Text: Paula LaBine
Taiwan’s next generation of “cats and coffee” spots are more than just places where travelers can have a latte with their feline friends. They’ve got a social agenda. Taiwan Scene guest blogger Paula LaBine, author of The Neighbor’s Cat visited several on her recent trip around the island, returning with this report on Taiwan’s cat cafe scene and suggestions for a few spots that fellow cat lovers might wish to visit.
Taiwan has long been a destination for cat lovers, ever since the first cat café (Cat Flower Garden, now called Café Dogs & Cats) opened its doors in Taipei in 1998. Since then, the trend has swept across Japan with the rest of the world recently catching on.
The country has remained a steady presence on the cat café scene with plenty of options to get your kitty fix, from traditional cat cafés to regular cafés with a shop cat, and now, cafés that feature adoptable felines.
While many Taiwanese cat cafés have rescue kitties in permanent residence (i.e. pet them all they want but don’t take them home), there is a growing trend of cat cafés helping felines searching for their forever homes.
A hybrid between a shelter and café, this version of cats and coffee is hugely popular in North America where local rescues and sanctuaries partner with cafes to get kitties out of cages and into a social setting where they can shine in front of prospective adopters.
Such cat cafés (sometimes referred to as ‘halfway houses’) are more rare in Asia, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover several throughout Taiwan as part of my quest to visit every cat café in the world.
These dedicated folks not only facilitate rescue/adoption, but also help educate the community on animal welfare issues such as TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return, a program where feral cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped, and then returned to their outdoor home). Such places also teach prospective adopters about cat care and the responsibilities of cat ownership.
As a foreign visitor, you probably aren’t going to be adopting a cat in Taiwan, but if you want to support rescue efforts while having a unique vacation experience, consider visiting one (or more) of the following cat cafés.
I happened upon Camulet by accident walking to a different cat café and it turned out one of Taipei’s best…call it kitty serendipity.
Not only is Camulet a delightful place to enjoy a coffee break, the cats are also available for adoption, proving that a quality café experience and animal rescue are not mutually exclusive. (Read also: Coffee in Taiwan – How an Island of Tea-drinkers came to love the bean!)
Located in Banqiao district, the shop has been so popular since it opened in May last year, that my initial request for a Saturday afternoon table couldn’t be accommodated. Returning a few hours later, I understood why.
One of the nicest cat café facilities in Taiwan, this beautiful space has been designed for maximum cat interaction with seating at low tables that encourage lap visitors. With spare and modern interiors, soft lighting, and a rotation of cute cat videos, Camulet offers a perfectly balanced atmosphere of cheerful and calm.
Ten cats are in residence, all available for adoption. Many have found their way to the café by people who feed street cats, however, not all cats are suitable for this environment, and those in the café have been carefully chosen by the owner, who has studied cat behavior. She ensures the cats avoid stress by providing an escape room and limiting the number of visitors and very young children. Her socialization strategy appears to be working, as the kitties seem playfully happy, and six have found permanent homes so far.
The service is equally lovely with caring staff offering a large menu of salad, pasta and rice dishes as well as desserts and beverages. There is a minimum spend requirement of 200 NTD ($6.72).
With an ideal environment, friendly people, great food and adorable cats, Camulet is a high quality experience that is no accident.
2.Music & Cats
As an accomplished violinist, Emily Yen is well-known in Taiwan for her music and love of cats, holding concerts to raise funds for her shelter and cat café, Music & Cats.
I discovered the coffee shop through a fellow cat lover I met online while tweeting about cats and Taiwan. He offered to show me some of his favorite cat cafes that are lesser known and potentially challenging to find for foreign visitors.
We met at Qizhang station and chatted about travel and cats as we walked down Muxin Road until we reached Wenshan district, home of Music & Cats.
Our group received a friendly welcome by Emily’s friend, who introduced us to Emily while we sat down to chat over a cup of coffee. Emily has been rescuing cats for over five years and opened her café two years ago. There are currently thirty cats in residence at Music & Cats, and another twenty at her other facility.
