Taiwan is famed for its delicate teas and the capital, Taipei, teems with excellent cafes. The past decade has seen a craze in cat cafes (or cat coffee as they’re known in Taiwan). A cafe qualifies if it has one or more cats strolling – or more likely dozing – on the premises.
We’ve padded the streets to dig up our choice of the top five classiest cat cafes in Taipei, as well as a little history, a little psychology, and some kitty cafe etiquette and tips. Just follow these rules and you’re sure not to make any faux ‘paws’ on your visit.
A little history
The world’s first ever cat cafe was located in Taipei. It was called Cat Flower Garden and it still exists today, although it’s now called Café & Cats 1998. The concept cat-apulted and now there are about 50 cat cafes in Taipei alone, as well as a handful of cat bars and even cat hairdressers and cat massage parlours. Some cat cafes also have the odd dog, as well.
It’s a savvy business model, as cat cafes draw large numbers of visitors and locals alike, but some have more humanitarian origins – many operate on a rescue model, adopting stray animals and giving them clean, healthy homes and plenty of cuddles. Cat cafes offer a great insight to the Taiwanese passion for pets and are a fun distraction on a rainy afternoon.
One theory has it that since many Taipei landlords don’t permit tenants to keep pets, cat cafes have become popular with Taiwanese who want to spend some time with animals but can’t. Another theory has it that cats are lucky in ancient Chinese culture. But it could be just that cats and coffee go well together.
Kitty cafe etiquette
While most of Taipei’s cat cafes do not charge an entrance fee (unlike cat cafes in other parts of the world), the management naturally get annoyed if you just come in to take photographs of the animals. The coffee is invariably good, so grab a cup and enjoy the cats for an afternoon.
Some cafes, particularly those with a large number of animals, won’t admit young children (Cafe & Cats doesn’t allow children under 12, for example); others ask you to sanitise your hands on the way in, while some ask you not to pet the animals on the head. Remember to disable your flash if taking photos so you don’t startle the cats. Some cafes have glassed in escape areas for the cats where they can chill undisturbed, but are still on view.
The original cat cafe
The mother of Taipei’s cat cafes, Cafe & Cats 1998 (129 Fuhua Rd, Shilin; MRT Zhishan; 02 2835 3335) is home to 14 cats and three dogs (including a shaggy golden retriever). The shelves are stacked with a menagerie of cat-themed knickknacks. You can buy snacks to feed the cats – that will win you some minutes of frenzied feline friendship – or if you’re lucky one will come and sleep in a basket next to you (there’s one at every table). The lattes are creamy and come with a cat paw design in the foam that lasts right to the bottom of the cup.
The comfiest cat cafe
The Lightened (facebook.com/thelightened) has Taipei’s most snuggly armchair – a sinkable white slice of heaven. They have two cats that, unusual for Taipei, are free to roam outside. Although, to be fair, Hua Hua, a soft sack of black, ginger & white kitty, is most often found sleeping in the garden area out front. The Lightened deals in fair trade coffee and, being near National Taiwan University, has a chilled student vibe.
The working cat cafe
Take your laptop to Yaboo Cafe (facebook.com/yaboo.lalala), a hipster joint with red burnished walls, quirky art and two resident cats. The coffee is a tad tart, but Tiger Face, the soft grey female, is sweet and, like cats all over the world, is fond of walking over keyboards.
The brightest cat cafe
The coffee is good and strong at Minimal Cafe (42, Lane 2, Taishun St, Daan District; MRT Guting; 02 2362 9734), tucked away down a lane near Normal University. Their comfy, brown 1970s-era chairs are nicely scratched up by the dozen or so resident cats and the cafe gets lots of natural light through a floor-to-ceiling picture window.
The cuddliest cat cafe
Mask Cat (64 Changan West St, Zhongshan District; MRT Zhongshan; 02 2550 0561) is a jazzy twilight joint opposite Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Mask Cat has three especially friendly cats that are up for some petting – Maozai (kitty cat) is black with white eyebrows, Douzi (bean) is a dappled grey fatty, while Qiuqiu (ball) is fluffy white with kohl-rimmed eyes. All three are rescued strays. Cosy padded booths, shiny tiles and curious art give Mask Cat a 1950s feel. Cakes are homemade, Twining’s tea is served in good-sized pots and light meals from the kitchen include a pretty tasty kimchi and cheese sandwich.
Cat cafe tips
Snag a table by getting there just after lunch; these cafés tend to get packed by 3pm.
Cat cafés routinely close, or sometimes reinvent themselves and cut the cats, so call or check online to make sure they’re still a cat café.
Many close on Mondays.
Always treat the cats gently and with respect; never try to play roughly with them or you might find yourself on the business end of a sharpened nail.
It’s also worthwhile remembering that these animals are pawed all day every day, so don’t be put off if the cats are sleeping or taking a break from human contact. Mask Cat is your best bet if you want a cat on your lap.
The article was originally published on lonelyplanet.com.