All About Cat Cafes in Japan

Coffee and cats in a cozy cafe setting, it’s no wonder cat cafes are all the rage. In this article, we introduce to you cat cafes and also rescue-cat cafes in Japan. Plus, what you should expect when visiting a cat cafe - rules to follow and the many types of payment systems. As a bonus, check out the video of our WeXpats Team visit to Cat Cafe Mocha in Harajuku for a look at how cat cafes really are. 

Table of Content

  1. What’s a cat cafe? 
    1. History of Cat Cafes
    2. What is the purpose of cat cafes?
  2. What’s a Rescue-Cat Cafe?
    1. What is the purpose of rescue-cat cafes?
    2. In that case, are rescue-cat cafes cheaper? 
    3. Why should I support rescue-cat cafes?
    4. Differences Between Cat Cafe and Rescue-Cat Cafe
  3. Visiting a Cat Cafe
    1. General Rules in Cat Cafes
    2. Food and Drinks
    3. Payment System - How much does it cost to enter a Cat Cafe?
  4. Watch Now: WeXpats Team Visits Cat Cafe Mocha Harajuku
  5. Takeaway

What’s a Cat Cafe? 

A cat cafe, or neko cafe (猫カフェ) is a cafe with cats. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind whilst surrounded by adorable kitties. You can choose to just watch the cats, engage with them, or simply relax with a book and bask in their presence. Recently, some people have also chosen cat cafes as a place to do remote work. 

History of Cat Cafes

Did you know that the concept of cat cafes originated from Taiwan? 



Posted by 小貓花園 on Saturday, May 14, 2022

This is Cat Flower Garden, 小貓花園 (xiǎo māo huā yuán), in Taipei, Taiwan. Operating since 1998, Cat Flower Garden is well known as the world’s first cat cafe. Greatly inspired by the concept of a cat cafe, in 2004, the first cat cafe in Japan started its business in Osaka. 

Photo Credit: Neko no Jikan

This is Neko no Jikan (猫の時間), or “Time for Cats”. Opened in 2004, Neko no Jikan is Japan’s first cat cafe that can be found in Osaka. Their main store has a traditional Japanese room setting inclusive of tatami flooring, whilst their second branch called “Second House” has a French cafe-style setting. Since the store’s establishment, hundreds of other cat cafes have sprouted up in Japan especially in main cities like Tokyo. 

Visit their website for more information: nekonojikan.com

What is the purpose of cat cafes? 

There is more to cat cafes than just drinking coffee in the presence of cats. If you’re wondering what the purpose of cat cafes is, or even why they are popular in the first place, this may answer your questions. 

The purpose of cat cafes is:

  1. To provide a place of relaxation for customers. 

  2. A home for cats (who earn their keep). 

  3. A business to make money. 

  4. For people who cannot keep a cat to play with cats; perhaps because they do not have time, money, or an apartment that allows pets. 

What is a Rescue-Cat Cafe?

A rescue-cat cafe, or hogo neko cafe (保護猫カフェ) differs from a regular cat cafe. As its name implies, a rescue-cat cafe focuses on the fostering and rescuing of abandoned or stray cats. Unlike a cat cafe whose main goal is profit (afterall, they are a business), the aim of rescue-cat cafes is to get their cats adopted. 

What is the purpose of rescue-cat cafes? 

Rescue-cat Cafes have a higher purpose than regular cat cafes. If you are looking to enjoy (and admire) beautiful purebred cats like Bengals, British Shorthairs, Munchkins, Scottish Folds and the like, rescue-cat cafes may not be for you. Instead, the majority of cats at rescue-cat cafes are mixed breed cats that are ordinary in appearance (but definitely still lovely). 

In that case, are rescue-cat cafes cheaper? 

Yes and no; there are rescue-cat cafes that charge the same price as regular cat cafes. At the same time, there are some that charge lower prices but have a minimum one drink order requirement which means you’ll spend pretty much the same amount anyway. 

Then why should I support rescue-cat cafes?

For rescue-cat cafes, the money earned goes back to the cats. There are always homeless cats, whether due to abandonment, born as a stray or lost, and in need of help. Some of them require extra care due to medical ailments or injury and all these take up money. Not to mention the other expenses for pregnant stray cats, spaying, vaccinations, etc. 

