I am a crazy cat lady.
A couple years ago, a friend returned from Japan and told me about the cat cafes there. These are wondrous places where you can go have a coffee and hang out with cats that live in the cafe. I added this to my list of weird and cool things that warrant a visit to Japan some day. Shortly after hearing about these cafes in Japan, I read about one opening in the US, and over the next several months I read about others. I first visited one in June 2015 – the Meow Parlor in New York – and since then I’ve visited eight cat cafes in four countries. They are now a new travel obsession of mine – before I visit a new city, I check to see whether it has a cat cafe. And for anyone interested enough to keep reading, I’m going to rank them.
But before I do that, let me give some more background on cat cafes in general so you know what to expect if you ever visit one. First, you generally have to pay to visit one – either a minimum food purchase or a separate fee. Some cafes let you stay as long as you want; some require you to pay by the hour. Some require reservations. Most have basic coffee shop drinks and treats, and some have fuller menus and/or alcohol. Local health codes dictate how and where the food is served, but preparation is always separate from the cats obviously. A lot of the cafes allow adoption of some or all of their cats. And finally, a rule that’s highlighted on the website of pretty much every cat cafe – don’t bring your own cat!
Now for the rankings:
9 – Le Cafe des Chats, Paris, France – I had such high hopes for this one. Unlike all the others I’ve been to that were places with cats that happened to serve drinks and sometimes food, this was a cafe that happened to have some cats. This being Paris, I had to attempt to speak French, which generally doesn’t go too well for me. There were only a few cats, and most of them were sleeping (which means do not disturb). None of the other patrons were leaving their tables to play with the cats that were awake, so I followed those cues. So basically my visit consisted of an overpriced piece of cheesecake with hints of litter box.
8 – Aqui Ha Gato, Lisbon, Portugal – This cafe is fine, but there weren’t very many cats out when I was there so it was sort of boring. However, there was this long tube they could play in, and all of us got some entertainment watching them in that thing. Added bonus – one of the historic Lisbon trolleys rattles right past the cafe.
7 – Purrington’s Cat Lounge, Portland, OR – The layout of this cafe was the same as the one in Lisbon – a long narrow room with the cats next to a separate long narrow room with the food – so I’m thinking layout has something to do with the ranking. These narrow rooms limit access points to the cats, which are usually surrounded by people trying to pet and/or Instagram them (behavior that has been true everywhere but Paris). I ranked this higher than Lisbon because there were more cats and the decor was more interesting. I think anyone who starts a cat cafe has to be at least a little crazy, and I appreciate it when that craziness manifests itself in the decor. This one had cool wall murals and a funny Donald a Trump doll as one of the cat toys.
6 – Cafe Miao, Copenhagen, Denmark – This is the site of my only unplanned cat cafe visit. I was looking for the train station and found this. Needless to say, I caught a later train. This cafe didn’t have too many cats, but for most of my visit I was the only person in there so I had the cats all to myself. Plus, my minimum required food purchase was a tasty smoothie.
5 – Seattle Meowtropolitan, Seattle, WA – It pains me I can’t rank my local cat cafe higher. I actually think of all the cat cafes I’ve visited it’s the best one for the well-being of the cats because there are a lot of elevated walkways and surfaces near the ceiling and hiding places that allow them to find their own happy place. However, these cat happy places are often out of reach of the humans, which isn’t so great for the humans who want to interact with them. Also, there is no real comfortable seating for the humans – just hard benches. Paid entry comes with a coffee drink with cat art in the foam, an obvious plus.
4 – Meow Parlour, New York, NY – Since this was my first one, I have a bit of a soft spot for it. This is a pretty small space – this is New York after all – but there are a lot of cats in it. The people who run it clearly have a sense of humor, posting a sign on a door that reads “Cats, employees and Taylor Swift only.” (Taylor Swift is a big cat lady in case you didn’t know.)
3 – Blue Cat Cafe, Austin, TX – This place is huge, has lots of seating, has lots of cats, has crazy cat murals and lets you stay as long as you want for $3. What’s not to love? I didn’t order food, but there are some funny Yelp complaints about the food, which is either vegetarian or vegan. Someone was shocked to order the “brisket nachos” to discover the brisket was actually tofu. Seems like that would be a pretty big faux pas in Texas.
2 – Denver Cat Company, Denver, CO – This place is like the most comfortable living room ever that happens to be filled with cats. You can also stay as long as you want. It’s also in a cool neighborhood that warrants some exploring.
1 – Crumbs & Whiskers, Washington DC – I debated some of the rankings above, but this one is the clear #1. It’s two stories of cat heaven in Georgetown. There are a ton of cats that you already feel you know if you follow these guys on social media. Comfortable seating and lounging space abound for humans and cats. Not sure exactly what the secret sauce is for this place, but everything felt just right. Need to find an excuse to get to DC again and go back.
As for that trip to Japan, it’s still on the list, because I don’t think I can find a hedgehog or owl cafe anywhere else in the world.