Café Neko: the Café for Cats

At Vienna’s Café Neko customers can enjoy their coffee and cake with cats!

Top Stories | Vera Mair | July / August 2012

Nobody comes for the coffee and cake, it’s all about the lounging beasts (Photo: Philipp-Moritz Jenne)

A young blond man crawled on the floor. With the lens of his cine-camera he tried to capture the best shot of Sonja, the slim black beauty who was lolling about on the bare stone tiles of Café Neko. Unimpressed by the attention, Sonja gave him only a brief glance with her gorgeous wide green eyes.

When he came too close she gracefully collected herself and walked slowly away. The other customers, too, seemed to only have eyes for her. Some even left their seats to take photos, others reached out a hand as she pussyfooted around their table.

A domestic cat with short black fur, Sonja is one of the five stars at the café, Vienna’s first and only feline coffeehouse, an emporium of coffee, cake and cats that opened its doors on 4 May. Located just off of Kärntnerstraße in the 1st District, here clients can play, pet or just watch the five kitties, while drinking espresso or tea.


All the rage

"This place is crazy. Maybe everyone else wants to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral but I absolutely had to see the Cat Café," said Maria, a 72-year-old tourist from Luxembourg. Intrigued by a photo in a newspaper, she and her husband Paul decided that the coffeehouse was a sight they didn’t want to miss.

And they were not the only ones. Almost all of the 50 seats in the small café were taken that afternoon, as three waitresses hurried back and forth between the kitchen and tables, taking orders. The fact that her café would be the cat among the pigeons came as a big surprise to owner Takashi Ishimitsu, who left Japan for Vienna in the late ‘80s. "At the beginning, I had assumed that I would serve only five customers per day," Ishimitsu told The Vienna Review.

Like the name Neko (Japanese for cat), the concept of feline cafés comes from the land of the rising sun. "I wanted to introduce a Japanese idea to Austria," Ishimitsu said, explaining her business plan. To put her idea into practice, Ishimitsu had to fulfill certain requirements by the  Marktamt and the veterinary office. Dishes are to be served with a cover, and there is a strict "no felids" policy in the kitchen and stockroom. Ishimitsu even had to attend a class on animal husbandry, where she learnt for example that blue supposedly is the felid’s favourite colour.

"Pauuuul. Make sure I am on the photo too, will you," Maria suddenly called out to her husband, who was chasing Luca, a white male cat with amber eyes, with his Nikon. To be on the safe side – "Ph, men! I am sure he will release the shutter when the cat’s away" – Maria kept the menu as evidence. "Otherwise no one is ever going to believe me," she explained, while quickly putting it into her bag.

The menu is plain, like the café’s interior – black leather chairs, wooden benches and glass tables. Guests can choose from five different kinds of coffee and tea and pick one of three home-made cakes, ice cream or rice snacks, all moderately priced. For €1 one can also order titbits for the four-legged friends, as a bait to lure them to the table.


Heavy petting

The limited choice doesn’t concern most customers. "I came for the cats, not for the coffee and cake," a Viennese lady in a navy polo shirt made clear. But the felids seemed to be less enthusiastic about all the humans. Momo and Thomas napped on two timber beams fixed on the walls and out of reach of clients – maybe a deliberate choice?

Only Moritz, a ginger longhair, was obviously enjoying all the human affection. He lay snoozing on a pedestal, willingly putting his paws up so that his belly could be stroked by a blond man in a stylish grey T-shirt, while a mother with her five-year-old and an elderly lady seized the chance to queue up behind the young man. A catka-esque scene!


Café Neko

Open daily, 10:00-20:00

1., Blumenstockgasse 5

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