I’ve visited nearly 100 cat cafes around the world.
It may sound like a lot, but at last count the global tally was over 200, which means I’ve still got a ways to go before fulfilling my quest to visit every cat cafe on the planet.
Even though I have much traveling to do before I claim my ‘title’, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have my favorites so far, which is how I was able to create this list of the five best cafes. But since I'm pretty sure I've visited more cat cafes worldwide than anyone else, I think I've got the experience to back it up.
To make it as one of the best, there are several key criteria that need to be met. These are also the same factors that I use in the scoring system for The Neighbor's Cat website.
Well, that seems obvious, doesn’t it? The kitties are the most important factor in determining my favorite cafes, but there are also 'factors within the cat factor', namely: physical appearance, friendliness/playfulness, and even the number of cats (more is not always better).
Having an abundance of fur babies doesn't necessarily make a cat cafe one of the best. It's all about balance. A lot depends on the size of the space and personalities of the cats. Sometimes two cats with big personalties works, other times, twenty is the right number for a given space.
The top cafes on this list have an interesting commonality-- with the exception of Caturday with about fifteen felines, the rest have approximately ten cats.
If it’s called a cafe, there had better be, at minimum, a cup of coffee to be had. Yes, the cats are the most critical factor, but a decent cup of coffee is right up there. I’ve been to many nice cafes with adorable cats, but then served coffee best described as sludge, which means they are not making the favorites list anytime soon.
It's even better if the cafe serves great food, wine, or luxurious cocktails, but if a cafe is going to make the favorites list, they must serve a good cup of coffee. All of these favorites do just that, with one even qualifying as outstanding.
Next up is the space the cafe occupies. A cat cafe doesn’t need to be posh to make the favorites list, but being clean, tidy and odor free is compulsory. I am negatively impacted by the smell of cat urine, and while I get that some cats have a habit of marking territory, any place where humans are going to be eating and/or drinking means the room can't smell like a cat box.
Excess clutter is another no-no. Yes, having comfortable seating, some climbing equipment and a few cat toys is necessary, but being surrounded by excessive stuff does not make one want to hang out for very long. Same goes for lighting. Many cafes are either too dark, or harshly lit with overhead fluorescent bulbs reminiscent of a high school cafeteria or hospital waiting room.
The best cafes all have a spare, yet cozy interior with warm lighting that makes it a pleasure to relax with a cup of coffee while watching the cats.
The friendliness and overall engagement of the cafe workers is the last, but certainly not the least factor assessed in the Top Five ratings. I’m not looking to become BFF’s with the person taking my money, however if they are borderline surly or worse yet, completely apathetic, it really affects how I feel about a place. My favorite experiences have a common denominator when it comes to the staff- pleasant cat lovers who care that your experience is a good one.
Sometimes, they are just plain friendly, or are really into the cats and want to share insider tips on which cat likes belly rubs or who will sit in your lap. Sometimes, they are generous in sharing treats to get the cats to come to you, or gift you with stickers or postcards.
The Top Five Best
To be one of the best, the following cat cafes have earned top scores in each of the above areas. While there are certain cafes that might score higher in one particular area (Mocha Lounge Ikebukuro is a top Facility, for example), they need to score high in all areas to make the Top Five Best Overall.
And with that, could I have a drum roll, please?
1. Cat Coffee Apartment: Kyoto, Japan
Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Sometimes you just need to see it for yourself.
I was concerned what awaited me at this cat cafe when I saw several angry one star reviews online, with most of the ire directed towards the ‘no touching the cats’ policy.
For me, this Kyoto cafe showcased the best of Japanese and cat cafe culture and the experience of visiting was like opening a beautifully wrapped present.
Set in a Japanese garden, relaxation permeates your being immediately upon stepping into the courtyard.
The serenity continues inside where the coffee bar (downstairs) and cat room (upstairs) fuse both modern and traditional Japanese interiors with stunning dark wood floors and customary elements such as shoji screens, low tables and tatami mats. The whole space is beautiful, immaculate and authentic.
The owner was very friendly and we talked about the cats for a bit before she explained that the 'no touching' policy was implemented to prevent the cats from becoming skittish and consequently avoiding people, which in my experience can be a common issue plaguing popular cat cafes. She noted that if a cat climbed on you, this wasn't a problem, just to avoid picking them up.
Whatever she is doing is working, because all eleven (two had the day off) were incredibly curious and social. My favorites included a regal Russian Blue named Roy who hopped up on my back for a few selfies and Latte, a Siamese mix.
Combine all of this with the best coffee I've had in 80+ cat cafes, and it's easy to award this cafe the top spot on the list. Full review here.
2. Cat Cafe Monta: Tokyo, Japan
Yes, Monta stands out amongst the 80+ cafes I've personally visited across the globe as it exceeds expectations in all areas- cats, coffee, facility and staff. It's everything you could want in a cafe.
First, naturally, the cats are top notch. The owner has one each of the nine cutest breeds out there including a Bengal, Ragdoll, Norwegian Forest Cat, Maine Coon and my newest obsession, Somali.
