After the frenetic, high-energy chaos that is Tokyo, most visitors find Kyoto, with its abundance of green spaces and temples, a calming and serene change of pace.
This zen-like atmosphere even extends to its cat cafes.
The Neighbor’s Cat visited six Kyoto cat cafes in June, 2017, but will profile the four best. If interested, there are two additional cafes (with less-than-stellar reviews) if you want to read about them here and here.
Cat Apartment Coffee
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Even my reviews– sometimes you just need to see things for yourself.
I was concerned what awaited me at Cat Apartment Coffee when I saw several angry one star reviews online, with most of the ire was directed at the ‘no touching the cats’ policy.
Deciding to keep an open mind, I arrived a few minutes before the café’s noon opening time. Inside the courtyard, it was like walking into another world– set in a Japanese garden, it was peacefully serene.
When I entered the house, it was even better. I was blown away by the fusion of modern and traditional Japanese interiors. The downstairs is the coffee bar and I loved the minimal, open design featuring stunning dark wood floors. Upstairs, where the cats meet visitors, the space is enhanced with several customary elements such as shoji screens, low tables and tatami mats. The whole space is incredibly special- beautiful, immaculately clean and authentic.
The owner was very friendly and we talked about the rules while she showed me a seat. She explained that the policy about not touching the cats was implemented to prevent the cats from becoming skittish and avoiding people, which in my experience is a common issue with popular cat cafes- there are too many people trying to touch the cats. She noted that if a cat climbed on you, this wasn’t a problem, just to avoid picking them up. Sufficiently apprised, I placed my order for an iced latte and turned my attention the kitties.
Whatever she is doing is working, because all of her cats were incredibly curious and social. By not having people chase after them constantly, they all easily approach visitors. My favorites included a regal Russian Blue named Roy and the sweet, expressive Latte, a Siamese mix.
After playing for a bit, I sat with my iced latte and was thrilled at how delicious it tasted. The coffee shop downstairs clearly isn’t for show, they know what they are doing. For an extra Y300 ($2.72 USD) you can add a drink to your entrance fee or Y600 ($5.44 USD) for a drink and piece of cake. The quality here makes the prices a bargain.
It was the fastest hour I’ve spent in a cat cafe. It wasn’t the cheapest, but Cat Apartment Coffee is one of the most memorable and far and away the best experience of the 50+ Japanese cat cafes I visited.
Cat Cafe Nekokaigi
Think a shelter-supported cat cafe can’t provide a quality cafe experience? Cat Cafe Nekokaigi is here to prove you wrong.
Oftentimes, such cafes do an superb job on the cat side, but lack high standards in the facility or beverage department. With Nekokaigi there is no compromise– you get all the warm feels AND an excellent cafe experience.
The space is fantastic- large, clean and fresh with the perfect balance of beds/equipment for the cats and comfortable seating for humans. The atmosphere was relaxing and I was really impressed at how nice it was.
Then, I met the lovely ladies behind the desk. First, they were very kind and made me feel welcome by seating me, taking my drink order (I had an iced tea) and then giving me some information about the cats, including why the cat in the orange tub has a towel on his head? Answer: because Japanese people do the same when going to Onsen, Japanese baths. They went out of their way to cater to their guests, but it was clear they love the cats first and foremost.
I can see why, as they truly stole my heart. All of them had been homeless at some point, yet here they were, twelve beautiful felines living happy lives. Most were the picture of health, except for one poor baby with cancer that was in a special bed with a note asking that she be petted very gently.
Located on the second floor of a building on busy Oike Dori street (between Tozai line stops Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae and Karasuma line Karasuma-oike station), the price of admission is a very reasonable Y900 ($8.16 USD) for one hour with drinks extra, but also well-priced at Y200-300 ($1.81-$2.72 USD) each.
Cat Cafe Nekokaigi is an incredible value for all the warm and fuzzy that awaits you.
Neko Cafe Time
Cute is such an overused word, especially in the world of cat cafes, but it is truly the best way to describe Neko Cafe Time.
With the sweetest owner and thirteen cats that have personality to spare, it’s hard not to fall in love. The kitties are mostly rescues and you can tell how much she loves them with how their bios are presented- from ‘Store Manager’ Bob to ‘Red Beans’ Azuki, each cat has a story and learning their character quirks makes observing them even more fun!
The space is on the small side, but is very clean and well organized with a free drink or ice cream included in your Y700 entrance fee (30 minutes). One thing that stood out to me was the level of engagement for patrons, like a wall poster where you can mark your favorite cat with a sticker.
It’s the unexpected that makes life exciting. Like coming across a cat cafe that wasn’t on your radar.
It happened while I was on my way to another Kyoto cat cafe. About a five minute walk from Keihan Jingu-Marutamachi station on Marutamachi street (across from Imperial Palace Park), I saw the sandwich board on the sidewalk that said ‘Cat’s Eye Kyoto’. When opportunity presents itself, one should always say ‘yes’, so I abandoned my current plan and walked in.
One of the kindest people I met during my visit to Japan (which is something considering how nice everyone is here) greeted me at the door in English (arigato!) and after taking my Y1000 fee and order for a coffee (included in the price), she showed me to the cat room.
I found the space to be very clean and pleasantly comfortable albeit simple and no-frills, however I didn’t have much time to contemplate the cafe’s interior as the cats came out to play almost immediately.
Cat’s Eye resident felines are rescues and the focus of the cafe is adoption. There were eight sweet fluff balls the day I visited including two adorable kittens that were particularly playful, but all of the cats were well-socialized and friendly.
The cat-loving owner served my coffee (in a real mug with a biscuit, a step above what you normally find in Japan) and spoke at length about the cats, encouraging me to interact with them. It was just the two of us during my visit and it was lovely. We talked about cats, travel and more- the hour went by very quickly.
Cat’s Eye is not your typical over-the-top Japanese cat cafe experience, but you are seeking a quieter place with plenty of kitty snuggles on offer I encourage you to visit Cat’s Eye and support the good work they are doing.
For more photos and complete cafe details, click here.
The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafes, cat travel and rescue/adoption. She is visiting every cat café in the world, 198 in 29 countries so far! Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.