Origin of Cat Cafes
Cat cafes had their origin in Taiwan, with one opening in Taipei in 1998. The cafe became popular with Japanese tourists as well as local visitors, who enjoyed the opportunity to interact with some furry friends.
Expansion to Japan
One of the Japanese tourists took the idea back to Japan, and the first Japanese cat cafe opened its doors in Osaka in 2004. They’ve become very popular in Japan, with Tokyo home to at least 39. Japan as a whole has over 150 cat cafes. Because many apartments in Japan forbid pet ownership, the popularity of the cafes has been attributed to a desire to interact with cats to help relieve the stress of a busy urban life.
Many people attribute the growth of the cat cafes to tourists. But step outside the areas where tourists visit, and you’ll see lots of Japanese businessmen happily playing with cats as a way to relax and forget about work for a while.
Growth Throughout the World
Since then, cat cafes have spread throughout the world. You can now find them in Korea, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Cat cafes moved into North America in 2014, with the first one opening in Montreal. Oakland was next, and then came New York. Now there’s one in San Diego!
Cat Cafes in the United States
Within the United States, compliance with food service regulations has been a challenge. It’s somewhat amusing that the Japanese are known for being a very clean society, and cat cafes have thrived there but regulatory challenges have been a burden in the United States.
In the United States, the area where the cats are must be completely separated from the area where food and drink are served. We had to put in three doors and walls in order to do this. Initially, the plans were for two doors and walls but the Health Department raised a valid point — when an animal is adopted, they will go right by the cart. So a third door was needed.
All of this obviously raises challenges for construction, but we have completed the build out and the cats approve!