Budapest’s Cat Café

If the number of tears-of-laughter inducing videos of cats doing crazy things on YouTube and Facebook are any indication, humans love their feline friends. We’re no exception, and this blog is about a puddy-tat-lovers phenomenon that we recently indulged in while visiting, of all places, Budapest.

We’re talking, of course, of kitten juggling. I say that with a reverent nod to Steve Martin. Actually, the phenomenon we’re blogging about today is the cat café. A few weeks before we arrived in Budapest we came across a blog in our research announcing that Budapest had finally gotten a cat café after decades—nay, centuries—of patiently waiting. No European capital with a claim to greatness should be permitted by the EU to go without a cat café.

It surprised us, when we announced on Facebook our excitement that we were going to visit the Budapest Cat Café, that a few people didn’t know what we were talking about. So—pay careful attention now—here’s the definition of a cat café: it’s a café with cats.

Budapest Cat Cafe

Café’s come in all styles with varying product offerings, usually light between-meal snacks with coffee and tea, perhaps scones or cakes or pastries of some sort. The Budapest Cat Café served coffee and tea and sweets as well as a small assortment of fresh panini’s. And they had a handful of cats lazing around. It’s pretty much that simple.

We’re not exaggerating in calling this a phenomenon. Ten years ago, maybe more, we saw a spot on a TV magazine show (likely CBS Sunday Morning) about cat cafés in Japan. The Japanese are purportedly the most dedicated lovers of cats on the planet. But in a country where every square inch costs a paw and a tail, cohabitating with a cat (because all cat owners know that you can’t actually “own” a cat) can be cost prohibitive. Enter cat café entrepreneurs, a daring new “breed” of catpalists, providing not only tasty hot drinks and sweets but also a place for cat-deprived cat lovers to come enjoy some feline company for a little while. Today there are at least 39 cat cafes in Tokyo alone. There are even a couple of dozen in the US now.

Budapest Cat Cafe

Budapest Cat Cafe

Why a café you might ask? Simply because “Joe’s Rent-a-Cat” went out of business before they could finish nailing up the sign.

Budapest’s Cat Café is conveniently located on a side street across from the Cathedral of Saint Stephen. So after mass or a cathedral tour, you can drop in—like we did—for a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It’s a small place, and if you hit it at the right time you might be turned away or have to wait outside. Yes, it’s that popular. You take a seat, just like in a regular café, and a waitress takes your order, just like in a regular café.

But unlike a regular café, there are cats here and there. You’re instructed to pet them to your heart’s content but to please not pick them up. This is likely so that small children don’t continually drag the poor things around and so one person doesn’t monopolize their favorite. So the cats are allowed to roam at will and enjoy perches in the windows and along the walls and to nestle up close to people sipping coffee on big comfortable benches.

To enjoy the travel life, we’ve had to give up pets, which is one of the reasons we love house sitting as part of our travel strategy and the reason we put the Budapest Cat Café high on our to-do list. So for an hour or so we enjoyed our coffee in the company of a bunch of cats who, for the most part, slept. Once in a while one would wake up, stretch, mosey across the room, and find another spot…to sleep.

All was peaceful and bucolic until Chuck broke out the laser pointer…

Budapest Cat Cafe

Budapest Cat Cafe

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