What Makes a Cat Cafe the Best in the World

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Cats.  Coffee.  Travel.

These are a few of my favorite things and as a result of these overlapping obsessions, 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 have lots of kitties to pet and coffee to drink before fulfilling my quest to visit every cat cafe on the planet.

 Roy from Cat Apartment Coffee in Kyoto, Japan

Roy from Cat Apartment Coffee in Kyoto, Japan

Even though I'm not quite ready to claim my ‘title’, I've pretty much seen it all-- from spaces both humble and palatial, cats that range from anti-social to super friendly and coffee characterized as barely drinkable to other-worldly, I have had enough experience to know what is exceptional and what is average.

Since I started, the number of cat cafes has been proliferating at a rapid rate.  With many choices out there, you want to make sure your visit is worthwhile, especially if you are on holiday.  So, how does one separate high from low quality when it comes to cats and coffee?

 One of my favorites from Cat Up Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand

One of my favorites from Cat Up Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand

Here at The Neighbor's Cat, there is a scoring system that helps you sort the outstanding from substandard.  The goal is to be as objective as possible and I strictly consider myself a traveler with a fondness for felines.  I don't receive compensation for this endeavor and only seek to present things as they are.  For the most part, these are small businesses that have their hearts in the right place-- they love cats and want to make life better for them.  Generally, I have enjoyed all of my visits, but there are places I would visit again... and others, not so much.

 Ratings for a cat cafe review

Ratings for a cat cafe review

To make it as one of the best, there are several factors I use in all of the reviews for The Neighbor's Cat website.  

 Posing as yin and yang at Y Cat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

Posing as yin and yang at Y Cat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

Cats

Well, that seems obvious, doesn’t it?  The kitties are the most important factor in determining the best cat 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.

Even if the cats aren't super social, it is imperative that they are healthy and happy.  Cafes that have anxious and stressed cats is not good for the cats or for business.

With regard to the 'magic number', the top cafes seem to have an interesting commonality-- with a few exceptions, most house around ten cats.  

 Superb coffee can be found at Zur Mieze in Berlin, Germany

Superb coffee can be found at Zur Mieze in Berlin, Germany

Food/Drink

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 any best-of lists anytime soon.

It's even better if the cafe serves gourmet cakes, great sandwiches or luxurious cocktails, but if a cafe is going to make the favorites list, they at least must serve a good cup of coffee.  All of the best cat cafes do just that, with a few (Cat Apartment Coffee, Zur Mieze) even qualifying as outstanding.

 Mocha Lounge Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Japan is a beautiful place to hang out with cats

Mocha Lounge Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Japan is a beautiful place to hang out with cats

Facility

Next up is the space the cafe occupies. A cat cafe doesn’t need to be posh to be a great, but being clean, tidy and odor free is compulsory.  As big a cat lover as I am, the odor of cat urine is a big turn-off, 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 and an atmosphere that makes it a pleasure to relax with a cup of coffee while watching the cats.

 The friendly, cat-loving owner at Cat's Gallery in Nagoya, Japan

The friendly, cat-loving owner at Cat's Gallery in Nagoya, Japan

Staff

The friendliness and overall engagement of the cafe workers is the last, but certainly not the least factor assessed in The Neighbor's Cat ratings.  No one is looking to become BFF’s with the person collecting the money, however if they are borderline surly or worse, completely apathetic, it really affects the atmosphere of a place.  The best 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.

 Cuddly kitten at 4rest Norwegian Cat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

Cuddly kitten at 4rest Norwegian Cat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

Find Your Favorite

With so many cat cafes out there, there has never been a better time to be a cat lover!  Peruse the locations and reviews at The Neighbor's Cat website to help find the best choice for your next cat cafe visit.