Stephanie loves cats. Ryan loves coffee. It is only natural that we at Hedgers Abroad are known to treat ourselves to an afternoon at a cat cafe from time to time. These specialty cafes are not unique in Korea, as we explored dog cafes, sheep cafes, and Dr. Fish (seen here and here) where fish nibble offf your dead skins cells while you enjoy lattes and smoothies, but they do hold a special place in our hearts as our favorite to visit.
While they might not boast the highest quality of beverage or atmosphere, their population of adorable cats and kittens makes an afternoon in a cat cafe a treat.
While living in America we herded two cats and a dog. With our current lifestyle and taking into account the number of days we spend away from our apartment, we don’t allow ourselves to take in any pets. We love pet ownership and feel strongly about adopting pets that need a better home, but that will have to wait until we are more stationary. In the meantime we, Stephanie in particular, struggle with that lack of pure companionship that you can get from owning a pet. We certainly miss our families, but we long for that day-in and day-out bonding with a loving pet. So Korea provides us a solution and all heartache can be quelled for a short time and for just a few dollars!
These coffee shops are great. The staff is always friendly (who wouldn’t be when surrounded by kittens) and typically the cats are friendly and outgoing. Being well socialized, most of the cats you’ll find at these cafes are well mannered and easily handled. Sometimes the cats are getting older and seem less energetic but there are never a lack of young toms pouncing around taunting the others. It’s easy to spend an afternoon just tormenting them with cat toys and stroking the calmer ones that may nap on your lap.
Procedure in these cafes is pretty straightforward. Typically you’ll be welcomed with some sort of foyer where you’ll trade your shoes for slippers. On the other side of a sliding door you’ll likely encounter a staff member who will disinfect your hands and give you a rundown on cat-handling rules and regulations. Normally this part will be entirely in Korean, so just nod and don’t be a jerk to the cats. Coffee is often optional or included in the base fee you’ll pay upfront, so be prepared for that. While you’re there, many cafes offer treats for a small fee that you an feed to the cats at your leisure, but this too is optional. Above all, the cafe wants you to have a good time and enjoy the cats, so remember that this is their home, and you’re a guest.
Most every town and city in Korea large enough to have a variety of cafes will have at least one cat version. We encourage anyone with access to one of these cafes to give it a try. Even if you aren’t overly fond of cats, watching other people’s discomfort around such fluffy animals is worth the price of admission.