Taiwan has long been a destination for cat lovers, ever since the first cat café, Cat Flower Garden (now called Café Dogs & Cats), opened its doors in Taipei in 1998. Since then, the trend has swept across Japan with the rest of the world recently catching on.
The country has remained a steady presence on the cat café scene with plenty of options to get your kitty fix, from traditional cat cafes to regular cafes with a shop cat, and even cafes that feature adoptable felines.
The Neighbor’s Cat visited 21 Taipei cat cafes in March-May, 2018 and these are the five I consider the best.
Expectations were high and how could they not be?
I’m a cat cafe reviewer and was about to visit the first cat cafe to open in the world.
We had been in Taiwan for nearly a week and I was giddy with anticipation. Finally, late on a Tuesday afternoon, we planned a multi-stop outing to the Shilin district that included a visit to Cafe Dogs & Cats as well as famed Shilin Night Market.
Kitten Coffee Garden aka Cafe Dogs & Cats opened it’s doors in 1998. With Taiwan’s history as a colony of Japan, that influence persists to this day, complete with Japanese tourists. Those visitors took the idea back to Japan, where the concept flourished, growing into the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Heading north on the MRT Tamsui line, we alighted at Zhishan station where the cafe is right across the street. I hesitated before entering, feeling a bit nervous.
Once inside, all that was forgotten as we were warmly greeted and promptly seated. The room was spacious, fresh and inviting filled with cute touches such as kitty tablecloths, but generally looks like a typical Taipei cafe that just happens to have cats, dogs… and one bird.
Speaking of which, the animal crew of Cafe Dogs & Cats, all rescues, were a lively bunch the day we visited. There were 12 felines in residence with my favorites being cream colored fluff ball Butter and sassy ginger Jin Jin. I also took a liking to Vivi, one of two blonde mutts and even the rambunctious black bird seemed to add a bit of spice to the proceedings.
We enjoyed lattes (one iced & one hot, each 160NT) and shared a chocolate mousse cake, all delicious and nicely presented. There is no entrance fee, but a purchase is required.
The space, the food and resident animals make Cafe Dogs & Cats an excellent cat cafe, but what really stood out to me were the owners. You would think that after 20 years of serving tourists and locals on a daily basis, the charm would be wearing thin, but not so. They were both so personable, genuine and friendly, that clearly they were made for this. They graciously posed for photos and answered all of my questions.
Overall, Cafe Dogs & Cats exceeds expectations and is a highly recommend stop on any Taipei itinerary- animal lover or not.
I fell in love the second the door to the cat room opened.
There, perched on a cat tree in the middle of the room was Wan Wan. King-like and full of confidence, this enormous feline stared deep into into my eyes until I reddened and looked away, like a teen girl in the presence of her crush. Such eye contact is rare as it tends to be personal and a bit confrontational, but the cats of Genki are not your everyday kitties.
I plopped down in a corner booth occupied by a ginger American Curl and sipped my peach tea as I surveyed the scene. Accented by warm wood and colorful chairs, and filled with soft lullaby music, the cafe is inviting for humans and cats alike with plenty of elevated spaces for the 18 felines in residence.
There is a communal feel which I discovered as a scene unfolded next to me. A curious cat climbed onto my neighbor’s table, transfixing the woman sitting there as he gazed intently at her half-consumed latte. She sat completely still, her eyes filled with bemusement as I discreetly snapped the above photo.
Later, the friendly owner came in and we chatted a bit. He started as a breeder of Maine Coons and decided to open a cat cafe so he could share his love of these regal felines with the public. Over time, this passionate cat lover has adopted several rescues to complement his pedigreed brood.
The love and care bestowed upon these cats is evident in their behavior. They are social and curious, yet poised and intelligent in their actions. It is clear they reciprocate the owner’s feelings as they gathered around him, patiently waiting as he offered special attention one by one.
I was enchanted by the scene at Genki, filled with extremely special cats and a great atmosphere that is sure to offer a memorable experience for any visitor.
When I visit cat cafes in countries outside the US, I always conduct a bit of reconnaissance by asking the same question.
‘Are there other cat cafes I should visit?’
It was the day before our flight back to the US after a whirlwind six week tour of six Asian cities. We had just visited Cat & Life, a rescue and adoption organization in Taipei when I asked about other cat cafes in the area.
The staff member listed off several, most of which I had visited, but one that I had not.
