Friday, March 12, 2010

Gio Cat Cafe = Puurrrfect

Hidden in an alley inside the Hongdae area of Seoul is a cat cafe called "Gio Cat." I mentioned this place earlier telling you how much I really wanted to go.

Well after lunch, last Saturday, JH and I headed over there. It wasn't hard to find, and the sign up above was really helpful. To find this place head towards the mini-park where the artsy stuff goes on. There is a Smoothie King and just past it is an alleyway. The building at the end of the alley houses the cat cafe. You have to go inside the stairwell part and walk up to the third floor.
Near the entrance was a neat little Japanese shop, which to me resembled the ones I saw in Japan. 

It was a Saturday and the place was packed. Since it is a small space they only allow a number of people in at a time. So we had to put our names and number down on a waiting list. After about an hour they will call you to come in.

I want to remind you all that last year, when I went to Tokyo, I found an original cat cafe. I do believe the concept of a cat cafe was born in Japan. So I would like to point out that I have some global experience with cat cafes. How Korea's cat cafe ranked...well we are just going to have to find out.

We were finally called in and went inside the cafe.
Entrance Procedure:
It would seem that these themed cafes have a set up procedure upon entering. Here for you is what happens when you enter the Gio Cat.
  • Give up your outside shoes for indoor slippers. Place outdoor shoes in a basket.
  • Cafe staff takes you to your table (it is assigned to you). Puts your shoe basket under the table and tells you about the locker. 
  • You take your locker key and head to the lockers and put in any valuables / jackets / stuff.
  • Head back to your table. In order to enjoy the cafe for 2 hrs you must purchase a cafe item. To do this you head over to the cafe service area and put your money in a ticket machine. They have the usual cafe items like coffee and tea along with juices. 
  • They give you a copy of the names of the cats in the cafe with their pictures and you are ready to enjoy playing with the kitties.
  • Also they point out the cafe rules

Gio Cat Cafe Rules:

  • Don't pull their tails.
  • Some cats love the straws, so you have to remember to shoo them away from your straws.
  • Don't hit the cats.
  • Don't use your flash on the camera.
  • Don't feed the cats.
  • Don't try to pet an annoyed looking cat.
After you get that all figured out and squared away you can try your best at finding a cat friend. If you have any experience with cats you would know that they have their own personalities. Unlike dogs, cats tend not to come up to you and beg to be petted. Instead you have to befriend a cat by playing or coaxing it into liking you.

I mention this because that is the kind of atmosphere you run into at a cat cafe. You will see other folks with cats in their laps and feel some kind of envy. You will think "How do I get my own cat?"

After a while you float around the cafe and find the cats who are 1.) awake and 2.) interested.

Let's take a look around the cafe:
There was a large pedestal of cats in baskets sleeping. I believe we arrived at a major nap time since most of the cats were snooozing.
The one cat JH seemed to think he wanted to claim as his own was asleep, and it turns out sick. Ah well, he tried. Actually JH is not familiar with cats as pets. As is typical for most Korean folks their encounter with cats comes from seeing and hearing them on the street. Having a pet cat is becoming more common these days but for the most part it is still an oddball thing here.
I think JH secretly enjoyed himself, eventhough he claimed that he still likes dogs over cats. 
There were cats up fake trees~
This one I tried to coax down but it mostly just played and stayed up there.
JH tried to wake up his chosen cat, to find that it opened its eyes for a while and then went back to sleep.
After a while of not succeeding in getting a cat to befriend us, we went back to our table. Thankfully, there were two kitties in this area. The black one was so sweet and would crawl over to you and curl up on your lap. Now that is my kind of cat. The striped cat, over there on the left, was a menace. He is coming out of his kitty phase and wants to play a lot. But actually he was playing really rough with the black kitty. 
So the remainder of the time at the cafe I was glued to my seat caring for the little kitty and making sure "mean" kitty stayed away. 
Mean Kitty found solace in JH's lap.
Sitting back and taking in the atmosphere of the cafe was interesting. I watched as other folks played with cats and enjoyed themselves. I caught on to a trend that it seemed Korean girls dragged their boyfriends into the place, as the boyfriends seemed to have this awkward look on their faces. 

Korean Cat Cafes VS. Japanese Cat Cafes:
To get the record straight I have only been to one of each. However, I feel there was a distinct difference amongst the two.

  1. Preparation: The Japanese cat cafe was way more particular on the before hand preparations of going into the cafe. You not only changed your shoes, put your stuff in a locker, but also had to wash your hands with soap and water at a sink. The Korean cat cafe just let you sanitize your hand with sanitizer. Also the Japanese cafe, after you were done with the cats had you clean your hands again. And the Japanese one gave you a mini booklet on the cafe rules to read before you enter. 
  2. Cost system: As you know the Korean cafe makes you buy some kind of cafe item in order to stay at the cafe. The Japanese cafe didn't have this system. Once entering the cafe, in Japan, you could choose to buy a beverage or not. The entrance price difference I think is also something to point out. Gio Cat cost 8,000 Won for two hours. In Japan I believe it cost 900 Yen. By today's currency exchange that means roughly 11,000 Won. And that 900 Yen buys you only 1.5 hours with the cats, and if you go over your time rate any 15 more minutes cost you more. As you can see the Gio Cat cafe is way cheaper and better for the price than it's Japanese counterpart.
  3. Atmosphere / Set up: I'll be honest here, Japan's was way better. The Gio Cat cafe is set up very whimsically with fun decorations and mellow music playing overhead. However the space is small and not very bright. Also I believe there needs to be a good balanced ratio of cats to humans. The cafe in Japan wasn't crowded (I don't know if they have a system for when things do get crowded). Also they seemed to have less cats, whereas the Gio Cat cafe had about 20 of them, some even in cat-kennels. Needless to say the Gio Cat cafe had a cramped and chaotic feel to it, especially when the cats were active. Over in Japan things felt more mellow and spacious. Also the cafe in Japan had books available (although they were in Japanese) so you could relax in the cafe. Both cafes supplied cat toys so that wasn't bad at all.
Those are the major differences I can set my mind on right now. Despite that I feel Japan has got it right with their design and execution with cat cafes, I am grateful Korea has one. I love cats and don't really want to own one right now since I am penny pinching.

Check it out for yourself whether the Korean cat cafe is better / same / different than the Japanese one with these videos:

All in all, I really recommend you heading over to this place especially if you love cats. If you have an allergy to them well I'm sorry to hear that. =^^=


  1. ah, thanks for this post! There's this place in Odaiba (Tokyo) that's a cat shop - not to buy cats, but to buy treats, toys, etc. - where you can go in and play with the resident cats. It's such a wonderful idea!

    I wish they'd bring this to the States, but I'm not sure the whole concept would translate.

    Congratulations on finding your cat!

  2. This is awesome. I taught in Korea for a year and had my 9 yr old son and his beautiful white housecat with us and nearly all of the people we met were TERRIFIED of our cat. None of them could ever understand why we would have one as a pet.
    It's great to see that they are expanding their minds on this.

    Great write-up!!! I'm loving reading your blog.

  3. Just got back from visiting my mom in Korea and I sorta stumbled onto this cafe while hangning out near Hongdae. I call myself a cat lady and it was an awesome place to with beautiful purebred cats.
    I agree it was a bit crowded and it might stress out the cats. But I'm starting to miss the kitten that was sleeping on my lap that night and wish I can visit her again.


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