After Hours: An order of fur with purr on the side
First thing, let’s get the puns out of the way.
If you’re “feline” down over life’s little cat-astrophes, then Calico Cat Cafe is the purr-fect place to (cat) scratch that itch.
Well, bad wordplay aside, there’s nothing painful about a visit to this small cafe just outside the south exit of the Kichijoji train station in Tokyo. Twenty-five cats — in varying levels of animation, from sleeping deeply to leaping around the room — are on hand.
You’ll find them lying on shelves and window sills, inside boxes, atop poles, curled up in bowls and splayed on the open floor. Some just roam.
For a roughly $12 cover charge, you can spend an hour feeding, petting and lounging with this clowder of cats. The fee increases with added time, up to about $30 for unlimited cat company during the cafe’s hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. (Calico also has a cafe in Shinjuku.)
Calico opened about six years ago, said Kimiko Koizumi, who was working the front desk of the cafe during a recent Sunday afternoon. The number of patrons is limited to 25 at any given time, she said.
Cat cafes are common in Japan, particularly in Tokyo. They sprang up for two primary reasons. First, there’s a seemingly limitless craving by Tokyoites for something new, different and cute. Second, pet ownership in Tokyo is often impractical: many landlords don’t allow pets and living space in privately owned homes is limited. Just finding a good spot for a litter box can be challenging.
Cafes like these offer carefree companionship without the muss.
Calico doesn’t much resemble a typical cafe. Seating is very near the floor, and the small tables are as much cat perches as they are drink holders.
All hot and cold drinks are 200 yen apiece, with offerings from cafe lattes and yuzu tea to sodas and fruit juices. The coffee drinks were fresh, high quality and quickly served.
There’s food available — but not for humans. Visitors can buy small containers of cooked white chicken, which conveniently shreds for doling out. Each patron is allowed to purchase only one container, which costs about $3, each hour. That way food remains scarce enough that interest remains high among the diners.
Many of the cats are exotic breeds, such as Russian Black, Ragdoll, Ragamuffin, Abyssinian, Maine Coon and Persian. Perhaps the most exceptional cat here is the Munchkin, who possesses stubby legs but a regular-sized body.
There is a short list of rules, mostly based on common sense. Don’t grab a cat’s tail or continue to hold them if they want to get free. No flash photography, smoking or backpacks/bags allowed. You have to wash your hands with soap before entering. Catnip is prohibited.
Aside from that, you’re free to mingle with the cats. It’s definitely worthwhile to buy the packet of chicken because a group of cats will promptly befriend you. Several were of the mind that the chicken was being handed out too slowly and tried to yank the container out of my hand. Others relied on mournful looks to elicit seconds.
Koizumi said the cats are most likely to be sleeping from 2-6 p.m., and are most active the two hours before closing.
All in all, Calico Cat Cafe is — just one last pun, please, please! — the cat’s meow.