Mao Thai Thai.
That night, I researched it, discovering (to my delight) it was legit. The next day, we boarded the Taoyuan Airport MRT (commuter train, not express) bound for the airport, but got off at the Linkou stop, about 3 stops short of Taipei International Airport (TPE). Linkou is a fast-growing suburb of Taipei, with lots of new construction and shopping outlets. From the station, we made the short walk to the cafe and speculated what we would find.
I was pleasantly surprised.
While many of the Taipei cat cafes we visited were in older buildings, Mao Thai Thai is brand new. Modern, bright and cheerful with colorful pillows and tiles, it was also super clean and was set to a soundtrack of Taiwanese pop hits. The restaurant was buzzing with people eating what looked to be incredibly delicious Thai food.
The staff were a bit startled to see Westerners, and while they didn’t speak much English, (which, to be clear, is perfectly ok and we don’t expect it) they greeted us warmly with big smiles. We were promptly seated on colorful cushions and after a quick perusal of the menu (pictures were very helpful) we selected Coconut Chicken Soup and Thai Basil pork, a spicy dish served with rice and topped with an egg. I was delighted that my last meal in Asia would not be airport food.
There were 17 cats in residence the day we visited- a variety of exotic and domestic felines. They seemed well-loved and cared for with several sporting haircuts that made them look like mini-lions. They also appeared to be more socialized than many of the kitties we met in Taiwan, as they mingled and moved from table to table, avoiding the outstretched arms of small children anxious to pet them.
Even with the language barrier, we were treated with kindness by the friendly, smiling staff.
It’s easy to love time spent at Mao Thai Thai. The atmosphere is incredibly lighthearted and fun with staff and patrons exuding a happy, energetic vibe. As it is an quick stop either going into the city or the airport, I highly recommend you pay them a visit when in Taipei.
I spilled my iced latte all over the table, but despite such clumsiness my time at Minimal anything but awkward.
There are lots of ‘cat cafes’ in Taipei, but Minimal is one of the few that is exactly what you expect a cat cafe to be- lots of cats with great cup of coffee. The space is cool with dark, cozy corners and classical music playing overhead. The atmosphere is friendly and the day I visited, it was busy with plenty of friendly banter between staff and patrons, many of which seemed like regulars.
It was explained that in the afternoon, a snack must be ordered along with a beverage. Along with my iced latte (I had one delicious sip before knocking it over) I had a slice of cheesecake that was excellent.
There were 13 cats in residence, all rescues, and mostly sleeping the day we visited. While I didn’t get much kitty love, I enjoyed just being in their presence.
Located near National Taiwan Normal University, I recommend exiting at Dongmen station (Tamsui/Xinyi line) and strolling through the vibrant Da’an neighborhood before visiting Minimal.
I happened upon Camulet by accident walking to a different cat café and it turned out one of the best in Taipei. Call it kitty serendipity.
Not only is Camulet a delightful place to enjoy a coffee break, the cats are also available for adoption, proving that a quality café experience and animal rescue are not mutually exclusive.
Located in Banqiao district, the shop has been so popular since it opened in May last year, that my initial request for a Saturday afternoon table couldn’t be accommodated. Returning a few hours later, I understood why.
One of the nicest cat café facilities in Taiwan, this beautiful space has been designed for maximum cat interaction with seating at low tables that encourage lap visitors. With spare and modern interiors, soft lighting, and a rotation of cute cat videos, Camulet offers a perfectly balanced atmosphere of cheerful and calm.
Ten cats are in residence, all available for adoption. Many have found their way to the café by people who feed street cats, however, not all cats are suitable for this environment, and those in the café have been carefully chosen by the owner, who has studied cat behavior. She ensures the cats avoid stress by providing an escape room and limiting the number of visitors and very young children. Her socialization strategy appears to be working, as the kitties seem playfully happy, and six have found permanent homes so far.
The service is equally lovely with caring staff offering a large menu of salad, pasta and rice dishes as well as desserts and beverages. There is a minimum spend requirement of 200 NTD ($6.72).
With an ideal environment, friendly people, great food and adorable cats, Camulet is a high quality experience that is no accident.
The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafes, rescue/adoption & TNR, and has been featured in Miau Magazine, Katzenworld Blog, The Catnip Times and Taiwan Scene. She is currently on a quest to visit every cat café in the world, 205 in 29 countries so far! Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.