How To... Tokyo's Amazing Animal Cafes

Cats, dogs, owls -- Oh my! Tokyo’s endless buildings and businesses may seem the least likely places to find rooms full of adorable animals but, surprisingly, that is exactly the case! Animal cafes can be found in many of the big cities in Japan. Tokyo has the highest number and the largest variety of animal cafes.

An animal cafe, in case you don't know, is a place for visitors to enjoy the company of resident furry friends like cats, birds, rabbits and more. Locals love these cafes for many reasons. Many city apartments do not allow pets, so stopping by an animal cafe is a good substitute for sharing your home with animals. Even if your apartment allows pets, another reason for the cafes' popularity is the typically long working hours of most company workers. You can't keep pets responsibly if you are never home! Because of these issues, many people turn to animal cafes to experience "having" a pet and to relax.

How To...

 Typical rule sheet at Tokyo animal cafes -- Photo from Flickr cc by Selmer van Alten

So how does one experience an animal cafe? Well, this depends on which type you visit. Animal cafes have their own rules to ensure the safety of not only visitors, but also the furry residents. Guests should pay careful attention to the rules of each place. Some cafes offer a “rule book” or at least a sheet of paper explaining the rules. Others will ask visitors to take part in a short explanation of the cafe guidelines before entering. Most cafes will allow visitors to pet and take pictures with their new friends. Some may allow visitors to pick up the animals, but other cafes do not.

Tokyo cafes usually offer an explanation sheet in English. The rules and expectations tend to be pretty straightforward and easy to understand: Change your shoes to what is provided (usually indoor slippers), wash and sanitize your hands at the beginning and end of your visit, be gentle with the animals, do not bother them when they are resting or eating and turn off your camera flash. Though all the creatures are groomed and well taken care of, I recommend wearing long sleeves to any animal cafe you visit. Doing so will protect you from claws and talons.

Types of Animal Cafes

Hedgehog Cafe Harry -- Photo from Flickr cc by Rachel Lovinger

As mentioned previously, you can find many different types of animal cafes in Japan, especially Tokyo! But generally, three types of animal cafes are most common:

Cat cafes, the most popular type of cafe, usually offer one or two playrooms for visitors. Many of these playrooms come with perches and toys.

Rabbit cafes, a bit different from cat cafes, usually have a separate playroom with a small number of rabbits running about at a time. Some rabbit cafes are pet shops that encourage visitors to adopt the resident bunnies, but others are more for visitors to get some animal R&R.
 Lined up at an owl cafe -- Photo from Flickr cc by Ace of Diamond

Bird cafes can have owls, falcons, parakeets and more! The kinds of birds at a bird cafe vary from place to place depending on the bird type and temperament. Some places allow visitors to hold and pet the birds, while others only allow you to take pictures.
In addition to these standard animal cafes, you will also find animal cafes that feature reptiles, dogs, penguins, hedgehogs, even goats! I highly recommend visiting at least one.

Time Flies

 Time flies when you are visiting animal cafes -- Photo by Nathan Hosken

For me, the biggest challenge of going to an animal cafe is not the rules or language barrier, but the limited time you have when you are visiting! Time flies when you’re having fun, and the staff may be too busy to let you know when your time is almost up. Let’s be honest: How can you not stay with cute cuddly faces all day? Most cafes recommend at least a one-hour stay and offer a reasonable price for that hour. Cafes charge per a certain amount of time, ranging from 10 minutes to two hours. You can decide how long you would like to stay, as long as you keep track of the time. Some cafes even offer tasty food or drinks for you to enjoy while spending fun with the animals.

Animal cafes are very popular. No matter which animal is your favorite, you will likely find an animal cafe  to visit. Before you set off on your animal adventure, check out some of the animal cafe trips from other Odigoers for cafe suggestions!