Care For Some Catpuccino? How About an Ameowricano? A Look Into America’s First Japanese Inspired Cat Café

^o^ A Spotlight on the Koneko cat cafe.


Elizabeth Colon

Here is a tired kitten, sleeping after a long day of playing with visitors.

We’ve heard of cats and bookstores, and cats and dogs, but how about cats and coffee?

Located on the Lower East side of Manhattan on Clinton Street, Koneko is a cozy and welcoming cat café. Koneko instantly grabs your attention with their blade sign featuring their symbol ^o^ and the big bold letters on their sign saying adoptable kittens.

What used to be exclusive to Japan has now made its way to America. Koneko (which means kitten in Japanese) is America’s first Japanese inspired cat café. 

Cat cafes originated in Taiwan but rapidly gained popularity in Japan. They were initially created as many residents lived in apartments where cats were not allowed. From this rule emerged cat cafes, a way for cat lovers living in such buildings to play and interact with cats. While they were initially created for the sole purpose of playing with cute cats, today these cat cafes have evolved and taken a more impactful role. Cat cafes now act as foster homes and are taking in stray cats from shelters or cats at risk of euthanasia and giving them a second chance. 

Koneko works with their partner Anjellicle Cats Rescue to help cats find a forever home. At Koneko, cats are given a cozy place they can consider safe and give them a chance to show off their unique charms in a more natural setting. 

Unlike many shelters or pet stores, Koneko gives these cats a copious amount of space and toys. They have three rooms where the cats can roam freely around: the upper cattery, a lower cattery, and an outdoor catio (a patio for cats). 

The upper cattery is the room most visible from the café. It is separated by a glass wall and has plenty of seats and toys you can use to interact with the cats. Lining the windows are pictures of the cats currently residing at Koneko with their names. This provides an easy way for visitors to familiarize themselves with the cats and connect with the cats. 

The lower cattery is a larger area located downstairs. It has bean bags, cat toys, and even a T.V. This room can be rented out for private events. Throughout the lower cattery, there are café gallery style lights and unique decorative pieces, making it very picturesque. 

The outdoor catio is one of Koneko’s nicest features. This gives the cats both an indoor space and an outdoor space which is incredibly important. On their outdoor catio, cats can peacefully lounge in the sun and enjoy the fresh air. This is something all cat cafes should consider incorporating. 

In 2021, Koneko’s partner Anjellicle Cats Rescue saved over 400 cats and found them ‘forever homes.’ (Elizabeth Colon)

“I think that cats and pets, in general, can provide people that are going through tough times a method of stress-relief and happiness,” said Tyler Imeraj ’24.

Cats aren’t the only thing Koneko has to offer. One of their key points is their iconic mural spray painted by Tim Diet in the outdoor catio. From a sleepy Garfield to a hello kitty in shades, its bright blue background shines a spotlight on famous fictional cats. 

Koneko also features a plethora of artwork from Ylla’s black and white portraits lining the walls of their café to a noren (a traditional Japanese curtain) by Ruri Kabashima Kippenbrock in the lower cattery.

They’ve got cats and art, but it wouldn’t be a cat café without a café. 

From a matcha latte to okonomiyaki, their menu is heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Their menu also features a wide variety of Japanese snacks. Koneko’s homemade pastries that are made from scratch daily and made-in-house sweets are another reason that this café stands out. 

Many cat lovers know of the struggle of cleaning cat hair off clothes so what about cleaning it off of your food? Anna Koontz ’25 asked, “I wonder whether the cats are kept separate from the kitchen area, or what the exact health and safety regulations are in place for that type of situation.” 

While many people may express concern about the sanitary issues regarding food and furry creatures, Koneko follows all FDA regulations. All drinks and food are made and served in the café, an area separate from the cats. Even so, visitors can bring any item from Koneko’s menu into the play area. 

Reservations are not needed to visit the café area, so anyone can walk in to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the cats. While reservations to play with the cats are recommended, walk-ins will be accommodated depending on space availability. 

One thing to note is that while there are typically 20 cats at Koneko, the number of cats is always changing, because cats are constantly getting adopted and new cats are being brought in. 

While Koneko doesn’t have a donate feature on its website, you can support their cause by visiting the café or purchasing something from their shop both online and in person. Items in their shop range from cat ear hair clips to a mug with their iconic ^o^ symbol.

Adoption processes for cats at Koneko follow the same procedure as adoption processes for Anjellicle cats, where visitors have to fill out a short questionnaire to determine whether they are a good fit for the cat and can provide the cat with good living conditions. 

All cats from Anjellicle and Koneko have been tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV virus, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered. When adopting a cat or even just playing with it at the cafe you won’t need to worry about the chance that the cat is carrying any hidden diseases. These cats are simply lovable, healthy, and waiting for their forever family. 

People visit Koneko for a multitude of reasons whether it’s to adopt a cat, their love for cats, their support for Koneko’s cause, or even just to take pictures for social media. 

“I love the idea of just vibing with a boatload of cats. Need I say more?” said Zubair Almahmood ’23.

While Koneko’s mission is to find their cats a forever home, there is no commitment. No visitors should feel obligated to adopt a cat. At the end of the day, a cat cafe is a place for people to relax and enjoy playing with cats. There’s no commitment, no responsibility, just pure bliss. 

Visit Koneko and take a sip of coffee (or tea!) and pet all of their adorable adoptable cats. 

“I love the idea of just vibing with a boatload of cats. Need I say more?” said Zubair Almahmood ’23.