Photos by Dean Francis Alfar

One of the cat cafés that not only offers you the opportunity to hang out with kitties and eat food (my two most favorite hobbies) but also takes in strays and lets you donate to the cause of kitty welfare is Café Ah Meow.

Here’s how to find the secret door into cat dreamland: find yourself on the Hong Kong side of the city (rather than the more tourist-y Kowloon side) and look for a somewhat daunting-looking building at the address Ah Meow Cat Cafe, Po Ming Building, Foo Ming Street, Causeway Bay.

Don’t look for any actual signage outside the building; it’s better to just look up an image of the building frontage on Google Maps. I can only assume that this is because the location of such lovely cat-related establishments is highly confidential and meant to be accessible by only the most determined of cat lovers. The place is open from 12 noon to 11 p.m., so make sure to go at the right time!

Be brave, because in order to find the aforementioned door to cat dreamland, you must first go through a frankly kind of creepy building, and ride an elevator that feels like it’s about to crash every time it passes a floor. (It won’t; have faith.) You might get a bit lost, but the other people in the building are actually quite nice, and will direct you to where you are headed, if you just gesture vaguely and go, “Cat café?”

When you find Ah Meow Cat Cafe, you will be rewarded with these babies!

When you do find the café, you’ll find that the whole place is completely decorated with all the kinds of cat merchandise that you begrudgingly decided not to buy online. There’s also cat stuff for sale, lots of cat-themed food (for human consumption, all rather nice and reasonably-priced), and, of course, there’s a bunch of cats.

The cats are happy, healthy, and friendly! It’s easy to tell that they’re used to being around people, and some of them are even described in the cat manual as liking people more than other cats. Did I mention there’s a cat manual? Guys, there’s a cat manual.

Not only does the cat manual explain the rules and guidelines of the café, it also gives you detailed descriptions of each cat’s history, the appropriate spots of the cat to pet (charmingly indicated as “like,” “super-like,” “don’t,” and “never”), and cute illustrations of every cat. The cat manual is everything you want it to be, and the staff will happily offer it to you along with a menu and a card to become a member of the café, which is maybe my proudest credential right now.

The staff is very nice, and obviously enjoys being around the cats. They encourage the cats to interact with people, without forcing them, and use little cat toys to get them to play around! You can use the cat toys too, just for the record, but it’s best to check with staff first to see if that particular cat likes playing.

Everything is cute and cat-themed!

One of the cats, who I believe is named Dor Dor, is perhaps the softest being in existence, and will greet you at the door. Another cat likes to bask in the sunlight, and will vocally express her discomfort if other cats ruin her perfect positioning by blocking out the light. Yet another sleeps in such a way that he is just a fluffy gray lump that you can only assume must, sometimes, be a cat.

These kitties are all so sweet and full of personality that being around them and petting them makes you want to go, “Awww!” except that you have to be quiet in there (not totally silent, only kind of hushed), so instead you just put your hands over your mouth and kind of go, “Hhhh!”

Sage with her sister in deep conversation with one of the cat cafe’s resident kitties.

The cats are fantastic, the staff is friendly, the food is nice, the atmosphere is lovely, and the whole place doesn’t smell at all, the last of which is super-important, because some people (me) have fathers who would not want to stay otherwise.

I did try one other cat café in Hong Kong (I’m not naming names), and it was somewhat dismal in comparison—dark and gloomy, where Ah Meow is sunny, and the cats were only slightly less chilly than the staff, who loftily informed us that there was a minimum fee of HK$68 (around ₱450!) per head. Compare that to Ah, Meow’s minimum—they just ask each of you to order any dish or drink—and it’s obvious why you should accept no substitutes.

Sage with her dad, author Dean Alfar, giving the thumbs up on their cat cafe experience.

Needless to say, I highly recommend Ah, Meow Cat Café, because it’s just such a lovely place, despite the dodgy exterior of the building it’s hidden in. Braving the strange environment is entirely worth it to access cat paradise, so you should probably get up and start your journey already.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2017 issue.

Sage Alfar is totally ready for the zombie apocalypse, having studied, at various times, to various degrees, capoeira, jiu jitsu, krav maga, and muay thai. She is also nurturing an espionage network, composed of stray cats that she regularly visits and feeds. Amid all this, she goes to high school, hones her visual arts skills, and sometimes writes words, which have been accepted for the upcoming Fantasy: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults and more than once in the Philippines Graphic. She has also co-written the forthcoming collection Stars and Jars: Strange and Fantastic Stories.