It’s a sobering moment when, as an adult, you realize the magnitude of the sacrifice your parents made for you. I used to think my father was unreasonably strict and purposefully withholding, but I realize now that he was, quite simply, a practical man trying to do what was best for his family. He made us take piano lessons to teach us discipline. He banned desserts in the house to help us maintain healthy diets. And he prohibited pets because he knew the responsibilities of caring for them would eventually fall on my poor mother, who already had three children to chase after. But my love for animals was inexplicably strong, so I would find different ways to scratch that itch. I would fish my dad’s goldfish out of his pond and pet them, as if they were slimy, squirmy miniature dogs. I would linger any time we found ourselves in the vicinity of a pet store. And I would drop by my neighbor’s house four doors down, ring the doorbell, and ask if I could borrow a cat. She would smile, grab one of her adorable little fur babies, and let me sit in her driveway with it. I would spend hours playing with the loaned animal until it was time to hand it back and go home. So you see, I’m the OG cat café customer.
Cat cafés are establishments where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises. They were widely popularized in Japan in the late 2000s and finally made their way to New York City in 2014. They provide relief to the cat lovers who are bound by the challenges most city dwellers face – cramped quarters, roommates with allergies, pet restrictions on a lease. But besides providing some much-needed cat time to humans (studies have shown numerous health benefits), cat cafés also provide a service by acting as a liaison between cat rescue organizations and future cat owners. Matches can be made on the large floor pillows scattered around the cattery, as the felines and their visitors get to know each other and form bonds that could blossom into lifelong partnerships.
At Koneko Cat Café, you reserve hour-long blocks of time to the cattery through their website. The café offers food and drink options with a Japanese flair, and you check in at the counter before you head to the cattery located towards the back. You enter through a glass door, where one of the staff members briefly goes over the rules and hands you a pair of slippers to slip in to after you remove your shoes. The cattery spans two levels, with the cats able to move freely between them. Koneko Cat Café usually has approximately fifteen cats on the premises, but that number can vary depending on how many successful adoptions occur in a given week. It’s a great way to inject some furry love into your day, as long as you keep your expectations in check. While there was some of this…
…there was mainly a lot of this. (Cats sleep 12-16 hours per day.)
Much like a married man who heads to a bar and realizes the girls he meets just make him miss his wife, we returned home after our dalliances with Elijah, Frida, Jethro and the other cats and promptly curled up in bed with Chloe. She’s not perfect, but she’s ours.
26 Clinton Street
Monday, Wednesday through Sunday 8am – 10pm
Monday, Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 9pm
Kids Day Wednesday 11am – 8pm
(The Cattery is closed daily 3-4pm for catnaps)
Café and Cattery closed Tuesdays
Pair it with:
A meal at Ivan Ramen
Located directly across the street from Koneko Cat Café is one of our favorite ramen joints, Ivan Ramen. Ivan Orkin, the man behind it, hails from Long Island City but interestingly started his ramen career in Tokyo then brought it to New York after he’d made a success of it there. You can read about his fascinating beginnings in the Lucky Peach, David Chang’s food publication. Extend that warm-and-fuzzy feeling from the experience at the cat café by slurping your way through one of the hot ramen bowls here. These moments remind you why winter isn’t so bad after all.
25 Clinton Street