's first cat cafes, Neko no mise (Shop of Cats), which opened in 2005, the only cats that can't be cuddled are fragile newborns. Japan's capital city is now home to dozens of the establishments, which are popular, Neko no mise owner Norimasa Hanada told Vice, because "most Japanese rental apartments prohibit pets. The only ones that allow them are condominium apartments for families. This means that young, single-dwelling workers in their 20s and 30s can’t even think about getting any pets, despite the fact that they’re stressed out and are seeking comfort and companionship of some kind."

Cat Cafés in North America and Beyond

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In April, New York became home to America’s first cat café (aptly named Cat Café), which was sponsored by Purina ONE with adoptable cats from North Shore Animal League. Though there were lines around the block to get in, the café was just a short-term pop-up. For now, it looks like America's first permanent cat cafés will find their homes in California's Bay Area: Two cat cafés—one in San Francisco, and one in Oakland— are slated to open there this year.

San Francisco’s KitTea is set to play host to rescued feral cats, and Oakland’s Cat Town will offer visitors the chance to adopt the felines at their cat café.

In North America, other establishments are entering into the “cat race,” with plans to open cat cafés in San Diego, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Meanwhile, Europe has been on top of the trend, with cat cafés in Berlin, Paris, and Turin, to name a few. The UK has also gotten going on its first feline-friendly café. With the help of more than 100,000 British Pounds in donations, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium opened in city’s hip, up-and-coming East End in March and has already managed to book itself up for a few months.

So next time you wake up looking for a quick pick-me-up, consider that it’s not just caffeine you need. Soon you might be able to start your day with a little help from your feline friends.