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The Furbulous World of Cat Cafés

Come for the cats, and stay for the cats. Travel 3Sixty resident cat aficionado takes a meow-some look into a must-visit attraction in Japan, South Korea, and some say, Taiwan too!

Words, photos & tummy rubs:  Irvin Hanni

According to recent unofficial statistics by a serial cat lady (not me!), nine in ten adults will go “aawwww” when shown a cute cat on Instagram. Internet famous cats like Maru, Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow and Princess Monstertruck are fast gaining fans – proof that the supreme force of these languid felines just cannot be denied. Cats were worshipped during ancient Egyptian era and are still ruling the world if the popularity of cat snapshots on the internet are any indication at all.

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Welcome to cat lovers’ heaven. How may you pet me?

What is it about cats that make us mere humans bow down to their furry little paws? Is it the adorable button nose? The look they gave when you have something edible in your hands? The Puss in Boots swoon-worthy eyes when there’s a red laser dot flying about? Yes to all of the above and more! If only it is legal to bring kittens to work, we would all be happy, right? So while we are still waiting for the decree to pass, we have the second best thing: cat cafes! I’ve been hearing about this magical place for many years now, and it was only on a recent trip to Seoul did I finally manage to visit one. What a truly delightful experience it was!

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Did I give you permission to make eye contact with me? Where are my treats?

The concept has been around for more than 10 years, but has only gained po-purr-larity in the past few years. Though it is mostly synonymous with Japan and South Korea, not many people know that the first cat café originated in Taipei, Taiwan circa 1998. The idea then made its way over to Osaka, and soon after, mushroomed over to Tokyo and the rest of Japan and South Korea. There are already reports of cat cafes opening up in Canada, France, the U.K. and Russia, so there’s no doubt that pretty soon the world economy will be fuelled by these furry felines demanding treats and tummy rubs from us.

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Dreaming of tuna and salmon and treats.

So how do these cat cafés really work? Basically, you pay for a cup of coffee that’s left untouched usually (not on purpose) so you can go around the vicinity chasing after the cats. Cafés like Calico Cat Cafe Shunjyuku in Tokyo charge by the hour (JPY 1000/USD 10) for the first hour and JPY 1500/USD 15 for two), whilst Goyangi Darakbang (Cat Attic) in Seoul is free, but you’ll have to pay for drinks that’ll cost around KRW 6,000/USD 5 – KRW 9,000/USD 8 each. Light snacks like sandwiches and cakes are available too for the strong-willed people who can manage to tear themselves away from the kitties to munch (good luck in attempting that, my friend).

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They haven’t petted me for the past 10 seconds. What is wrong with the world?

Once inside, you will be asked to remove your shoes and slip on the in-house slippers. They will then offer you some hand sanitizer so that our humanly germs may never find their way inside the glorious cats’ DNA.  In a typical cat cafe, expect about 30-40 cats in all sizes, shapes and colours — ginger, calico, American shorthairs, Norwegian, fat, slim and more. If you’re lucky, you may even find the Austin Powers cat (the Sphynx) in the clowder of cats! In addition to the obvious furball-like attractions, some cafés have books for you to enrich yourself with cat facts or impress the cute girl in the corner with your extensive knowledge on how cats have six times better vision than humans in the dark.

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Title reads: Guardian of slippers, ambassador of cuteness.

While cat lovers may probably mistake the place with heaven, it’s important to note that there are rules in paradise as well. Most cafés do not allow you to pick up the cats, and it is forbidden to disturb a sleeping cat because they need at an average of 15 hours of sleep a day or all hell will break loose. If you must hug one, do it gently — with the reflexes of a ninja and strokes of Kitty Softpaws. If a cat decides that you are an evil witch and refuses your pets, you must respect its wishes and move on to your next victim cat. You may take as many pictures as you want but please refrain from using flash — they’re divas like that.

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Fact: cats spend 30 percent of their waking hour grooming themselves.

While your usual charms may work on the opposite sex in daily life, cats don’t give a whisker about your pretty lashes or flirty smile. A good meow and snapping your fingers may grant a slight head turn if you’re lucky, but you know you want more than that. So here’s a tip: buy a packet of cat treats at the counter which will cost around USD 3 or so. It’s a 99% guarantee that the cats will congregate around you. If the cats are too well-fed/full for treats, well not to worry as cat toys are available for hire too.

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This … is heaven.

Some may ask, “Why in the world would I pay money just to visit some random cats?” The reason why cat cafés made it big in Japan and South Korea is because in developed countries like the two, space is very limited. Not only are the apartments tend to be much smaller, a lot of them actually ban pets. So the only way to get some fur affection is to visit the cat cafés. Also, studies have shown that time spent bonding with animals have proven to be therapeutic, providing comfort and warmth to the corporate slaves who work every day and in dire need of some pet loving. Need further proof? Check out the below infographic by Daily Infographic.

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The healing power of cat purrs infographic by Daily Infographic.

With the boom of cat cafés, other animals are starting to vie for human attention and have begun their master plans to gain some affection. Cafés in honour of the second best animal on the planet –dogs– have already flourished around the same areas. Animal lovers of other kinds will also be pleased to know that there are also rabbit cafés, bird cafés, reptile cafés and goat cafés… wait what? Goat? Yes, you read that correctly. Sakuragaoka Cafe in Tokyo doesn’t only serve good coffee and refreshments, they also have two goats named Sakura and Chocolat. A little snooping on the internet has revealed that an elephant café is currently underway in Tokyo. Though there is little doubt that elephants are cute, one cannot help but wonder how big is the cafe going to be? Well after the goat and reptile, I’d say anything’s paw-sible! ;)

GETTING THERE Fly to Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Busan or Taipei from various destinations via AirAsia. For flight information and the lowest fares, go to www.airasia.com.

Get great flexibility and perks with Hi-Flyer!

Enjoy two flight changes (up to 2hrs before), Xpress Boarding, Pick A Seat, complimentary 20kg baggage allowance and earn 2x BIG Points!

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How to find a cat café? Follow the kitty-trail and spot these mascots around high traffic areas like Shinjuku in Tokyo or Myeondong in Seoul- they’ll be able to guide you in the right direction. 

WHERE TO GO?

Cat Time Cafe

Kita-ku,  Osaka Kurosaki town, 5-16 HEART Building 2F, Osaka, Japan http://www.nekonojikan.com

Calico Cat Café

1-16-2 Kabukicho, 6F, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0021, Tokyo, Japan http://catcafe.jp/shop_shinjyuku.html

R.a.a.g.f Rabbit Café

Jingumae 6-14-15, Maison Harajuku 3F, Tokyo, Japan http://www.raagf.com

Sakuragaoka Café

23-3 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan http://www.udagawacafe.com/sakuragaoka/sakuragaoka.html

Café Little Zoo

Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, Japan http://little-zoo.jp/

THE KITTIES IN JAPAN ARE BECKONING FOR YOU TO COME AND PET THEM.