She takes in cats that are difficult, and works diligently to socialize them. One such kitty is Mao Mao, a gorgeous white British Shorthair suffering from behavior issues since she was abandoned by her owner (it was discovered she is deaf). Things have slowly improved under the love and care of Emily, but she knows this fair feline would prefer to be the only cat in the household with a patient owner who can give her lots of time and space to blossom.
Developing a suitable adopter profile is part of Emily’s socialization process, and it isn’t easy finding such specific homes, but she perseveres.
We spent an hour meeting the cats and chatting about animal rescue in Taiwan before I took a few photos of Emily’s precious fur babies, including a great shot of Mao Mao, who had been elusive during my visit.
It was a happy ending that I hope translated into a good omen for the snow goddess.
3.Cat Art Home
Down a pretty lane in Yonghe district, near Dingxi metro is a small cat café filled with big hearts.
Open nearly seven years, Cat Art Home specializes in caring for Taipei’s truly forgotten felines- those that are ill, old or have other challenges. The caring staff has given these special cats lots of extra love and attention, such as one poor baby that had cancer and required hand-feedings.
Whatever they are doing is clearly working because every year Cat Art Home facilitates over 100 adoptions!
I visited on a busy Thursday afternoon and was lucky that the volunteer who greeted me spoke English as she was able to answer my questions about the facility.
She noted there were twenty cats in residence and introduced me to several, including a sweet little tabby, a former runt-of-the-litter and gorgeous white Lulu, a spirited girl that became a bit overzealous when my thumb got in the way of her wet treat.
We spent the next hour discussing the rescue scene in Taipei while a steady stream of regulars socialized with the kitties in the simple, yet relaxing atmosphere. The space is filled with quirky cat art and set to a soundtrack of lullaby music. (Read also: An Island of Festivals – Exciting Music Events Around Taiwan)
There is a 275 NTD minimum spending requirement with a variety of beverages and desserts available. (More on sweets: An insider’s guide to Taipei: Afternoon Tea in 5 Unlikely Places)
While the least commercial of the cafes profiled in this article, Cat Art Home’s commitment to helping Taipei’s vulnerable felines is most admirable and deserving of support.
4. Lang Lang Don’t Cry
Tucked away in the shadow of Civic Boulevard near Taipei Main Station is Lang Lang Don’t Cry, also known as Pet Halfway House, a hip café run by dedicated animal welfare advocates.
Opened in 2015, this two-story rescue and adoption center is unique in that it houses both dogs (first floor) and cats (second floor), plus a coffee bar/restaurant.
The day I visited was quite busy, but friendly Julia greeted me warmly and then prepared an outstanding iced latte while she gave me the lowdown on the café and their rescue efforts. The owners, Tan Jou and husband Alan Liu, decided to open the coffee shop as a way to socialize stray animals and increase their chances of being adopted. They have been very successful, with over 200 dogs and cats adopted in the past 2.5 years.
As more companies and individuals have joined them in their efforts, the café has outgrown its current space and is expected to move to a new location in the next year.
Tan and Alan’s approach drives much of their success, a combination of grass roots promotion and proper vetting of prospective adopters.
The shop uses social media to promote animals available for adoption, including cute photos and stories about their personalities. The café now has a large group of loyal followers that help spread the word about rescue and adoption.
However, the owners are also wary of owner abandonment and have stringent requirements for prospective adopters, such as spending time with the animal at the café, participating in an interview and home visit, paying for medical treatment, vaccines and microchip, plus signing an agreement promising they will not desert their pet.
Eventually, I made my way upstairs and was discovered four cats, two playful tabbies, one energetic black, and a shy orange. I became fast friends with Guo-Guo and he rewarded my head rubs with happy purrs.
One of the impressive things about Lang Lang is how much you feel a sense of community. It’s not just the friendliness of the staff either—fellow patrons smile at one another and share tips on which cat likes chin rubs or which dog prefers ear scratches.
With a central Taipei location, inclusive atmosphere, quality coffee and adorable animals, supporting stray animals has never been easier or more fun!
The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafés, cat travel and rescue/adoption. She is visiting every cat café in the world, 189 in 28 countries so far! Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.
More on Taiwanese cafes: Finding Local Flavor at Taipei’s Beer Cafes