I am sad to report that the cat cafe in Hanoi – Ailu Cat Cafe, also known as Ailu Cathouse Club, is the worst cat cafe we have been to so far. Mostly due to the state and treatment of the cats there.
~ Ailu Cat Cafe has since closed, but we will keep this post up for historical context and documentation of cat cafes around the world.
We made our way here at the end of a long day of walking around Hanoi doing various other activities (including the Temple of Literature and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum). Hanoi is really a lovely city to walk around, especially during the time we visited (February/March).
There are stairs leading up to the cafe in front of what I think might have been a restaurant. We made our way up and did the standard take off our shoes and pay the entrance fee. This cat cafe had the cheapest fee of any cat cafe so far at 35,000VND/person (at least in March 2016, it’s possible it will be raised). This comes out to about $3.15 for both of us.
They Realize They’re Running A Business Right?
The whole thing was rather strange because the person running the place at the time did not even offer us a menu or ask if we would like to order something to drink/eat. Usually cat cafes (at least at the ones we visited in Asia) like to try to sell their food as it’s a way they make money. The guy actually looked a little unhappy that we came at all. Not in an annoyed way, but maybe more in the ‘they are going to see how badly this cafe is run’ sort of way. I’m not sure.
There were quite a few kittens but we did not get to spend time with any of them because a group of young girls (also the only other people at the cafe) was hogging them all.
We made our way to the back and settled in some bean bags. Here are some of the troubling things I found:
There were a few issues
Some of the cats seemed ill.
Several of the cats needed to be groomed and/or cleaned (such as cleaning around their eyes, brushing their fur, etc.)
I think at least a couple of the cats were not fixed! One of them seemed to be in heat.
Some of the cats had mental issues (possibly as a result of their treatment.) Some were very strange about things like eye contact (believe me, it was strange- I have spent time with plenty of cats and not encountered something quite like this) and others were extremely moody.
The owners/workers abused the cats. One time I saw a cat crawling up a toy having fun and the man working there kept putting it down for no reason. It seemed very mean. I also saw him hit a cat that was fighting.
On that note: the fighting. Now, you might think a little rough play is inevitable when you put that many cats together, but we did not notice any at any of the other cat cafes (or it was very light). We saw several cats fighting during the hour we were there. If you have seen the television show My Cat from Hell, which we actually did see on the tv in Vietnamese in Hanoi, you may know that there are certain things you can do to create an environment which will help with this kind of thing.
Cats in cages. We saw two cats in the back in cages. I don’t know why they were there but one of them kept crying. I understand that at some cat cafes they may move a problem cat/fighting cat to another room, but they need to have access to food, water, and a littler box at all times!
At one point I saw a cat on the balcony walking on the ledge! That is a little scary!
It is not really a surprise from Vietnam as the country isn’t known for caring about animals (quite the opposite), but we had had a good experience at ICHI Cat Cafe down in Ho Chi Minh so we thought it might be okay.
Now, despite their instability, most of the cats were very sweet and it was nice to hang out with them. One white fluffy one crawled up to Kyle at one point, kneaded him, purred, and finally settled and went to sleep in his lap. We felt really bad when we left and the cat had to leave his lap.
The Cats Are Still Great Though
All of the cats who would accept attention really seemed happy to receive pets.
There were also two cats that were very sweet to watch because they were always rubbing each other, giving each other baths, etc.
I can’t exactly recommend the place but at the same time I worry that they would give them even less care or something if they don’t get enough visitors so if you happen to be in the area, that is your call. I really hope they work to improve things.