May 11, 2016 10:05 PM

Cats: They don’t just exist on the Internet.

Besides the loving homes of people across the world, these adorable meme-generators can be found in the fur at numerous coffee shops spanning the globe, and we’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill bodega cats.

Cat cafés are a full-blown trend, with hundreds of feline-friendly coffee shops popping up across five continents. These unique stores offer visitors, many of whom are unable to have pets of their own, a chance to enjoy the company and cuddles of kitties for a minimal price, plus all the amenities of a normal cafe.

While these adorable establishments continue to spread, to many, “cat café” is just a term that sounds too good to be true. Learn the low down on these very real and very precious places below, and then look up the cat café nearest you.

1. Cat cafes have been around since the ’90s

Cat Flower Garden, the world’s first cat cafe, opened in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998. The furry new idea attracted visitors from around the world, especially tourists from Japan, who brought the idea back to their country.

Visiting the world’s first cat café, 貓花園 (Cat Flower Garden), which opened in 1998!

Posted by Toni Ferreira on Saturday, April 25, 2015

2. Japan is the cat café central

While Taiwan introduced the world to the cat café, Japan turned it into a phenomenon. The country opened its first kitty coffee shop in 2004 and went on to open 79 more between 2005-2010. Today, there are 58 cat cafés in Tokyo alone — one of which was recently featured on Girls. In the tight quarters of Japanese cities, many apartment buildings don’t allow pets, so animal lovers seek solace and purrs in these special coffee shops.


3. Not all of the kitties are permanent residents

Many cat cafés, especially those in the United States, use the space as an opportunity to introduce people to adoptable felines, who might be having more trouble meeting forever families in a shelter setting. For example, Brooklyn Cat Café, Brooklyn’s first permanent feline-friendly café, is filled with cats from the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition. Additionally, all the proceeds from this café go right back to the coalition to help even more kitties.

4. Rules can get in the way

Due to governmental food service regulations many U.S., cat cafés aren’t allowed to have food and cats in the same space. This means the café is separate from the feline-filled portion of the grounds. Guests are allowed to bring their food and drinks into the cat room, but the animals are never allowed in the area where food is made. This approach keeps unwanted cat hair out of your cappuccino and offers those with allergies a place to watch the cats from afar.

5. Cat cafés aren’t just a feline thing anymore

While cat cafés were some of the first businesses to pair biscotti and pets, the trend has spread to other critters as well. Animal lovers can now visit cafés that focus on hedgehogs, dogs, monkeys and more.

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