Each one of these cats is a rock star in his/her own right with equal measures of beauty, sociability and playfulness, but I was particularly enamored of Kenta, the Somali who is so gorgeous, I couldn't help but stare at him each time before he finally moved out of my line of sight. Overall, the cats are playful and curious, making my time in the cafe fun and entertaining.
Coffee is another reason why Monta is getting the nod on my favorites list. Japan is a country with a fairly loose definition of a 'cafe' as most of the cat cafes serve hot drinks from a vending machine (which are not the highest quality beverages out there). But Monta rises above this with real espresso drinks on offer.
The facility itself is wonderful-- super clean, nicely decorated, cozy without being cluttered and warmly lit. Then, the owner is a gem. Extremely welcoming, you can tell he cares about his customers and wants them to have a great experience.
As I sat inside Monta's lovely space surrounded by nine gorgeous cats and a delicious cup of coffee in my hand served by the friendly owner, it struck me that this is the ideal cat cafe.
I reviewed Monta recently, so for a full review, click here.
3. Cat Caffe Ljubljana: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ah, Slovenia! I loved this country, especially it's natural beauty, and with so many mountains, lakes and waterfalls to choose from, you would think my favorite thing there would involve the outdoors.
Despite the ideal summer conditions, we visited this cafe three times because the humans and cats at this gem of a place were the friendliest and most hospitable of the eight cat cafes we visited in 2016.
There are many things to like about this place, but two things I particularly loved were:
- The cats are truly the celebrities here with their 'bios' posted in the drink menu and on the website so you can call them by name.
- They serve alcohol here. Did someone say wine AND kitties?
As mentioned, we visited three times- once for drinks and twice for coffee. Each time, we were greeted warmly, but the first encounter was especially memorable. It was near closing and since we were the only customers, the server engaged in lively conversation about the cats, then with an impish grin, asked if I wanted to feed them treats.
I was hooked. These cats were definitely the most personable out of the eight European cafes we visited in 2016. They made you feel special.
The cats of Cat Caffe Ljubljana are an interesting mix. There are several Devon Rex who, despite their dour expressions, are actually super playful and cuddly. There are also a couple of Maine Coons, Nina and Meri, who are gorgeous fluff balls and even a couple of 'mutts' Jonas and Marko.
In addition to the cute and personable cats, friendly staff, and wide drink selection, the facility itself is quite lovely. The overhead cat walks and play equipment are modern and sophisticated so you always feel as though you are in a cafe, not a five-year-old's bedroom.
Great space, great cats, and great value means you should be putting a visit to Slovenia on your list asap.
For the full review complete with photos, click here.
4. 4rest Norwegian Forest Cat Cafe & Showroom: Seoul, South Korea
I found this cat cafe in Seoul, South Korea quite by accident. Happy coincidence because it turned out to be one of the best!
I've seen a lot of cats in my travels. Well over 1000 at last count, but these cats are among the most gorgeous I have ever laid eyes on-- and they are no strangers to the art of flirting.
The cafe itself is handsome- sleek and spare, but nicely complemented by warm wood and rustic furniture. The quirky collections featured around the room keep it unique and interesting, as if you could possibly be bored in this Mount Olympus of feline gods and goddesses. They entertained us for two hours before we finally dragged ourselves away.
The drinks, served by the friendliest owner we encountered in the ten Seoul cat cafes, were excellent and they also serve decadent desserts, so seeing as the cats aren't the only indulgence here, go ahead and splurge. Once you arrive in this Hongdae neighborhood gem, I predict you will be here for many hours and need the sustenance.
Complete review with photos here.
5. Caturday Cafe: Bangkok, Thailand
This popular Bangkok cafe was packed when we arrived, but there was one coveted table open which we were lucky to snag.
Tucked away just off the main tourist area, it was not easy to find, but I'm glad that we persevered.
Having visited a lot of cat cafes in my world travels, Caturday Cafe is the first one that felt like a fantasy. From the cat-centric Renaissance paintings to the luxurious food and drinks, to the tutu collars and butterfly wings on the kitties themselves (not sure how much they enjoy it), this place is seriously over the top and a delightful escape from reality. How often have you said that about a cafe?
The space has lots of fun, yet elegant design details, like food bowls made from watering cans. It's also incredibly clean considering how many furry feet (and bare human feet, my only nitpick) are running around. The staff were friendly and attentive but not overbearing, and the regular feedings are scheduled entertainment, Vegas-style.
But it's the cats that shine and they are everywhere. It's hard to believe that in a place this crowded, the cats would be so calm, friendly and personable, but they are! When we were seated, a large fluffy Persian was napping on our table and didn't seem to mind as we began (gently) to pet him and scratch behind his ears. Over the next hour and a half, the majority of the residents took turns and sauntered over to check us out. Rarely do you get that kind of curiosity with cats that see so many humans day in and day out.
Throw in the delicious iced latte and cake that I consumed, and Caturday is pure unadulterated cat fancy. Not only does it make the Best list, but it might be worth a trip to Bangkok for this experience alone.
For the full review with photos, click here.