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Breed & Health Resources

What You Should Know About Cat Cafes

By Lea Jaratz


When the first cat cafe in my city announced it’s opening date, the reservation list filled up faster than a cat chasing a laser pointer. Cat caregivers and cat-free feline enthusiasts alike signed up in droves to spend time with these homeless cats while enjoying a cup of coffee or working out of the office.

It sounds blissful doesn’t it? A cat purring by your side on a big comfy couch while you hack away at your inbox – and the litter scooping and vet bills are not your problem. Well, before you sign up for an appointment, there are some things you might want to know about cat cafes.

They originated in Japan and became popular though Asia, but now cat cafes have been a growing trend around the world. Only recently permitted in the US, cat cafes here have a bit more regulation than those overseas. The animal area and food service areas must be completely separated and overseen by both the animal welfare department and the department of health, though the rules that are applied can be loose and open to different interpretations. Before you patronize a cat cafe, use this checklist to be sure you are spending your time and money in a place that puts the cats’ well-being above all else.

House Rules

A good cat cafe will have some pretty strict rules to ensure the cats safety and comfort. While rules may vary from place to place, you should expect that you’re not allowed to pick up cats, feed them, use flash photography, or in any way stress or bother the cats. Some shops require a quick orientation to review the rules and make sure people and cats are safe and stress-free.

Adoption Opportunity

Take a look at the cats listed on your local cat cafe’s website or the cats in their venue. Are they homeless or adoptable cats? Are they associated with a local non-profit rescue with an assortment of mixed breed, adult, and senior cats with adoption fees and resources linking them to a local shelter? If the answer is yes, you’re in a good place.

If you’re seeing nothing but rare, purebred cats or kittens, this venue is likely supporting a cat breeder rather than homeless pets.

Plenty of Space for Cats to Roam and Hide

There have been sad cases of cat cafes taking in too many cats from a local rescue, shifting the overcrowding from the shelter into the cafe. While well-intentioned, this causes stress and sickness amongst the cat population.

Quality cat cafes should have plenty of free space for cats to hide and areas to avoid the public space completely if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Healthy, Vaccinated, and Spayed/Neutered Cats

The cat cafe is only as reputable as the shelter or rescue group providing the adoptable cats. Be sure that you visit cafes that have fully-vaccinated and healthy cats. It only takes one sick cat to spread harmful, even fatal, diseases to the other felines or even your cats at home.

And in no case should a cat cafe allow cats to reproduce. That goes against the mission of any reputable rescue.

We can all agree that any avenue to help one of the 3.2 million cats in shelters find homes is a good thing, but only if it’s done the right way. Spending your money wisely is one way to make sure you’re not supporting a profits-before-pets cat cafe.

If you don’t have a quality cat cafe near you but find yourself in need of some feline-friendly time, consider volunteering with local rescue groups to clean, feed, or socialize cats. You can also consider fostering a homeless cat. There are lots of ways to get your feline fix and help a homeless cat at the same time.

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