It was back in May 2012 that I first came across the concept of the pet cafe. I was travelling through Tokyo at the time, and I’d heard about a craze sweeping through the city where cat-loving entrepreneurs were opening tearooms full of kittens, allowing their clientele to play with them, watch them, relax around them and ultimately fulfil their desires for feline affection while sipping on a matcha latte.
I visited one such venue with my friend Shino, a delightful cafe in Shibuya called Hapineko (it translates to ‘happy cat’ – how kawaii!). You can read my TripAdvisor review on it here, but altogether it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour, chilling out in a room with 15 or so cats waiting for us to pamper them.
I didn’t think too much more into pet cafes after that, until only a few months ago while I was busy researching unique attractions in Seoul. I had a 3-day stopover in South Korea last month on my way from Australia back to Canada and I felt like venturing a little further away from the typical touristy things that my guidebook recommended me to see. Thanks to the kind folk of Reddit, I quickly came to realise there was an area in Seoul which was abundant in pet cafes – there were not only cat cafes, but dogs and even sheep were covered! So I booked myself a room in the university district of Hongdae and happily explored the many wondrous pet cafes of Seoul during my time there.
DOG CAFE: Bau Haus
The first stop on my journey through the Seoul pet cafes was Bau Haus, a very popular dog cafe that had recently moved to a bigger & brighter location due to overwhelming demand. And it’s not surprising to see why this place has caught on so well! There were around 25 adorable canines at my disposal; a large number of these were Border Collies, Pomeranians & Golden Retrievers, with the occasional Chihuahua, Beagle, Irish Setter plus a handful of other breeds thrown in for good measure.
Upon entering, I was offered an introduction card briefly pointing out some health & hygiene rules and explaining how to safely interact with the puppies. I was also handed a menu of light refreshments; there was no entry fee, but you were expected to buy a drink for around 7,500 won ($8). As well as a delicious smoothie, I also purchased a bag of treats to feed to the dogs for 3,000 won ($3). Judging by the amount of jumping and tail-wagging going on around my ankles, these pooches knew very well that they were about to receive a free feed from me.
This little fella was my favourite of the lot, a sweet 8-year old Brittany called Ri-ong. He followed me around for a while before eventually settling with a couple on another table:
You might wonder about the hygiene of Bau Haus considering the potential for little accidents, but I’m pleased to report the sanitation was very well-managed and the animals appeared to be greatly cared for. I did notice one dog relieve himself on the floor, but an attentive staff member had cleaned it up almost before he’d even finished his business.
Most dogs just chilled with humans either on or under the chairs & tables, but a couple of the younger, more mischievous pups enjoyed a good play fight.
Here’s a short video I took of some canine cacophony that occurred half-way through my visit – the dogs weren’t normally this crazy but I guess they need to let off a bit of steam every now & then!
I loved Bau Haus and would definitely visit again should I ever find myself in Seoul. Anybody who enjoys the company of dogs would have a ball at this place.
CAT CAFE: YCat
Here’s the first of a few cafes I visited in Seoul for all you kitty lovers out there. On the opposite end of the scale to that of Bau Haus, YCat is somewhere you can go to relax and wind down while attempting to gain the affection of a new feline friend. It becomes entirely evident when comparing a dog cafe to a cat cafe that the former are hell-bent on seeking attention whereas the latter are very independent.
Before you enter YCat you need to exchange your shoes with a pair of slippers, disinfect your hands and pack your bags into a locker. Again, there is no entry fee as such, but you do have to purchase a drink from a ticket vending machine for around 8,000 won ($8.50). Once you’re in, you’re free to chill with the cats to your hearts content.
I didn’t count them, but there easily would have been 15 (maybe 20?) furry creatures in attendance at the time. During my visit, most of them were either sleeping on a rug, gazing at the world outside the window or tucked inside a hidey hole somewhere, but occasionally a curious pussycat would wander up to investigate the new human who had just entered their territory.
The cats do have a pretty good view of the street below from up on the 3rd floor! There was a private room to the side of the cafe where cats could go for food, drink & privacy, and the staff were very attentive towards their feline needs.
