The Catfé Phenomenon

If you are not sure what a “cat café”, or “catfé” is, you have only to look in the nearest Oxford English Dictionary; the definitive record of the English language declared it an official word in 2015.  The widespread appeal of cats, combined with good food and drink make for a highly successful combination.  When restaurant entrepreneurs meet animal advocates, the end result is the creation of the cat café.

This popular phenomenon is changing the way that humans interact with cats; whether just “renting” the cat’s time while they eat a quick meal, or as a more relaxed forum for pet adoptions, cat cafés are revolutionary.  Originating throughout Asia in the late ‘90s, cat cafés have become massive tourist attractions on a worldwide scale, drawing cat enthusiast in for a little one-on-one time with resident cats.

While some cat cafés specialize in finding forever homes for cats, some catfés operate on a different business model and are more akin to supervised indoor pet rentals; like a petting zoo, patrons pay a fee to pet, play with and spend time with resident felines.  Ideal for those who do not have the space, time or money to own a cat of their own, these visits can be very therapeutic for visitors and cats alike.

Catfés afford a relaxed environment in which adoptable cats can display their true, unique personalities; free to roam in unrestricted or semi-restricted rooms that are often decorated with the furnishings of a real house.  The cats curl up on couches, lounge in front of fireplaces, and show off on rugs, coffee tables and arm chairs. In turn, potential adopters can take time to get to know the cats in a less institutional, or shelter-like environment.  Cats can bond with their new families over a cup of coffee or some lunch.

The cats themselves are often rigorously screened and must pass personality, behavioural, and health criteria before they are introduced to the café environment.  While living in the public café, cats are usually protected by café “house rules”, such as don’t wake a sleeping cat or no feeding human foods to the resident felines.

Whether they are used for social therapy or as an adoption hub, cat cafés are a great way to help raise public awareness of the plight of unwanted animals in shelters, as well as provide much needed, cage-free spaces for cats in need.


By Erin Knibb , ACA