We went to a cat cafe…probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done and wasn’t at all what I expected, though I should have thought a little harder about this one in that most cats don’t really like people that much (Cats look down on you, dogs look up to you and pigs treat you as equals). Nevertheless, it was a cultural experience, albeit a strange one, and worth every penny of the twenty-odd dollars it cost.
First we had to find the cat cafe in a random office building in Shibuya. We headed up the stairs and to stand in the sweltering heat with an American woman and her two kids who warns us that she’s been told to wait outside until they’re ready and that the woman in charge is VERY serious. Karis and I patiently wait and thank our lucky stars that we arrived when we did as two groups come up behind us and we realize we could have been waiting a whole lot longer in the shaded but sauna-like stairwell. When it’s finally our turn, we head inside and remove our shoes…I mean this place has the feeling you get in a serious-ass temple. It’s a CAT CAFE. We are wordlessly handed two laminated sheets of instructions in English–which I would have photographed if I could have gotten away with it but I was actually scared of the cat woman and there was a HUGE sign saying no photos in the entryway. Anyway, you are pretty much forbidden to do much of anything with the cats; if you get scratched they have first aid but they can still kick you out; if you cause any sort of disturbance they have the right to call the police as well as remove you from the premises. They also have the right to refuse you entry if you smell like another cat or of anything that may upset or agitate the cats. I’m not kidding. They take the cat thing VERY seriously, the American woman was indeed correct. You pay by the half-hour and your fee includes an obligatory drink, a small cookie and a chocolate.
When the cat lady was satisfied that we were sufficiently well-versed in the cat cafe rules we were ushered into the inner sanctum. We had to put on special cat cafe slippers and wash our hands with soap and water and then use special hand sanitizer. She watched us to make sure we didn’t cheat. We put our belongings in a special bag (no personal items allowed except a camera but no flash). We were given a time-stamped receipt noting precisely when our time was up tucked inside a lanyard…that we did not actually wear–I was waiting to see if we’d be forced to put it on (nope). We sat at our couch as directed and the assistant cat lady (who I believe was her daughter) served us our very sweet iced chai with lids. We took the lids off and inadvertently used one of them as a coaster and were reprimanded severely while the head cat lady firmly replaced the lid on top of the cup. I guess it keeps the cats out of the drinks which does make sense, though it was one of the only things that did in the entire experience.
So the cats basically hate people. They are asleep like they’re drugged but of course, I realized while we were there that cats do actually sleep quite a lot and really don’t like being fussed over. There were also several cats with white and pink collars on who were not to be touched as they had ‘sore necks’. So between the cats with the collars and the cats that hated people and the cats that were asleep in ‘tall things’ that were not allowed to be disturbed there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to do. It was actually hilarious though…it’s the perfect job for a crazy cat lady. I cannot believe that people pay to do this. The place has a lovely view of the leafy streets of Shibuya but the oppressive presence of the crazy cat mother and daughter duo and the cat-themed clutter makes for a very long 30 minutes. We were hustled out 3 minutes early but Karis was ready to go. They had little cat-shaped comment stickies you could fill out and stick on the cat appreciation wall in the lobby…my daughter the shit-disturber wrote ‘The cats hate everyone’ on hers. Pretty much true…but one of the funniest and weirdest things I’ve ever done. Also, hands down, the grumpiest Japanese people I’ve ever met. Ever.
Now for the funny part. In the same building is a pet store with puppies and kittens. So we go in and check them out because they’re cute and they’re actually awake. Karis asks the guy if she can hold one and, sure enough, wash your hands and it’s a done deal. So we played with puppies and kittens who were awake and liked us and it was free. Now she wants me to import the puppy back to Canada…