Sheep, Raccoons, And Meerkats: Unique Animal Cafes In Seoul

animal cafes, where you can pet raccoons, sheep, meerkats, reptiles, cats or dogs while enjoying a coffee drink or smoothie, have become so popular in seoul that their number has nearly doubled in recent years last two years.

Like many visitors, I was intrigued by the prospect of encountering a meerkat while sipping my macchiato. In fact, I was so intrigued that I decided to visit as many animal cafes in Seoul as possible while house-sitting for a month in Incheon.

Reading: Animal cafes in seoul

but it’s not just tourists who visit the cafes: Koreans do too. Since Seoul’s population density is twice that of New York City, most of the city’s inhabitants live in high-rise apartments, many of which do not allow pets. and Korean culture’s emphasis on hard work means long hours; Koreans have the third-longest average work week in the world, leaving them little time to care for pets. After dealing with the stresses of city life and a 60-hour work week, sometimes all Koreans want is a cappuccino and a cuddle with a kitten. in fact, every cafe I visited had more locals than tourists.

I visited seven animal cafes during my trip. A couple of the cafes impressed me, but the others had me concerned about animal welfare and the cleanliness and sanitation of the food and drinks served. Here are the cafes I visited, in order, followed by a description of the controversy these cafes have sparked in Seoul.

kelly hayes-raitt

2 brown cats — cats

my first visit was to 2 cats cafe in insa-dong. for 12,000 won ($10), which included a coffee drink, I could snuggle with any of the 20 cats. Several of the cats were munchkins, short-legged cats that are specially bred and suffer from painful spinal problems. this initially raised my skepticism about these types of cafes. cats roamed freely throughout the cafeteria, including at the counter and in the kitchen area where drinks were made and served.

kelly hayes-raitt

thank you nature cafe — sheep

Next up was Thanks to Nature Cafe, one of the oldest animal cafes in Seoul, which features sheep. Old photos on the web show the sheep wandering between the cafeteria tables, but at the cafeteria’s new location in the trendy Hongdae district, the sheep are in a separate pen outside the crowded cafeteria. cafe patrons can enter the pen and pet the sheep, who seemed to enjoy the attention.

the day I visited, I dodged the sheep poop to say hi to tom and jerry. this was more like a one species petting zoo than a cafeteria with free roaming animals. For the privilege of entering the pen, I ordered a fantastic berry waffle for 12,500 won ($10). Since I could have stood outside the cafe and seen the sheep, the whole set-up felt pretty tricky. the dessert was totally worth it though!

kelly hayes-raitt

meerkat friends coffee: meerkats and more

by far the most disappointing of the animal cafes i visited was meerkat friends cafe, located near hongdae district. Upon entering, I met a group of American and European tourists who were leaving and I asked their impressions. they complained about the pungent odor and expressed concern for the welfare of the animals.

when I walked in and took off my shoes (a requirement at most animal cafes), I was so overwhelmed by the smell and how overfed and abused the meerkats were that I refused to pay the 13,000 won fee ($11). keepers lured the meerkats onto the shoulders and heads of visitors who paid extra for the treats. the animals had no places to hide or retreat in the empty room. small glass enclosures contained a raccoon and a capybara, both of whom appeared listless.

See also: Cafe Mini Fridges

I kept wondering what kind of supervision regulated these cafes. definitely not a place to sit around with a cappuccino. this was by far the gloomiest cafe I ever visited.

kelly hayes-raitt

clouds in the sky — dogs

the clouds in the sky dog ​​cafe were a welcome contrast. although on the second floor, the canine exuberance could be heard on the street below this hongdae district cafe. sixteen dogs, mostly large breeds, roamed freely in a large room and responded enthusiastically (and noisily) to treats offered to them. the bare room smelled and looked clean. the dogs could get through a swinging door into a back room that was off-limits to visitors, but all the dogs I saw seemed to want to interact with the various Korean visitors who sat on the floor while workers ran around them with mops to clean up. there was a grooming/exam room to the side.