There are also rescue-cat cafes that are involved in the TNR Program - “Trap, Neuter, Release”. A rescue-cat cafe is one of the ways to gain funding. 

To summarize, the purpose of a rescue-cat cafe:

  1. To provide a place of relaxation for customers. 

  2. A permanent or temporary home for cats (who earn their keep). 

  3. For people who cannot keep a cat to play with cats. Perhaps because they do not have time, money, or an apartment that allows pets. 

  4. An opportunity for cats to get adopted into a forever home.

  5. To raise community awareness about homeless cats.

  6. To gain funding for the care and protection of cats in need. 

  7. To rescue and provide shelter for homeless cats, some of which may be gravely injured or disabled.


  1. Rescue-cat cafes are almost always looking for foster parents. Some of the rescue-cats aren’t ready to “work” in the cafe, they need some TLC (tender loving care) to heal wounds, recover, and get accustomed to humans first. 

  2. Before adopting a cat from a rescue-cat cafe, you’ll need to go through a 1-2 weeks trial first. Not just to see whether you are a good match for the cat, but also for the cat to see whether you’d make a good owner for it. 

Differences Between Cat Cafe and Rescue-Cat Cafe


Cat Cafe (Neko Cafe)

Rescue-Cat Cafe (Hogo Neko Cafe)


Mainly purebred

Mainly mixed breeds


Breeders, auction, purchase

Abandoned, strays, shelters


No (usually)



Business profit

Rescue, foster, forever homes


Companies, businesses

Cat organizations, NPOs (usually)

Visiting a Cat Cafe

General Rules in Cat Cafes

Most cat cafes uphold the following rules, please understand that these rules are kept in place to maintain the welfare and safety of the cats. 

  1. Do not chase, forcefully hug, pick up, or restrain the cats.

  2. Do not give outside food or drinks to the cats. Cat cafes may sell cat treats - purchase and feed those to the cats instead. The staff will guide you. 

  3. Do not use flash photography. This is harmful to the cat's vision. 

  4. Do not bring outside toys for the cats. Cat cafes provide toys that have been sanitized, so you may use these to play with the cats instead.

  5. You will be responsible for any damage to your clothes or belongings. Cats may chew or scratch your things (some cats love scratching jeans), so pick your outfit carefully. Some cat cafes provide lockers where you can stow your belongings away. 

  6. Take off your shoes and use the provided indoor slippers when required. 

Other things to take note of are: 

  1. By law, cat cafes are only allowed to operate until 10:00pm (previously until 8.00pm). Take note and avoid visiting businesses that break this rule. Cats need their rest too! 

  2. The cats may be switched out if they’re feeling unwell or it’s time for their break. If there’s a particular cat you want to meet, try contacting the store beforehand to make an appointment for its available time. 

  3. Cats have different personalities and are generally free-spirited creatures. Try not to be too disappointed if a particular cat you like doesn’t show interest in you. It may just be shy or have an independent personality. Visiting often may lead to the cat opening up to you, but in the meantime, engage with the more active and friendly felines. 

Food and Drinks

Image Credit: © 2021 保護猫カフェCHACHA (Hogo Neko Cafe CHACHA)

A cafe isn’t really a cafe unless they serve drinks, which is why drinks are normally served at animal cafes. The drinks may be sold from a vending machine or made fresh, it really depends on the store. Keep your drinks covered at all times when you are not drinking to prevent cats from getting to them, AND ALSO TO KEEP HAIR OUT FROM YOUR DRINK!! There are also cafes that serve food, like Hogo Neko Cafe CHACHA in Nerima, Tokyo (image above). 

Info: Some animal cafes have a minimum order of one drink per person. 

Payment System - How much does it cost to enter a cat cafe?

Cat cafes typically charge customers by the period of time they stay in the cafe. There is no one fixed system however; some places charge per entry whilst some charge for every 10 minutes. Some places have a maximum price cap whilst some charge for every additional 30 minutes after the initial hour. Here’s a table of the possible payment systems you may encounter. 

Info: Some cafes also implement a minimum 1-drink order requirement, whilst some have drinks included in the price. 

If ever in doubt, just check the cafe’s homepage or give them a call. 

Watch Now: WeXpats Team Visits Cat Cafe Mocha Harajuku


Aside from cats, a number of animal cafes with everything from dogs, owls, hedgehogs, and even snakes and pigs can be found in Japan. For some cat and animal cafe related articles, try these: 

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