In Tokyo, it doesn’t take much effort to find an animal café. Beginning with cats, the selection has expanded to include hedgehogs, owls, snakes and more. Still, cat and dog cafés offer a more humane alternative to wild animal cafés, since they are domesticated animals bred for human companionship. Wild animals such as snakes and hedgehogs require more isolation while others like owls and penguins also require more space than cafés can provide.
How to Spot an Ethical Cat Café
In recent years, numerous cat cafés have been shut down due to negligence or overcrowding as some business owners preferred making a profit over creating a safe environment for the cats. Customers have taken notice too and have started considering the ethical nature of the cafés they choose.
It’s important to consider whether there’s enough space for the cats to move around, whether they seem stressed out by their surroundings and if they are given a break time without people petting them. Despite being social animals, cats will also become stressed from being in a confined space with a continually changing group of people.
In general, cat cafés should not allow young children in, since they may accidentally hurt or scare the cats. Likewise, cat cafés should avoid loud music. Cats that are feral should be kept away from large groups of people. And café managers should overall monitor visitors to ensure the wellbeing of the animals.
As for the origin of the animals, it’s best if cat cafés offer shelter to homeless animals instead of supporting the breeding industry. In a country like Japan where over 200,000 dogs and cats are euthanized every year, these cafés can become a safe space for rescue animals.
7 Ethical Cat Cafés to Visit When in Tokyo
We’ve scoured the city and the interwebs for verified ethical cafés to save you some of the guesswork. Below are seven places you can check out to hang out with feline friends and keep your conscience clean.
Cat Cafe Calico Kichijoji at the station’s park exit (not to be confused with the same name cat café in the Kichijoji shotengai area) rescues old and sick cats as well as cats with disabilities. All cats are available for adoption. The café has an Edo-style Japanese interior with a hearth and traditional furniture. Visitors can read books while playing with the calm cats in a relaxed environment. There’s quiet classical music playing in the background and plenty of comfy seating for both humans and cats. Only children over 10 can enter.
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Necoma is a rescue cat café in Gakugei-Daigaku that provides a hygienic environment and carefully manages the cats’ physical conditions. All cats are from the NPO Little Cats in Yamanashi Prefecture and are up for adoption. Necoma also trains new cats to acclimatize to humans and other cats and strives to communicate well with its customers. Customers say that the cats’ autonomy is well-respected, and guests are encouraged to watch but not force the cats to be played with or petted. Customers must wear socks before entry in order to maintain a sanitary environment for the cats.
Hogoneko Rafu Space rescues cats mainly from the Japanese breeding industry. They are the parents of cats sold in pet shops or sick and disabled cats. Although there is no admission fee, customers are expected to donate ¥1,000 to support rescue activities and help maintain the wellbeing of the cats. Drinks start at ¥150.
A friendly Japanese lady runs Rescue Cat Café Meooow! which offers a home to stray cats, especially ones with disabilities that few people typically want to adopt. The cats don’t have to interact with customers and can hide in many places when they feel uncomfortable. It’s a small shop with a warm and homely environment where you can sit on the floor or sofa and play with the cats while talking to the staff and other guests about the cats. All cats are up for adoption.
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Takako Saito, the owner of Asakusa Nekoen, rescues stray cats from the parks and streets of Tokyo and Saitama. She has also rescued abandoned cats from the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. All cats at the café are ready to be adopted. Since the owner opened her café more than nine years ago, over 200 cats have been adopted. While some cat cafés may abandon cats once they reach a certain age, customers can find plenty of senior cats who have lived out their lives at this café. Located a six-minute walk from Asakusa Station, it’s a cozy space where you can watch TV, read books and chat with the outgoing English-speaking owner. And, of course, interact with the cats. Note that you must wear socks to enter the café.
6. Café Lua
Café Lua is a café, pet hotel and grooming salon all in one. It also shelters cats and dogs looking for new homes. Customers of this business can trust that their money will be used to take care of the adorable cats and dogs at this café and go towards the rescue of more cats and dogs.
Neco Republic is a collection of cafés featuring cats looking for their forever homes. It has branches in Ikebukuro, Nakano and Ochanomizu as well as in Osaka, Hiroshima and Gifu. The brand strives to encourage people to adopt rescue cats. At the cafés, visitors can play with the cats, buy souvenirs, have tea and adopt adorable furballs. The café supports trap, neuter and release activities and strives to find a good home for its resident cats.