There was much entertainment for the cats around the cafe in the form of toys, scratching posts, boxes and maze-like platforms, but I particularly liked this guy who was having a great time spinning himself around on the wheel.
And just before I left I managed to get a selfie with a new friend!
SHEEP CAFE: Thanks Nature Cafe
Now, dog and cat cafes I can understand seeing as they are the two most domesticated animals, but a sheep cafe? This was something I really wanted to see!
Located downstairs along the very busy Hongik-ro that leads towards Hongik University, Thanks Nature Cafe comprises of an indoor area where you can sit & eat in air-conditioned comfort, as well as fenced-off outdoor area with a pen that houses two gorgeous sheep that frequent the cafe. They’re brought down each day by the owner and spend most of their time being admired by fellow cafe-goers. Throughout the day, their owner keeps them fed and entertains them by letting them out of the pen to mingle with the customers.
Thanks Nature Cafe specialises in waffles & coffee – I ordered one of each which set me back around 12,000 won ($13) in total, and I sat outside where I could easily access the animals. It was late afternoon at the time of my visit and thankfully it wasn’t too busy, but being in such a central & convenient location, I can imagine it gets packed during peak hour.
Here I am giving the sheep a pat in between bites of my waffle:
Before too long they were let outside of their pen! They loved the attention.
The sheep are very tame and are comfortable around kids & adults alike. This little boy even got a kiss:
I believe that on hotter days, the sheep aren’t always brought to the cafe – they are sometimes left at the sanctuary where it’s more comfortable for them. You can check at the Thanks Nature Cafe Facebook page to see if the sheep are likely to be there on a particular day.
A few times a day they also go on a walk to the carpark to stretch their legs. It’s quite a sight to see two sheep strolling through a public area in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.
You can’t go past Thanks Nature Cafe for a unique pet cafe experience!
CAT CAFE: Cats Living
All the cafes I’d visited so far had been researched online, but I stumbled upon Cats Living by accident. As I was walking through the backstreets of Hongdae, I chanced to see a shop with the curious name of Fuckfake (which turned out to be a clothing store, upon investigation), and it just so happened that the floor below Fuckfake was a cat cafe. I couldn’t help but make my way inside.
Similarly to YCat, I had to exchange my shoes for some slippers and sanitise my hands before I went in. I paid 8,000 won ($8.50) for a lavender tea which acted as my entry fee, and I was faced with around 15 sleepy cats upon my access to the building.
Admittedly the atmosphere here wasn’t quite as lively as the other pet cafes I’d visited, and I found the cats to be less social, but it was by no means a bad experience. It could just have been that lazy time of the day where they all wanted to sleep and stick to themselves.
BONUS CAT CAFE: Hello Kitty Cafe
Ok, so this isn’t a cat cafe as such, but it is a cat-themed cafe.
I must say at this stage that I have no idea who or what Hello Kitty is, but hey, it was just down the road from the Cats Living cafe and it seemed like an interesting place to check out. Plus my friend Inga is a massive fan of it and I wanted to get a photo of it for her. But I think in hindsight, you need at least a basic understanding of who or what Hello Kitty is before you step foot into this place… I still can’t comprehend what the heck it was all about :-/
The menu was mostly made up of sweet drinks, snacks & desserts, and I ordered a sweet potato latte which was served to me with some cute cocoa artwork stencilled atop the milk.
The decor was ridiculously pink. I don’t quite know how else to describe it.
A selfie with my sweet potato latte and the Hello Kitty centrepiece!
After my couple of days discovering the various pet cafes of Seoul, I left with the distinct impression that they are a bundle of fun and have potential to bring much joy to an ever-increasing & stressful urban environment. There have been numerous reports in months gone by of the pet cafe concept expanding and opening up in Australia, Canada and America – not to mention a handful of cafes that have already popped up around Europe. Let’s hope they’re as successful in these corners of the world as they are throughout Asia.
I’m just hoping somebody opens a squirrel cafe one day 🙂
If you liked this post, you should also check out Coco The Adorable Staffie!