Header image courtesy of Jonathon Morton
Long before the advent of the cat café, Hong Kong’s businesses have employed “cat shopkeepers” (貓店長; maau1 dim3 jeung2), who provide valuable company, pest control, and even customers to their carers. While Sheung Wan’s traditional dried seafood shops are known for their shop cats, who are believed to bring good luck, there are plenty of friendly felines prowling around coffee shops, boutiques, and dry cleaners all across the city. Read on to discover some of our favourite shop cats in Hong Kong!
Despite what its name may suggest, Sheung Wan’s famous Cat Street (which is technically called Upper Lascar Row) is not known for being a cat lover’s paradise. However, if you find yourself among the colourful knickknacks and kitschy Mao memorabilia on Cat Street on a cool autumn day, you may catch a glimpse of a grey tabby patrolling the perimeter around Chiu Kee Metal Works on the corner of Upper Lascar Row and Tung Street.
This six-year-old British shorthair cat is called Mui Mui, and draws just as many visitors to the shop as Chiu Kee’s selection of antique-style Chinese brass drawer pulls and door knockers. Mui Mui is on the shy side when it comes to strangers, so while she will accept a pat or two, do resist the urge to pinch her adorable chubby cheeks.
Chiu Kee Metal Works, 23 Tung Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2543 1176
While Hong Kong has its share of cat cafés, no one has the time to visit one whenever the mood to pat a moggy strikes. Squeeze in your morning joe and a fun cat encounter at Elixir, a stylish Sheung Wan café on a ladder street between Gough Street and Hollywood Road.
While the café’s capable barista is a dab hand at brewing coffee, her one-year-old cat, Charlie, is often at his most playful and needy during the morning coffee rush—so feel free to distract him with his trusty feather toy while you wait for your order.
Elixir, 9 Mee Lun Street, Central | (+852) 6083 0915
If you pass through the bustling market streets of Li Yuen Street East and West (a.k.a. the “Ladies’ Market of Central”) enough, there’s a good chance you’ll see a curious cat here and there. There’s a mix of strays and shop cats around the area, though the most famous ones by far are the two resident cats at Hop’s Handbag, a bag and suitcase shop on Li Yuen Street West that’s been around for over 40 years.
琪琪 (kei4 kei1), the ginger and white girl, can often be found lounging on top of suitcases or weaving between customers’ legs, while her brother, a rotund dark tabby named George, prefers to hang out among the racks of secondhand clothing at Mee & Gee, the “$5 thrift store” next door. Both are supremely friendly and affectionate and will reward pats and scratches with loud, enthusiastic purring.
Hop’s Handbag Co., 11 Li Yuen Street West, Central | (+852) 2523 3888
While some shops are relatively nonchalant about their cats, Dundas Restaurant in Yau Ma Tei is not—the cha chaan teng (茶餐廳; Hong Kong-style tea restaurant) is decorated with customer-contributed paintings of its two cats—金金 (gam1 gam1) and 白白 (bak6 bak6), whose names roughly translate to Goldie and Whitey—as well as classic movie posters which have been Photoshopped to include the devilishly cute duo. The pair are also featured prominently on the menus and even in the pattern of the seat cushions!
One of the restaurant’s staff found the pair, along with four other kittens, in an abandoned box at a nearby park when they were just a few days old. While the staff were able to find homes for four of the cats with relative ease, Goldie and Whitey—who were recovering from a ruptured spleen and eye infection, respectively—went unclaimed for months. Eventually, Dundas’ manager decided to make them official cha chaan teng cats, and they can now be found cuddling together in the restaurant, playing with customers, or sunbathing outside.
Dundas Restaurant, 105 Portland Street, Yau Ma Tei | (+852) 2388 4918
Come for the dope fades, stay for the cuddles. Dapper dudes come to this Yuen Long barbershop to refresh their look, but while owner and head barber Angus Poon works his magic with the clippers, shopkeeper 毛毛 (mou4 mou1; “Fluffy”) has the very important duty of keeping them company. You’ll often find this handsome young ginger tomcat sitting on customers’ laps, with his head (and bowtie!) sticking out from under their aprons as they’re getting a trim or having their hair washed.
4236 Barbershop, Shop 7, Lin Fat Building, 2 Fung Kwan Street, Yuen Long | (+852) 9365 5086
Speaking of fresh looks, cat-loving folks living around Mong Kok may consider taking their dry cleaning to C33 Man Tat Laundry on Pitt Street, a long-standing and well-regarded launderer’s which is home to a gorgeous older cat named Michael.
While Michael used to have a feline friend called Milk, he is now (sadly) a solo senior, so do make sure you give him some extra love and attention if you happen to pass C33. Though Michael can look a little intimidating staring down from his perch on the counter, he is actually very friendly, and often receives pats, belly rubs, and scratches from passersby.
C33 Man Tat Laundry, 17 Pitt Street, Mong Kok | (+852) 5402 6783
Frequent visitors to Sham Shui Po’s hip Tai Nan Street will be no stranger to Storerooms, a homegrown lifestyle boutique selling trendy homeware and accessories, with a focus on local Hong Kong brands. You can spot it from a mile away by the floor-to-ceiling glass shopfront, which sports a different drawing by local artists every few months.
Once you come a little closer to admire the beautiful goods on display—from preserved butterflies to retro flip clocks and silver orchid brooches—you’ll see Lala, Storerooms’ cute white shop cat, greeting customers by the door or enjoying the attention of passersby on the bench outside. Even though Sham Shui Po is home to an estimated 500 shop cats, Lala is something of a celebrity thanks to his calm demeanour, curious nature, and willingness to accept cuddles. (The picturesque background doesn’t hurt, either!)
Storerooms, 172–174 Tai Nan Street, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 2426 6789
This small bookstore in the basement of North Point’s sprawling King’s Centre is a haven for book- and cat-lovers alike, with almost 20 kitties wandering around among the piles of detective novels, kung fu sagas, and graphic novels.
While Sam Kee has been around for over 40 years, the shop only took in its whiskered tenants a few years ago, after the proprietor took in one stray, which turned into two, then 10, and 17. With so many cats in the small space, visiting Sam Kee can feel like a very niche safari, but do remember that you are visiting their home, and let the cats come to you instead of harassing them for pats.
Sam Kee Book, B19, B/F, King’s Centre, 193 King’s Road, North Point | (+852) 2578 5956