However, I was wondering how it was possible to properly exercise so many large breed dogs. the coffee cost 9,500 won ($8), which included a latte. the scene was quiet, especially in a closed room so non-dog lovers could see the action.

kelly hayes-raitt

table a: meerkats, raccoons, turtles, chameleons and more

My favorite animal cafeteria was a real cafeteria with individual tables to sit and have a coffee or surf the internet. Also located in the Hongdae district, the A table had three floors, each with different animals. I entered from the street through the kitchen, which was locked from where the animals roamed, making me feel like my latte would be fur-free. the entrance fee was 10,000 won ($8) and only drinks were served (additional cost).

The ground floor was decorated with comfortable tables and greenery, giving the cafe a jungle feel. when I arrived, several cats had already marked their favorite places. the ground floor featured roaming meerkats, while raccoons scampered up stairs and vines. a small atrium on the third floor had several aquariums with hedgehogs, snakes, and parakeets.

The cafe was clean and several workers interacted with the animals and monitored visitor interactions. the animals had places to hide and seemed active and engaged.

kelly hayes-raitt

koopet cafe and pet store — turtles

Another favorite of mine was the koopet cafe and pet store, which featured a landscaped central aquarium for various turtles. visitors could reach the edge and feed the reptiles lettuce suspended from tongs. the nice cafe had no entry charge and had comfortable tables to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. in the back of the cafe there was a pet shop where you could buy snakes, chameleons, geckos or tarantulas.

This was a proper cafeteria with light sandwiches, snacks, and desserts prepared in a separate kitchen from where the reptiles were housed. It was charming and the least artful of the animal cafes I visited.

kelly hayes-raitt

coffee dead end: raccoons

See also: Cómo hacer café sin cafetera de forma fácil y rápida

finally, i visited blind alley cafe, one of the first animal cafes to feature exotic products. for 8,000 won ($6) and the cost of a drink, you could visit the private back room where three raccoons roamed freely. they had private cubicles to escape interaction and a series of ropes and ladders to climb. however, there were no tables to relax with your latte. those unwilling to pay the raccoon cover charge could hang out in the main cafe with a skittish dog and two huge pigs.

the cafeteria was clean and spacious and conducive to coffee, sandwiches or snacks.

kelly hayes-raitt

controversies surrounding animal cafes

These cafes are not well regulated, either for the sanitation of the food and beverages served or for the welfare of the animals. Since the law on the management of zoos and aquariums applies only to establishments with 50 or more animals of 10 different species, these cafes operate in a legal vacuum. there are no protections to prevent animal attacks on other animals in multispecies cafes; establish standards for the exercise or mental stimulation of animals; to avoid specialized breeding (as in the case of munchkin cats); uniform space, light and cleanliness; or to avoid overfeeding.

and there are no protections for cafe visitors. Stories abound in internet cafe reviews from customers who have been bitten or scratched by raccoons or meerkats.

Also, there are no laws to protect animals from cafes that have closed. the publicized iguanas of galápagos café, the rabbits of bunny café and the parrots of wanggwan house have disappeared and their well-being is in question.

in fact, animal welfare groups have begun protesting animal cafes and demanding more oversight. A legislator has proposed legislation to ban wild animals, such as raccoons, from cafes and restaurants.

I will admit, though it may be politically incorrect, that I loved some of these cafes (like table a and koopet), where I felt like the animals were taken care of, the place was clean, and I could relax with a latte. these are, after all, cafes!

kelly hayes-raitt

off-grid coffee, an alternative to clever animal cafes

However, the coffee shop where I felt most at home was the off-grid coffee shop. For a truly soul-enriching caffeine pick-me-up, recharge at Seoul’s only downtown cafe that’s completely off the grid. coffee beans are hand-ground on the spot and a central gas stove heats water and milk. the café is run by a cooperative of 35 students who are experimenting with self-sufficient small-scale businesses.

For a truly sensual experience, try the Aztec Cocoa Hot Chocolate for 7,000 won ($6). but don’t make the same mistake I did and show up expecting to work with a dead laptop battery. no place to plug in!

are you planning a visit to seoul? here are nine great ways to experience Korean culture in the city, plus 13 things to know before visiting.

See also: MLK Gateway Welcomes Capital One Café To Historic Anacostia

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