‘Neko Atsume’: a cat lover’s virtual dream


Photo credit: Sham Hardy on Flickr

“Neko Atsume,” Japanese for “cat care,” is a game where the object is to take care of cats.

The game starts with an empty yard. When cats come to play in the yard, the player can buy toys, food, yard extensions and more with fish currency. This currency is earned from the cats which come to play as they leave gifts in the form of silver and gold fish.

Some toys that can be bought are a bouncy red ball, a three-tier cat tree, a “kotatsu,” a heated table, and more.

A bowl of food set out in the yard meant to attract the felines. Cats can choose from a small variety of food, including free thrifty bits, frisky bits, tuna, sashimi and more.

Different cats visit the yard over time. Certain cats come for specific items, such as Frosty, a cat in a straw coat, that only visits if a blizzard tent is available.

One can take pictures of the cats playing or resting with their accessories and put the pictures into a catbook. Each cat has its own designated album that has 18 spaces for photographs as well as another general album.

Many online caretaking games require feeding, bathing and caring for pets regularly. If the virtual pet is not cared for, the games often feature a message along the lines of “I’m hungry…” or show statistics that indicate the pet is in poor health.  

In Neko Atsume, the cats simply come and go as they please. The game serves as a playground for the cats, not a home; the cats are not dependent on the player. This is a better alternative for players who feel anxious playing these types of games or feel guilty for neglecting their pets.

The game has also been known to help some people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For some OCD sufferers who need to check something continuously, they can use this app to fulfill that need. It provides a harmless way to keep that behavior in check. Neko Atsume can be played by opening and closing the app periodically to check on which cats have come or are currently present in the yard.

The mechanics of the game require that one closes the app to allow the cats to come into the yard. It does not work if the game stays open. This makes the game a healthier alternative to otherwise unhealthy checking habits.

The game, overall, is sweet and simple. Cats come to play in one’s yard and maybe grab a snack. There’s no responsibility tied to it. It’s a fun game that can be played in one’s spare time, be it one minute or several.