South Korea: Animal Cafes

Cafe culture in South Korea has become a must see for tourists, and rightfully so. From Hello Kitty Cafes to Sheep Cafes to Poop cafes, Korea has it all. However, the animal cafes stole my heart right from the start.

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I made it my mission to visit as many animal cafes as possible. Most cafes, including the ones I went to, will include a drink in the price of your entrance ticket – around 11,000 won or $10. You’ll be instructed to remove your shoes and replace them with slippers. They’ll also have food that you can buy for the animals and cute themed food for yourself. Instructions are provided for how to treat the animals and after that, the experience is all yours for an unlimited amount of time.

Cat cafes are usually best to visit when you want to chill for a long amount of time with homework or a book. The cats will want to hang near you, looking for scratches, and were a great stress reliever to me when I was studying for finals at Yonsei University. They’re also the most common cafe you’ll see throughout Seoul, and are probably the cheapest.

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Dog cafes are best for a date or for a quicker trip, because they’re also cheap and the dogs provide more entertainment than the cats do. The young ones will want to play with you and the older ones will want to sit near you with a head in your lap, something for everyone. However, most of the dogs will be small, to my dismay, because Seoul is a crowded city and big dogs are harder to take care of.

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Cat and dog cafes are the most common to see, but there are other, more unusual cafes to visit. Like the Raccoon Cafe, where a mix of dogs and raccoons walk around an enclosed room and interact with curious customers. There are more rules here and it is more expensive, as the raccoons are more expensive to take care of, but it is definitely a worth-while experience. The raccoons will try to dig through your pockets, climb on top of your head for a better view of the room, and will walk over the tables and your laps to get to food.

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They aren’t dangerous and won’t bite you, but staff stand by to break up fights between raccoons when skirmishes occur (the dogs are actually there to reduce tension between the raccoons). They are very pushy and curious animals, with very sharp claws that will hurt if they climb on top of you and fall, as I found out the hard way.

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Another cafe worth a visit is the Meerkat Cafe in Hongdae. Children aren’t allowed in, as the animals are very sensitive and need to be treated with care. The cafe is large and comfortable, with two large pens in the middle for the meerkats where you can visit them for ten minutes at a time. Everything is dependent on what the meerkats want, if they want to sleep, they have to be allowed to sleep and your time with them will be spent watching them sleep. This will happen often, as they take constant power naps in between playtime. They’ll try to climb on you and you may pet them, but you cannot pick them up.

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The meerkats are quick and curious, with a penchant for digging. The staff will give you a blanket to put on your lap because they will try to climb under your shirt or dig at the buckle of your pants. I was in a walking boot at the time, and the staff had to wrap blankets around my boot to keep them from tearing the velcro open. A warning – your clothes might get torn if it is a weak or flimsy material, so don’t wear clothes that you’ll hate getting ripped. Also you must have your pockets empty because you’ll be asked to leave if the meerkats are able to take something from you.

 

(Above, the meerkats trying to get at my walking boot)

In addition to the meerkats, there are also a few cats, a raccoon, an Arctic Fox, a Genet cat (a small cat from Africa), and a wallaby. Each of which are adorable and great to take pictures with.

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There are other cafes to visit that I, unfortunately, was not able to see. These include a sheep cafe called Thanks Nature Cafe, rabbit cafes, reptile cafes, and more. Above all, remember to be respectful to the animals and mind the rules put in place by the establishments. The owners really care about their animals and will likely go around and make sure that their customers are having a good time, sometimes giving free animal food out or free drinks. Be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their time!

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